What use are web applications?

OK, this is a bit Luddite but I am unimpressed by the news that Adobe are entering the online document processing market, according to the BBC. They’ve bought the online word processor Buzzword, that lets several people edit a document online. It sounds like a good idea, in principle, but…

Have you ever tried collaborating on a document online? It’s usually a fiasco. At least, it is on Messenger, You change something. The other person changes something else. It saves over your changes. Or the program won’t either of you save because it’s trying to synchronise two documents. And failing to get either working.

One of you is bound to have a stylesheet that defaults to comic sans 18 point every time you press the return key. One of you is guaranteed to take Word’s offer of last Tuesday’s recovered version of the document, by accident, because it sounds more convincingly like the document you should be working on than the actual thing in front of you.

The problem isn’t the tech. It’s that two separate things are two separate things. They get out of synch. If you are both working on separate chapters and can merge the complete document that’s a different matter. But, in that case, why not keep two documents until you’ve finished your own bits?

6 thoughts on “What use are web applications?

  1. Really, Heather, I’m disappointed that you’re using Microsoft products as the benchmark to judge others by…

    One of the niftiest programs I’ve ever used is SubEthaEdit and that gets collaborative editing right on so many levels.

  2. You see, this might be a case of YMMV, but I am not sold on SubEthaEdit – it might just be that I am not used to it. I agree, however, that it has the collaboration thing down much, much better.

    Rightly or wrongly, MS has managed such a massive penetration of the home and office market, people expect certain things from their software packages – such as the file->open being where they expect it and so on. As a result, although we may wish otherwise, MS remain a benchmark product – this is one of the main hurdles Linux has to get over. Fortunately, since MS decided to revamp its UI with vista this may not be such a hurdle any more.

    As a Mac user, you are pretty much spared all this nonsense, so in some ways (and I hate myself for saying it) there are some real advantages to MacUse….

    On the subject of “web applications” – I think they are insane. No one in their right mind should trust their data (or their corporate data) to a webserver owned, administrated and controlled by a third party. This move to software rental is (IMHO) madness.

  3. Hi TW. My main point was using Messenger (a poor product at the best of timea) as the starting point for comparing competing or alternative products. I agree with your market share position, and have no issue with it (other than I wish it wasn’t so, but we all know what wishing gets you!) 😉

    I realise that I didn’t address “web apps” directly (which covers a multitude of sins, not just the MS Office clones/replacements) but I use some web apps constantly (Gmail immediately springs to mind) although I back it up locally via POP. No, I wouldn’t trust my data completely to a 3rd party, but the functionality and flexibility it affords me on a day-to-day basis is a massive help in my life (whereby I use 3 or 4 different OSs/desktops most days, depending where I am and what I’m doing). For all other web apps, if it doesn’t have an auto-backup/export to email feature (so that I have dated copies of my data, then I don’t use it. But then I’m anal like that. 😉

    To put your mind at rest, there’s a lot of shit software for the Mac too. 🙂

    Software rental IMO is madness. Unfortunately it’s a madness that’s seemingly infecting the beancounters at MS too.

  4. Null, I agree with you 200% over messenger being torturous at best!

    It is interesting to have a different take over the web apps thing. My “objections” to them run the risk of being based on principle rather than practice, so it is nice to hear how people can make it actually work.

    As you mention, remote storage of software and data is becoming worryingly popular. It amazes me that people seem so willing to allow an unknown entity the ability to pretty much read every single bit of their work and they are willing to trust their ability to access said work to the nature of remote services (speaking from the heart as someone who was without net access for a month!).

    I will admit to using gmail more than any other mail app – mainly because I can access it from so many different places, including from my phone. But, generally, I dont use Gmail for important / business mail.

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  6. Using Messenger on Windows is equivalent to getting you face slapped repeatedly by random strangers. It’s a horribly invasive app which seems to cheekily decide it’s the single most important thing on you computer. Much like Internet Explorer actually.

    I find Adium is a much nicer solution allowing multiple accounts at once, and Growl is a great example of an uninvasive(?) notification system. And though I’ve never used SubEthaEdit for collaborative work, I often use it as my editor if I try to do some programming, and find it a lovely app to use.

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