Monday, October 03, 2005

Web based office suite

Over on slashdot there was an article about how an online office is _coming_ (insert ominous music). Quickly reading through the comments I am amazed at how few people get the value it could provide. I was chatting with some friends of mine about this a year or two ago.

Lets say I made an online editor, now my document editor is simple, damm simple, it only lets you edit the raw html for your document. Having word count and bold text isn't the value of an online editor, there are many other values
  • Backup is garenteed. Assuming the admin hosting the "application" isn't an idiot your documents will never be lost from your mistakes or your bad hardware. Already this is better then most companies today.

  • Revision control. Outside of development you don't code documents under revision control. Most users haven't a clue what it is. With the ability to store every change in a real revion control system on the backend you get all sorts of possibilities including:

  • Access anywhere. I don't know how many times I have been over at someones house and pulled up some vacation photos to clairify something because I have them online. If you have your documents online you will be likely to reference old ones in at random times. Can't do that today with them on home computer.

  • Clean merging when multiple people edit a file. I don't think you can do that in any mainstream text editor today. I am talking about the ability to merge files like we can do today with svn and code.

  • No pesky filesystem or filename to deal with. You simply save the document and search for it when you want to edit it. Users stress out about the name of their files anyway.

  • Instant publishing. When you are done you can mark it as global so that anyone on the outside can view your document. Imagine just browsing around on the internet checking out other peoples documents that they wrote. The key thing being that it
    would take no effort to "publish" the file. And if you have to fix something you just edit the document and it is done.

  • The ability to merge parts of other documents into yours and when those documents are updated so are yours (like a quote or paragraph).

  • Global searching. If your company has all their documents up on this repository then it will be very easy to find any document (say the spec written for a product from five years ago...), compare that with today...

  • If your company changes its name, or on a personal level you change the project name it will be easy to find all of the Documents that use the old name.

  • No more 50MB doc files. You can have a repository of accessory files. Call them clip art, call them vacation photos. You can create multiple documents that use the same 2MB images without having to make a copy of the image. You make a logo for a project and change it, update in one place and be done.

  • The ability to add media to everyones clip art in your family/company

  • Readers can leave comments on your documents. Think slashdot or messageboard style. This could be public or private, either way a valuable way for feedback.

  • LIVE status reports. The chief editor for the paper could just browse to a webpage that tells him the number of words of each of tomarrows articles to see which ones are done. And that is just the tip of the iceburg on reporting.

  • Your printer doesn't work? Just go over to your freinds and print it out on their computers web browser

Online document storing is coming. I could give a rats ass if it doesn't let me add footers or do a word count in version one, but if it starts adding the above colaberation abilities hoochy-mama I am going to put it on my server. Some will argue that we are already there. Wikipedia comes really close. A company could make a fat client with all the nice features for editing the files, but the key is that the files are stored on a remote server that is web accessable to enable all of the above.

Hell I am all excited about this I almost want to go code it myself.

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