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ThinkFree Online Review

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the ripe-for-flash-drive-bookmarks dept.

148

ThinSkin writes "ThinkFree Online is, simply put, Office without the Microsoft, a collection of free online apps that support and contain most features found in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. ThinkFree has just released a major upgrade to its features, bumping its online storage to 1GB for each user and adding a lightweight AJAX-based collaboration feature. ExtremeTech has an interesting review of ThinkFree Online's applications and features which reveals a lot to like about this improved webware and, while it may have its occasional quirks, can be great for those who want to edit and create documents on the fly."

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Looks very nice (2, Insightful)

remembertomorrow (959064) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195561)

I wasn't really expecting much when I saw this article. "Yay, another 'web' application." I must say, though, that the screenshots accompanying the article are extremely impressive. I'm sure if you put both Microsoft Office and ThinkFree in front of a user (the secretary/receptionist where you work, for instance), they wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.

Even with today's high-speed connections, it is definitely faster to edit a document from a web interface compared to downloading and installing OpenOffice. I will be using this site when I am out and about and not near a computer with MSOffice/OOo.

Yes but... (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195571)

WHERE are the tag-clouds? I was promised TAG-CLOUDS!

*sulk*

Re:Looks very nice (1)

d_jedi (773213) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195579)

At the same time, I don't think that this is "Office without the Microsoft" as the (always completely neutral) ./ description says. I'll take Office 2003 over this any day - although if Office isn't available (which is rarely), it should suffice in a pinch.

Re:Looks very nice (5, Insightful)

d_jedi (773213) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195587)

Go to the site right now:
"The web site will be unavailable from 3:00AM to 7:00AM PDT on April 25"

this is exactly the kind of thing why web apps won't replace desktop ones.

Re:Looks very nice (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195613)

I think is indicative of ThinkFree's relative size. When was the last time a big website was down? One like, Google or Amazon. ThinkFree would be able to upgrade seamlessly, I expect, once they've grown a bit.

Re:Looks very nice (2, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195682)

Gmail has minor problems relatively often, although the last major outage that I can find [weblogsinc.com] was a year & a half ago (when it was in beta).

The GP has a point - a large business would be mad to trust their core business applications to a third party with so [slashdot.org] many [mit.edu] potential points of failure.

Re:Looks very nice (1)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195785)

However, if the "web-based Office" market takes off, I'm sure these companies will seek to make extra funds by selling "web-based Office" Server Appliances to the aforementioned large companies, which would largely remove that issue, while still saving the company on individual licenses.

Re:Looks very nice (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196002)

Umm, GMail is still in "Beta".

In any event, the issue isn't whether it's natural for a new web service to have outages, it's whether anyone wants to switch to using a word processor that even has the potential for scheduled downtime. Can you imagine if Microsoft forced people to upgrade their copies of Word at a specific time based on the developers' schedule rather than allowing customers to apply patches at a convenient time?

Re:Looks very nice (3, Insightful)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195615)

That's like saying "a blackout!! that's why electricity will never replace oil/coal/wood!"

AJAX is still, in general, a nascent technology relative to industry-standard technologies. And if you're saying "web apps won't replace desktop ones soon" then I agree with you. But I don't agree that web apps won't replace desktop ones ever.

Given time to let both the internet continue to mature (the electricity grid is still more stable than the web) and to let web app companies mature, I think that web-based computing is not just possible - it's an inevitability.

-stormin

Re:Looks very nice (1)

popeyethesailor (325796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195882)

That's a crap analogy. You're comparing a Public utility which is regulated, supported and managed by a government body with some random private software vendor on the internet.

The electricity boards aint perfect, but you can be reasonably sure that they'll exist 2 years from now, will not be bought over by Microsoft/Oracle/$bigcompany, the prices will remain relatively stable, and will not be ddosed into submission by random skript-kiddies.

Ajax-based office suites are a farce. I can see some benefit in application delivery platforms as in Java WebStart and MS Clickonce , where apps are locally cached and can be available offline. However the "you'll-always-depend-on-the-server" approach of the Ajax crowd is retarded. It may work for purely network-based apps such as email/IM, but falls apart very quickly for UI-intensive apps. I hope software vendors realize this, before rewriting IDEs, Photo editors, office apps and CAD tools in Ajax.

Re:Looks very nice (2, Insightful)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195969)

If you'd been interested in understanding the point I was making rather than simply trying to "win" teh internet debatezorz you'd realize that the analogy is very apt. Sure, electricity is a public utility now, but did it start out that way? In the early years it was a private venture and had lots of bugs (like randomly giving pedestrians random jolts of electricity). And therefore it had lots of nay-sayers. (These nay-sayers, if they existed today, would be fighting the pro-electricity "fanbois" on le interweb.)

Really, if you think this is about ThinkFree you're missing the point. It's about a paradigm shift. I'm surprised that so many people who've lived through the incredible social changes of the internet, email, and personal computers fail to consider what changes may be yet to come. It's like people saying "email sucks! you can only send text! you can't sign it to verify who sent it, you can't include color, you can't send physical objects, like tickets!" Some of those criticims (inability to verify) will be solved, others (inability to send physical objects) are the reason we have email AND still have snail-mail.

It's the same with web-based computing. It's not a replacement for your stand-alone apps. It's a new service. I don't think it's perfect for everything. I can't see streaming Doom 3 to a thin client. But the advantages of web-based computing (e.g. making geography irrelevant just to name one) fundamentally distinquish web-based computing from client-based computing.

Whether or not one particular AJAX program is ready to replace Word 2003 (it's clearly not) is really beside the point. Really - you are a perfect example of someone who can't see the forest for the trees. You're so stuck on one particular example you're missing out on what's important.

-stormin

Re:Looks very nice (1)

plj (673710) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196043)

If you'd been interested in understanding the point I was making rather than simply trying to "win" teh internet debatezorz you'd realize that the analogy is very apt. Sure, electricity is a public utility now, but did it start out that way? In the early years it was a private venture and had lots of bugs (like randomly giving pedestrians random jolts of electricity). And therefore it had lots of nay-sayers. (These nay-sayers, if they existed today, would be fighting the pro-electricity "fanbois" on le interweb.)

While this is true, your original analogy still has the problem that knocking one power plant off the grid won't (or at least should't...) bring down the whole transmission network, and end users will thus still have an uninterrupted service; same goes for web routers if an alternative route exists.

Webapps, however, are far more vulnerable: if a singe site – the one hosting the app – is offline, you'll already have the equivalent of a power blackout, despite the fact that both your own system and the rest of the internet are still functioning.

Re:Looks very nice (1)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196123)

Are you trying not to understand?? Obviously his analogy is talking about comparing these office replacements now, to how electrisity was when it first came out. In the past. Before we had lots of redundancy and multiple sources of power. You know, like history??

Re:Looks very nice (1)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196185)

hahahahaha...

Thanks. Now I don't have to post. I am anyway, however, because your post made me chuckle.

-stormin

Re:Looks very nice (2, Insightful)

popeyethesailor (325796) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196139)

Whether or not one particular AJAX program is ready to replace Word 2003 (it's clearly not) is really beside the point. Really - you are a perfect example of someone who can't see the forest for the trees. You're so stuck on one particular example you're missing out on what's important.

Thin client platforms have come and gone; they made sense in an era where clients were not powerful enough, client software was terribly expensive(Do you know what an Unix license used to cost in those days?).

People have obscenely powerful computing resources at their hands. And there is a plethora of choices available in the software arena. Common software such as word-processors and spreadsheets are ubiquitous. Making geography irrelevant is totally irrelevant to this discussion. I can store documents created in my Word processor anywhere in the web. I dont need a fancy Ajax weblication to keep them accessible anywhere. Removable media is extremely affordable; I dont even need a damned net connection. Considering all these factors, this is a paradigm shift allright, but it is regressive instead of being progressive.

ZOMG!!! (1)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195779)

BSOD!!! Quick! Somebody call the help-desk, I've got to have this report by noon! Whatever do we do!

Okay, so way over the top for us, but have you really never had to tell a friend/cow-worker/whom-ever that 'in order to get rid of that blue screen and get their mouse back, for the short term, they need to just turn the computer off, "push the button in front" and turn it back on, then call you back if it does the same thing'?

How exactly is this different for the average user? Yes, we /.rs would hate to jump over to their FREE (as in speech) site and find it unaccessible. End users accessing with some sort of subscription model (or better yet, behind-the-scenes funding) would never expect to see such a screen with the possible exception of a major service outage, which could be likened to a power blackout.

Re:Looks very nice (2, Funny)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195784)

Another thought, why not take your site down during prime slashdotting hours?

Re:Looks very nice (2, Interesting)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195964)

I agree. Looks like most people responding to your comment seem to think that centralized computing is inevitable. We used to have centralized computing, with dumb terminals. We stopped doing that because we liked the idea of having our own computer in our own office under our own control. Why would that ever change back again? I predict that for connective applications like email, information, and other communications functions we certainly will use centralized servers, but for just about everything else we'll continue to keep our computers and software in our own offices. Nobody really wants a dumb terminal again.

FYI: The service actually *is* available... (1)

Rexifer (81021) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196044)

At least, I have access to my files. But, I'm using the old 2.0 app... not the beta web front end. Not to pick nits, but thought I'd mention it since everyone is jumping down their throat on the web service availability issue...

Re:Looks very nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15196048)

Which really sucks for all of us who work the four-hour receptionist shift starting at 3 AM?

Re:Looks very nice (5, Insightful)

john.wingfield (212570) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195667)

I'm sure if you put both Microsoft Office and ThinkFree in front of a user (the secretary/receptionist where you work, for instance), they wouldn't even be able to tell the difference.

How sure? They work in fundamentally different ways. You're either saying that secretaries are so dumb that they wouldn't notice the difference between one "complicated" piece of software and another, or you're saying that they don't use the software in enough depth to be able to tell the difference. I think either argument is seriously off the mark.

Secretaries and PAs are your core users. If the software they use isn't up to scratch, you would soon know about it!

Re:Looks very nice (3, Informative)

Young Master Ploppy (729877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195745)

It might look nice to you, but if these guys are serious about being "web 2.0" and/or replacing Office then they really need to work on their accessibility. Even that offline message has two big accessibility no-no's: text-as-images, and table-based layout. I tried looking at that page with Fangs (screen reader emulator) and you know what it said?
"thinkfree dash Internet ExplorerTable with one column and twenty rowsTable with one column and sixteen rowsTable endTable end"
That's what a visually-impaired person would get from that website. That's it, nothing else. And while accessibility might not be important to you in your current situation, it's extremely important to anyone with a disability, and also to the public sector. All government web systems must be accessible, and until accessibility gets taken more seriously on these kind of projects, the desktop is going to win out every time.

Re:Looks very nice (2, Insightful)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196007)

It might look nice to you, but if these guys are serious about being "web 2.0" and/or replacing Office then they really need to work on their accessibility. Even that offline message has two big accessibility no-no's: text-as-images, and table-based layout. I tried looking at that page with Fangs (screen reader emulator) and you know what it said? "thinkfree dash Internet ExplorerTable with one column and twenty rowsTable with one column and sixteen rowsTable endTable end" That's what a visually-impaired person would get from that website. That's it, nothing else. And while accessibility might not be important to you in your current situation, it's extremely important to anyone with a disability, and also to the public sector. All government web systems must be accessible, and until accessibility gets taken more seriously on these kind of projects, the desktop is going to win out every time.

I'm glad you posted that. It seems like no one cares about screen readers anymore, I guess they just don't think blind people use computers.

I turn off pictures when I web surf at work, because it's faster and I don't trust websites to show work appropriate pictures, and all I get on thinkfree.com is some colors and boxes. I wish web designers would just take the time to put some alt tags on things.

Re:Looks very nice (1)

JabrTheHut (640719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195820)

I just spent a week at my parents-in-law's place. 56K Modem. No way is this site workable. Much easier to have OO on my laptop....

Check the actual app out (in 2 1/2 hours) (4, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195570)

Think Free appears to be down for now, but at 7:00am PDT, you'll (apparantly) be able to have a look [thinkfree.com]

Re:Check the actual app out (in 2 1/2 hours) (1)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195691)

Great time to plan some downtime... just when the marketing spirals! Perhaps the site is almost /.ed and they're trying to look good (read: better) =P

WHEN you get to look, look for lock-in (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195758)

When you do get to look (I haven't yet), be sure to look for signs of vendor lock-in. The only thing worse than an office suite like MS Office, which stores stuff in a proprietary format, would be a website doesn't really reveal the storage mechanisms at all.

Personally, I like my work to be mine, or to be free to give to anyone I want to donate that work to, regardless of what technology they can afford. It's my work, and I should be able to say what can be done with it.

Unless this thing lets me save my work in OpenDocument Format, I won't be touching it.

Re:WHEN you get to look, look for lock-in (2, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195981)

I don't care about the format, online storage is enough to keep me away. You may be able to save it in any manner you like, but why should the software provider have a copy as well? If MS was doing this people would howl like banshees.

Online apps suck (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195576)

Businesses are never going to use them because of privacy concerns, plus they are unusable if you cannot get online. Maybe they have some other purpose, but as replacement for full blown office suites they are a joke.

Re:Online apps suck (1)

AMindLost (967567) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195620)

I agree, it's easy to be enthusiastic about these applications until you hit the problem of always needing a speedy and reliable internet connection in order to be able to do *anything*. While we have higher speeds and longer up-time than we've ever had, sod's law tells us that the minute you trust a web app for anything important is when your internet connection takes a dive. Of course you could find another local connection but is it worth the risk or the hassle?

Re:Online apps suck (1)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195628)

Never?

I doubt it. I agree that there's no way I could convince my business to switch to this instead of MS Office. And I wouldn't want to try. But your stability and privacy concerns are entirely addressable. Companies don't refuse to use lightbulbs just because they have to depend on 3rd parties to supply the electricity, and eventually they won't refuse to use applications just because they have to depend on 3rd parties to supply the computational horsepower.

Web apps will never, in my opinion, replace all desktop apps, but there's certainly room for web apps to take a huge chunk of the market share when they mature.

-stormin

Re:Online apps suck (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195788)

I think you've missed the point. Its not about relying on another company to provide "computational horsepower", but about your sensitive data going back and forth between yourself and the provider, and possibily even being stored on your provider's servers. Why do this when the current Office apps you use do not expose you to this flaw? Another downside to webapps is portability. Can I take my stuff to another vendor, and if so how easy is the company going to make that?

Re:Online apps suck (1)

theStorminMormon (883615) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196040)

I haven't missed the point. You've given a con to web-based computing. I'm not saying the con doesn't exist. I'm simply saying that it's not a deal-breaker. The need for security is relative. With good 128-bit encryption, etc. these folks could get HIPAA compliant. Not only that, but they would be more secure than what a lot of companies (esp. small to medium sized) use now. This isn't secure enough for everybody - but it's secure enough for a lot.

The trouble is that people always see this as an either-or proposition. The one thing we should know about tech advances is that they don't always replace older technologies. Chat did not replace email which did not replace phones which did not replace telegraphs which did not replace letters which did not replace face-to-face contact. (Yes, email replaced telegraphs, but phones didn't - the two co-existed for a while). That's a long list of technologies - only one is really dead.

So if you're going to point out ways in which client-based computing is superior to web-based computing my point is "so what?". I can point out ways in which letters are superior to email - but that doesn't prove anything about the viability of email because email is a complement to letters, NOT a replacement.

It comes to this: unless you can point out intrinsic weaknesses in web-based computing every comparitive weakness you find is just another reason why client-based computing won't die, not a reason why web-based computing won't succeed.

-stormin

Re:Online apps suck (1)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195631)

A lot of my customers use thin clients in their business, but use Terminal Sessions to the server to use word and other apps.

If this could be purchased for use on an intranet, it could be extremly handy. A thin client could be made much more powerful.

Re:Online apps suck (1)

quad4b (858152) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195811)

Good point. An application like this one delivers big bucks to an IT department. No desktop applications to update and keep patched. Every time a new version is out everyone has access simultaneously. An appliance would be much, much cheaper than MS Office which has a featureset that no one on this planet has come close to exploiting. 80% of office (both senses) users would be satisfied with the level of funtionality described in the article.

Privacy will be an issue for business users. No educated user would be willing to hand the security management of his/her intellectual property to a third party. Appliances with storage pushed onto network 'shares' is the only way to go.

An even better application that I can see is for students to use it. My older kids are in grades 4 and 6. They could work on a project at home, go to a friend's house, work on it with him; go to school, work on it there; share it with a friend who's collaborating on it with them and let them update it. You get my point. Very, very cool.

Re:Online apps suck (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195652)

Businesses love Thinkfree in fact. Its enterprise version. Even not advanced as this one 2.x version made some companies really happy.

Thing is, it runs on one server.

BTW site is not "slashdotted", that site was taken down 7-10 days ago which I can't remember exactly. I use Papyrus Office on my OS X but I follow thinkfree since its 1.0 version which made people "shock" since it was running in browser with MS JVM. I like/love "software as service" idea and I think it is even a bit late we don't see more stuff like that.

The reason I went there 7 days ago was simple. Some clever guy sent me a powerpoint presentation. I launched my browser, checked it right away and printed it. Remember this is OS X we are talking about and it wasn't even "beta" status that time.

I think it will/may be a hit if they don't make some awful mistakes.

Re:Online apps suck (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195669)

plus they are unusable if you cannot get online.

It wouldn't be impossible to have a barebones client for laptops that lets you work offline, and then sync the changes later.

Re:Online apps suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195791)

Hear, hear. And since I also have a USB stick on my keychain, I could have it both ways: online and offline storage. What was Linus' famous quip about real men not using backups?

Wait, it will let me save them to my USB stick, right?

Re:Online apps suck (1)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195756)

Think of the google appliance. What about a similar idea with ThinkFree. If there are privacy concerns it could be hosted internally on a ThinkFree appliance. It would be wise of ThinkFree to offer something like that.

Jeremy

About time.. (1)

markild (862998) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195586)

Now, this is the right use of AJAX..

I'm tired of seeing projects on the web that worked perfect earlier pumped full with useless AJAX features just because thye can.

If works as good as it looks I will definitely try this out!

Re:About time.. (2, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195612)

Now, this is the right use of AJAX..

Unfortunately, it also uses java - from the article:
ThinkFree uses both AJAX and Java. The company admits that AJAX is more portable in that it doesn't require a plug-in, but they contend that Java is needed to provide true Microsoft Office compatibility and functionality.
According to this newsforge review [newsforge.com] last year it was a downloadable java app, rather then a webapp.

Re:About time.. (2, Insightful)

Big_Mamma (663104) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195625)

This isn't AJAX - It's java, embedded in a web browser. They are creating 'light' versions with AJAX, but what you saw is the full version, created with swing.

Trying to create anything as complex as an office suite with a clientside interpreted language, and html + browser as graphical toolkit is just plain stupid, imo. ThinkFree got the message, and used the right tools to do the job.

slashvertisement... (3, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195602)

You know, if you are a part of extremetech, at least mention it in your summary. The writeup makes it sound like he just bumped into this site one day and found an interesting article.

Re:slashvertisement... (1)

estoll (443779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195633)

Agreed. ThinkFree hasn't even finished deploying the upgrade to their servers yet.

Re:slashvertisement... (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195725)

As a 2.x user (got licensed downloadable) when I first heard about the 3.x version and see it can run in browser again, I was stupid to go to #java and #mac type of channels on IRC to speak about it, with excitement.

Result: I was banned big time as they thought I must be a spammer.

At least nobody will ban slashdot.

Open your eyes, it is an office program running in browser, "software as service". It also means Java delivers while .NET still tries to ban Icaza like people from conferences.

It is news.. For people figuring what it means.

Thinkfree's focus is not Slashdot user profile anyway. Some guy saw the great news and sent here with hope that people will be interested I bet.

Re:slashvertisement... (1)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195733)

Some guy saw the great news and sent here with hope that people will be interested I bet.

Some guy sent slashdot a link to his own website so he could make money from advertisements.

Web Based Application (5, Insightful)

Metabolife (961249) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195604)

Am I the only one tired of seeing software moved onto the web? I can understand email, since it needs to be accessed everywhere, but word processing? With hard drives reaching the 750GB level, what purpose do online only application serve besides easy access? I also hear talks about whole OSs stored on servers where users have to logon. Guess what, if the server goes down, you are screwed. It's much better to just bring your laptop and keep a backup of current working data on memory stick just in case (Not that word documents are large to begin with).

Seeing as how Microsoft Office is faster compared to slim the competition, who wants to waste time with downloading online applications for home use? If you're on the road and need some documents stored on a central server you can easily use gdrive to store it. It just seems that everyone can't wait to have their entire computers stored by some big information gathering company.

Just my .02.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195629)

It's much better to just bring your laptop
OK then. You buy me a laptop and I'll agree with you.

Re:Web Based Application (2, Insightful)

drachenstern (160456) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195798)

To the GP:
Can I be second on your list?

Also, think about my position, I work nights and goto school during the day. Work doesn't mind if I work on my homework at nights, so long as it doesn't interfere with my job. This is rare. So the only limit is I cannot leave my desk to go work on my homework at some other terminal. So my options are limited to HPUXv11 and Mozilla/Firefox. I have 0 write capabilities for what it's worth, ie /usr/* or /opt/* etc, but about a meg home quota. So how can I work on my written assignments? Easy now. Before, vi, and hope I had time for formatting later. Now keep in mind I still work off of my jumpdrive, but not going to worry about setting up all the dependencies to try and get my 128 mb flash running all my programs for a limited term contract.

So think on that for a minute, eh?

Re:Web Based Application (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195632)

What if you're at a job fair and you want to brush up your resume and print it off? And the kiosk PC has 'net access but not the Office suite on it? You can go online, edit your document (which might be on a USB fob) and print out an updated copy. I can see this having many applications (no pun intended). Be imaginative! :)

Re:Web Based Application (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196000)

If I was going to a job fair, I might just have considered the possibility of taking my resume /before/ I got there.

Re:Web Based Application (2, Insightful)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195648)

I agree with this. I actually wrote a rather long blog entry here [blogspot.com] about why I think a lot of web-based "web 2.0" applications are a bad thing (or, at least, not the best thing for the intelligent and creative people in computing to be focused on).
My main two points were that:
A: There are security implications involved with using web applications. Theoretically, a cracker, marketing firm, or government intent on getting access to personal documents would only have to gain access to a single server (or cluster) to get access to the documents of everyone who uses the service. Even if you delete documents, you have no way of knowing if the documents are actually deleted.
B: Moving things onto the web stifles innovation. While there are many interesting things that can be done by having applications communicate over the internet, instead of building on already mature desktop technologies, we are instead trying to do all of these things through the browser. While there are benefits to this, I feel that they are outweighed by the limitations of working on the immature and rather limited platform of AJAX/DHTML/etc. inside of a web browser. The best we could hope to accomplish over the next few years is to recreate on the web what we already have available on the desktop now- so we can write web applications in a few years that we could write for the desktops today.

Re:Web Based Application (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195703)

Not to disagree, but I think cogent counter arguments can be made.

A: There are security implications involved with using web applications.

You get these security implications anyway, the instant you hook a computer up to the net. Spyware. Adware.

Moving things onto the web stifles innovation.

Well, the difference between innovation and invention is up to the market. The key though is that users are not competent to administer their own machines; nor are the administrators in most small businesses. Given a trend towards smaller, more ubiquitous, more networked computing, you can imagine a world of stateless workstations with anything of value scrutinized, armored, and backed up by a professional datacenter staff.

I know people who, if they want to know what their web site looked like last November, just go to archive.org because it's convenient. If you never backed it up, it'd be a life saver.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195870)

You get these security implications anyway, the instant you hook a computer up to the net. Spyware. Adware.

Yes but when I store my apps and documents on my PC I control the risk involved. It may be moot when speaking of the general mass market but for me and other security conscious users the effect of taking my apps and data online is that I have to worry that the vendor/provider is as security conscious as I am.

I use both Linux and Windows. I *can* keep a Windows box secured. It takes some effort (as does Linux) and I do run the occasional heavy scans on it to give myself an extra warm-fuzzy(TM) that I'm not infected with anything but I really don't get viruses or spyware, even on Windows.

With USB as ubiquitous as it is and flash memory as cheap as it is I just don't see a need to keep my stuff online when I can just carry it around in my pocket. Besides if I'm not at work or working at home do I really need to access my apps/data? A person *needs* to be able to get away from these things once in a while.

Re:Web Based Application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195904)


You get these security implications anyway, the instant you hook a computer up to the net. Spyware. Adware.

You get these security implications the instant you hook a computer running Windows up to the net.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195906)

You get these security implications anyway, the instant you hook a computer up to the net. Spyware. Adware.
That is true, to an extent, but the point I was trying (and perhaps failed) to make was that with a centeralized system it becomes much easier.
Traditionally, if you wanted a users documents, you needed to do two things: You needed to somehow compromise that users computer, and then once the computer is compromised, you need to locate relevant documents for retreval. Now, for someone who is a talented cracker and social engineer, getting into most personal computers is trivial. For someone who is untalented as a cracker or social engineer (see: script kiddies) it is less trivial, but still possible. Retreiving files is relatively simple in either case, but still requires scanning the hard disk for whatever types of documents you are looking for, deciding which of those documents is relevant, and sending them back. Simple for a single user- but for most traditional purposes, one would want the documents of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of users. Granted, a lot of spyware is installed on that many machines- but I think that if some spyware application were to actually send out copies of all of a users personal documents, they would take note and a patch would be issued quickly. Plus what about all of the documents of people who use Linux or BSD or OS X, etc.
The point is, it can be done- but making it much easier to do so by having everything in a nice neat package makes doing so much more attractive to those in a position to make use of such data.
Furthermore, to get a bit more big-brother, consider the following two situations:
Situation A:
The government decides that it wants to monitor all of the personal documentation of all of it's citizens that fall under a certain demographic (say anyone who is within 4 generations of having lived in the middle east, anyone registered with the democratic party, or anyone born on a tuesday). The government passes a law requiring all citizens to install some sort of application. The government may or may not tell people what this application does- but sooner or later someone will let people know that this application is sending copies of all of their personal documents for government viewing. Either way people are suspicious that the government required them to install this application. (This person may or may not later have their human rights violated in guantanemo).
Situation B:
The government quietly sends a request to the people hosting this service. They say that under the patriot act they want access to this services database. No one is to be told about this. Now the government has access to everyones documents.
The point isn't that it's impossible to get the documents, the point is that it suddenly becomes reasonably trivial to do so completely undetected.

Re:Web Based Application (2, Interesting)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195907)

The difference is who is in control: if your data is stored on your personal computer, you can yank the cord, turn off the router, or otherwise keep your data where you and only you have access to it. With a web app, you have no way to access the information without that access. You can't just take it offline.

There is also an issue of trust here. It is much easier to "sandbox" your home computer. I still know people who keep their home office PC off of the Internet so that they don't get distracted. If they need something from the Net, they plug in the modem only for that task and unplug the cable as soon as they log out. One guy even keeps his personal files on an external hard drive he can keep it safe. Primitive and paranoid, but it's a more common mentality than you may realise.

There are some things we do in public, some things we do in smaller groups and some things we do alone. Web applications require you to do everything in a potentially open environment, one where you lose independence.

Now, I don't think Web-based applications are worthless. In fact, they are good for collaborative work, for documents that are created as a discussion or are open to be edited by a community. It is not the place, however, for private information. That is still best processed locally. I still keep most of my photos in iPhoto, but I also use flickr for those pictures that I don't mind others seeing. Why should my letters and other text documents be different?

Re:Web Based Application (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196029)

The politicians are making noise about ISP data retention. Do we think application survivors will not be swept up as well? And with this, not only will you be on the record for the final version, which is reasonable, but also on the record for all the draft elements as well. Litigator heaven! Hmmm maybe I shouldn't be doing all this checking, previewing and editing of my \. posts.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

Metabolife (961249) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195709)

I agree with you on your points. The security implications are the most terrifying, it would be like giving the government a key to look into any and all of your private matters easily. Instead of making all of these applications work through the web browser, why not bundle a separate application capable of connecting to online servers with code based around C++? Heck, why not just show people how to use vmware/RD so that they can use their own word processor from anywhere?

And to clarify for the others: I wasn't saying that these applications shouldn't exist, they do make things easier and cheaper (laptop case, why not buy a used cheapo?). I'm just saying that it might not be the smartest thing to have our entire lives on one central database, it's best to keep most things on our personal hardware.

Re:Web Based Application (2, Insightful)

geo_2677 (593590) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195695)

Such an application may actually be relevant to organizations if they could buy the server software and host it for their employees on the network. It helps backup of important data, and the documents are always in the control of the organization. The organisation never loses the data. Thinkfree may be thinking on such lines for all you know. If they have proven technology then convincing corporations will be easier.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

CagedBear (902435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195762)

But Dude... It's in Java.

JA-VA !!!

It must be good.

Accessing email everywhere (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195765)

Actually, IMAP lets you access your email everywhere, WITH a proper mail client, or with a little systray applet (or mobile phone, or whatever) that checks for new mail. There's really no need for webmail at all, except to give advertising opportunities to ISPs as you read it.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195775)

"I can understand email, since it needs to be accessed everywhere, but word processing? With hard drives reaching the 750GB level, what purpose do online only application serve besides easy access?"

Easy access is exactly the appeal of it. Right now, my gmail account has a bunch of 'drafts' that actually store some ideas I've had at home and at work. I've written psuedo-code for some Lightwave scripts I plan on writing down the road. (You never know when inspiration hits you.) I've heard of people working on their novels through email. I wouldn't mind having my resume on-hand and ready to go. Etc.

Maybe I don't strictly need an on-line version of Office, but I certainly wouldn't mind giving it a go. I've wanted something like this since I started using GMail. It has nothing to do with lack of storage, never did.

Re:Web Based Application (1)

RosenSama (836736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195960)

Guess what, if the server goes down, you are screwed.
But what's more likely to go down or not be backed up properly? The average home PC owner's computer or an application in the data center? What about their setup prevents you from keeping the same memory stick backup?

I love it! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195624)

ive been using thinkfree.org for about a year now after having tried openoffice.

i simply cannot fathom having to install Office ever again unless it is for macro/VB integration.. and it definately leaves OpenOffice miles behind in terms of proper Office compatibility and change of workflow.

thank you thinkfree!
-Sj53

Running a little behind aren't we? (0, Redundant)

Kylere (846597) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195642)

If you all read Tucows ( http://www.tucows.com/article/844 [tucows.com] ) you would have seen this last MONTH.

"The web site will be unavailable from ... (2, Insightful)

Diomidis Spinellis (661697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195645)

... 3:00 AM to 8:00 AM PDT on April 25. We apologize for the inconvenience"

is the wording on a banner currently appearing on the thinkfree [thinkfree.com] web site. Am I the only one feeling nervous about having my documents residing on an application service provider where their accessibility is beyond my control?

--
Code Quality: The Open Source Perspective [spinellis.gr] (Addison-Wesley 2006)

Re:"The web site will be unavailable from ... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195772)

Am I the only one feeling nervous about having my documents residing on an application service provider where their accessibility is beyond my control?

I spent some time researching internet cafes recently. A surprising number of people transact a lot of business through webmail in internet cafes.

If you take a single use case: a job seeker emailing emploment agencies, they are going to want to have their resume in a rich text format and available from their desktop, wherever it is.

On the desktop email is considered an office application along with word processing. I think online word processing is a natural extension of webmail.

OTH I would be interested to see if they have ripped software from OO.org for their office application. As an online service they don't have to release code under GPL2.

Re:"The web site will be unavailable from ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195986)

Except that word processing is often a long task, where handling email isn't. For example, I'd pay my cell carrier's absurd wireless inter net rate to check my email, but writing a multipage document? Forget about it, I'd go broke.

Re:"The web site will be unavailable from ... (1)

blackpanther200 (970575) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196071)

"Am I the only one feeling nervous about having my documents residing on an application service provider where their accessibility is beyond my control?"

I don't know if thinkfree will continue to have to temporarily shutdown its website, thereby making your documents inaccessible, but do note that it *is* still in beta. I don't think the fact that they have to make updates makes them less trustworthy.

However, if this wasn't a web application, the user could download an install updates when it's convinent for him/her.

--Joshua

What if... (5, Interesting)

cultrhetor (961872) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195653)

You actually have to do work when you have ... no connection? [Cringes and hides from constantly wired /.ers]

Just ... (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196214)

... try to look busy. You might do a screen capture of actual work to use as a background later to fool casual glances.

As an aside, the desktop screen capture is my favorite pc prank. No harm done, but confuses the heck out of someone returning, clicking away, and nothing happening (minimize the taskbar for maximum effect).

Won't last once the Telcos tier the internet (4, Insightful)

retrosteve (77918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195659)

Once the Telcos own the internet [tpmcafe.com] , how long will things like this be convenient to use?

All it takes is a golf game between Gates and a few Telco CEO's, and suddenly ThinkFree has really really low bandwidth. Really low.

I don't know if this is threadjacking or having the insight to connect two apparently unrelated issues. I'll let the mods decide.

Worst. Idea. Ever. (5, Insightful)

gaijin99 (143693) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195663)

What is the primary reason why MS Word is a bad idea? Everyone here knows the answer: closed format. If MS decides to take their marbles and go home, your documents may be unrecoverable [1]. You don't put your critical information in a closed format, because if you do the owners of that format own you.

This is at least five million times worse because you don't even have the closed format documents yourself, they're stored on *their* webservers. They go down? You don't have your documents. They go out of business? You don't have your documents. They decide to cancel your account? You don't have your documents. Also, legally, are they even your documents? How does copyright enter into this, if you write something on their servers, which is stored on their servers, can you really claim exclusive ownership?

I cannot imagine a worse idea.

Hard drives are big these days, putting a word processor onto your computer is not difficult, nor even costly since OpenOffice is free. This system *will* go down, all systems do eventually, and when it does I will do nothing but laugh and say "I told you so, but you wouldn't listen" to the suckers who suddenly find their documents unavailable.

[1] Yes, I know OO.o can read Word format, currently. Who's to say what the next release will bring, no?

Re:Worst. Idea. Ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195759)

not to defend Microsoft, but if they take their marbles, what exactly will stop my installed Word et al loading any existing document? Do their products expire the day they stop selling them?

Re:Worst. Idea. Ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195783)

I see that you, guys, love science fiction.

XML (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195825)

If MS decides to take their marbles and go home, your documents may be unrecoverable

New office format is based on XML. It may not be the Open Document Format (or whatever its called) version of XML, but it is XML and a published standard.

http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

Re:Worst. Idea. Ever. (0, Flamebait)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195828)

At this moment the site is down so they can implement some "exciting changes".

I hope they're awesome, becuase I'm going to need to type up my resume BECAUE I CAN'T PRINT AN IMPORTANT DOCUMENT NOW!

-Peter

Re:Worst. Idea. Ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195939)

Perhaps you should try the product first. It is equally easy to save a DOC file to your hard disk as it is to save it onto their free provided webspace.

Re:Worst. Idea. Ever. (1)

jabelson (968607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196060)

Also, legally, are they even your documents? How does copyright enter into this, if you write something on their servers, which is stored on their servers, can you really claim exclusive ownership? These are failr (and excellent) questions: if you pen a best seller, will thnikfree demand a cut? I know that, supposidly, everything I type on my company machines belongs to them. Right now we're using OO, but my wife - who gets PPs from around the world, is concerned that OO messes up formatting on word docs and PPS - and she's right, I've seen it. We also have Dell's install of WP, but we never use it.

Thinkfree owners partying... (1, Insightful)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195680)

After they announced "web" version again (1.0 was running in IE/MS JVM) the old timer thinkfree using people said "It is finally, really free".

You can't believe that joke for a not-so-popular poor java program. It was everywhere including mac download sites.

Joke? "If it is thinkfree, why it is not free?"

You would see thinkfree using people trying to explain what "think free" means endlessly.

I hope it finally ended... Oh wait, the downloadable version! OK, not giving further clue.

A gig of docs on the fly... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195780)

I could just see Al (David) Hedison's head on the fly's body, his voice squealing, "Heo-yope meeeee..."

damn you slashdot (2, Funny)

master0ne (655374) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195796)

you inform me of a truly useful and intresting website, and before i can even blick 2ce the site is slashdotted, and theres not even a link to it in the article!

Re:damn you slashdot (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196036)

That's because the submitter couldn't care less about the website. The submitter, from ExtremeTech, wanted to pimp their own review of it to drive up this weeks ad revenues.

Ummm (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195799)

A lot of people are grumbling about the fact that this is an internet based service. Why couldn't this be run on a corporate intranet instead?

What good is an unavailable word processor? (3, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195800)

I was about to try a quick "reality check" test, namely seeing whether ThinkFree could properly render and edit the actual Microsoft Word document I am actually working on right now. Not a deliberate stress test, nothing very fancy, no equations, but, yes, some style sheets, some tables that would lose all usefulness if not rendered with reasonably high fidelity (including some shaded in boxes, some split and merged cells), and quite a few strategically placed manual page breaks, so the document will be more or less ruined if font metrics and margin settings aren't handled accurately.

The site says it's "unavailable from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. on April 25th."

Well, it just so happen I need to do some work on this document soon. (Actually, of course, I should be working on it right now instead of reading Slashdot).

Guess what? Microsoft Word is available from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. on April 25th.

years ago the same code was downloadable (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195806)

Two or three years ago, when powerpoint files were sometimes hard to decrypt on macintoshes without MS software, I tried almost everything available around, and concluded that the Thinkfree Office of that time, a downloadable, paying, set of java scripts, was the best around.

I enjoyed it for more than one year before Apple's Pages appeared and was faster and as good.

Is it still the same ThinkFree Office? They don't have a downloadable version anymore?
(my old one still works well here)

Hervé

It all comes down to privacy (3, Insightful)

Daredevil73 (753233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195809)

IANAL but speaking from a US centric view, any piece of information thats hosted on servers not within your personal control, is much more easily accessed by the government than documents on your own personal hard drives. The standard for personal search and seizure is much much higher than for a corporation. Recently lets take a look at Google and AT&T. Google handed over some personal information after mounting a defense, but they still handed it over. AT&T is just dumping all internet traffic to the government so get favorable treatment elsewhere. The more I hear the less like about these online services having so much personal info. I won't be using more than I absolutely need to.

Re:It all comes down to privacy (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196046)

Speaking as a non US person, and perhaps donning my tinfoil hat, why would any foreign company wish to place their data within reach of US companies / governments? The US government has already been 'smacked' (or flogged with a wet tissue) over spying on foreign nationals, and turning information gleaned over to domestic companies.

Great, at least until the network goes down (1)

koweja (922288) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195810)

Getting things done at work is hard enough when the email or internet connection goes down, but there is still a lot we can do because we can use Office. However, if we did not have Office, but were relying on ThinkFree instead, whenever we (or ThinkFree) had network problems, we would be completely crippled. Now, it may seem like a good thing not to have any work to do, but sitting around for 8 hours doing busy work is mind-numbingly boring. ThinkFree was down for several days, and I'm sure with it being posted here it's going to go down very soon, if it hasn't already.

We had this exact same thing happen when we moved from static HTML pages to a CMS. Before we could use Dreamweaver (or another program) to work on the pages and then upload them later. Now we are using a CMS with a web interface, so if the network goes down, we can't work on the site.

It's great when it's up, but if you need something free, just stick with OpenOffice. Web-based applications seem like a great thing, and in many ways they are. However network connections are too unreliable to, well, rely on them.

vim and tex (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15195822)

Meh, give me vim and tex anyday (and yes, I used to use Emacs, whatever). It doesn't take me long to install, or much space to store my documents as gzipped .tex files. I've also got a wonderful little script (aterm -title micro_word -e sh -c "antiword \"$1\" | vi -") to execute on .doc files from within a browser.
I'm aware that there are non-geeks out there. My mom uses Word. My mom's net connection is also often flakey... what a dumb idea. Microsoft could pack it in someday, but, to be honest, this won't be an issue. Mom was running win98 until earlier this year. Many Biology journals only accept .doc format. This is obviously stupid, but as long as she's still got the version of word she wrote the doc on, we can get it back - no biggy. I'm a big open source proponent, and closed source/closed formats are dumb, but this isn't why. Internet applications that still use a stupid format are not the solution

"Office without the Microsoft" is a bit optimistic (1)

kahei (466208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15195886)


It's Office without the macros, without the plugins, without the Exchange integration, without the underpinnings of COM. It's basically Office without the selling point. If I wanted a spreadsheet to be literally just a grid with formulae, life would be so easy. I don't, of course; I want it to reference other sheets, to populate itself with data from the database, to have the occasional button that makes stuff happen elsewhere on the sheet, to host third party libraries or controls, to do the stuff that spreadsheets do. That's what Excel does, that's the value it delivers, that's what it brings to the table, that's what makes it worth putting up with.

The reason people use Office remains the simple fact that a competing product has not yet appeared. And with ThinkFree's attitude, it won't be them. They didn't include macros because they are 'platform dependant'?? They're not 'platform dependant'; they're just 'something that's harder to do when you decide your Excel clone will be running within a Java application server'. Not the same as 'platform dependant', but I bet the ThinkFree guy that said that has half convinced himself of it already. So I'm bearish on ThinkFree today.

Ok, my comments are cranky. But some overselling is going on here, you know.

Hoo-Ray.... (1)

jabelson (968607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196012)

ThinkFree Online is, simply put, Office without the Microsoft I guess if your plan is to be MS without being MS, then they have something. Being that 99.99999% of computer users don't give a hoot which brand of software they're using, it's a weak marketing point. Not to mention, if it flies, MS will have a web version available before you can say ThinkWho?

Re:Hoo-Ray.... (1)

onegear (802747) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196084)

yeah, but i bet it'll cost and arm and a leg.......

Microsoft Office still supreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15196173)

Microsoft office IS the office pacakage to beat
And no one has done it....yet..

---

Excel and Word have no real equals.

Powerpoint - does anyone use any other presentation software?

Outlook - fully featured Email/work management client for exchanage (evil m$ tie in, but u can use it with imap now)

Access - Database for people who dont understand databases used by millions yet critised extensivly. Yet there are no other real alternatives to access.

The weak parts of office are FrontPage/Publisher these just suck ass. But everyone know that :)

----

I like open office. Hopefully it will develope into a real condender soon. It is close in excel and word, and mircosoft are damaging there office product (everything after office 2000/XP sux) so they may yet catch up.

Most features eh... (2, Insightful)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196042)

a collection of free online apps that support and contain most features found in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel

That's why reviews shouldn't be made by people who can't find the differences between WordPad and Word to save their life.

Re:Most features eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15196162)

...to save their life. Or to save their file.

Hosting your own (3, Informative)

The Bastard (25271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196159)

Looks like many comments regarding Internet accessability, ownership on someone else's servers, etc may be void. ThinkFree has both stand-alone desktop [thinkfree.com] and internal server [thinkfree.com] products. Pop this puppy on your own servers for intranet or VPN access.

Hosted, or with the option of implementing my own server. Hmmm...A Web 2.0 company doing it right.

Availability (2, Interesting)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 8 years ago | (#15196167)

I would like to know if the server software is available for others. It is only practicle if the site is up all of the time. "High availability" means a lot when it comes to documents and business. Regardless, this sounds like one of the coffin nails I've been searching for.

Looks like they got something write (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15196240)

they say you need to think free---well gee OpenOffice is Free,so is Jedit, FreeBSD---wow most of the stuff I use is free. Thanks for reminding me to Think...speaking of I think your website can not be used as if it goes down anytime I---oh I duno need to get something done i'm SOL
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