Online tools have the potential to enable organisations to more easily exploit ICT and better achieve their organisational goals. This two part article reports on a two week experiment by Miles Maier to see how suitable online tools are for everyday tasks like email, calendar, documents and spreadsheets, and whether they could even replace desktop applications like Microsoft Outlook and Office.
By Lasa Information Systems Team
DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this article are solely those of the London Regional ICT Champion. We do not advocate any one web service tool over another and this article is purely intended as a guide to help you begin your own experiments with online tools.
Most of the UK voluntary sector has not yet grasped how they can use online tools to connect with their stakeholders. Our two week investigation into online tools found that:
The online tools reviewed here - GMail, Google Calendar, Plaxo, ThinkFree and Zoho - are all Internet services that function as online email clients, calendars, address books, word processors and spreadsheets.
There some very good reasons to start exploring web office tools for everyday business tasks:
Again, looking generally at the range of services overall, you should consider their specific situation or need in light of several features including:
Potential access, privacy, or data security issues due to the fact that documents and data are stored on the host’s server
The real advantage in using these tools for your work is how well they facilitate working in situations where you need to collaborate or share information with other people. This could be sharing calendar events (such as inviting people to an event or a meeting) or collaborating on documents - such as a funding bid or strategy document. For example, the tools can notify you by email when changes are made to a document, maintain a document revision history, and even allow multiple authors to work on the same document simultaneously, and allow authors to annotate the document with comments – all in a single, completely Web-based package.
At present none of the Web Office Products offer accessibility options. This is something that needs to be developed if these tools are ever to truly replace traditional Office products.
As always, the best way to get started is to try the tools out yourself. Since the tools are all free, you need only create an account, log in, and start writing, editing, and sharing. Once you’ve completed these simple steps, how you choose to use the services will vary based on your needs.
I also recommend that when you’re trying out the web office tools, try and think about their potential applications for your own work - particularly if you’re working in partnership with colleagues on a funding bid, strategy document, meeting minutes, etc. Once you are comfortable with how they work, you will likely start to see potential everywhere or how they could be applied for teaching and learning situations.
For more information, see part two of this article: “Comparing Web Office Products”
Published: 19th March 2007
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons