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IoT
IoT
Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
2/26/2007
02:25 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
Commentary
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Free At Last

I just bought my daughter a laptop. Well, to tell the truth, although I purchased it for her to use, it was actually for my benefit: I was tired of being kicked off my own computer because she had homework that required word processing or access to the Internet. Shuddering at the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars for Microsoft Office -- because though only in fifth grade, she needs PowerPoint as well as Word -- I downloaded the free office suite

I just bought my daughter a laptop. Well, to tell the truth, although I purchased it for her to use, it was actually for my benefit: I was tired of being kicked off my own computer because she had homework that required word processing or access to the Internet. Shuddering at the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars for Microsoft Office -- because though only in fifth grade, she needs PowerPoint as well as Word -- I downloaded the free office suite OpenOffice, which has proven to work just fine.So there we sit, in my office, working away at our respective jobs every afternoon after school. We have wireless, of course; and the fact that she's got a laptop rather than a desktop means we can move to the kitchen when it's time for me to make dinner, and she can continue to ask me for help or advice when she gets stuck. All good stuff.

But we soon realized we weren't being very efficient when she needed assistance with larger projects. As a journalist, I have a lot to teach her about grammar, organization, research, and just plain good writing. We initially worked on hard copies, but that was cumbersome. Plus, my handwriting is indecipherable. We ended up doing what so many workgroups do: sending documents back and forth using e-mail. What a pain.

I'd known about Google's Writely, of course, but I thought of it as just a word processor. Then I read a colleague's review extolling its collaborative capabilities. I checked it out. And from the first we loved it. She posts a report on colonial farmers on the Web. I click on the URL, and insert questions and comments into the text. She's online with me at the same time, sees what I'm doing, and responds by making her edits. We import and export files from Word and OpenOffice. We're a well-oiled machine.

This rather shaggy-dog story is just a lead-up to urge you to read Mitch Wagner's excellent piece on Web collaboration tools. In it, Mitch outlines all the free -- or very low-cost -- tools for collaboration from companies such as Zoho, BlueTie, 37signals, and, of course, Google. Based on what Mitch says, I'm eager to try Zoho's free collaborative word processor, but it's currently on a closed trial, so I'll have to wait. What I think is especially attractive: its ability to share drawings, images, Web pages, and other media.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these Web-based collaborative tools? Do you have concerns about security or fears about a third-party storing your information for you? Let us know by responding to the InformationWeek blog.

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