A few months ago we talked about cloud computing and due to its rising popularity it’s time for a follow-up. There are three separate ways that you can run applications or software programs from your computer. You can install a program onto your hard drive and run it from there; the traditional way and this applies to paid for software or our favorite freeware.
Typically, this software is transferrable to another PC only by re-installing it (either from the install disc or by downloading it again). The second type of software is portable, doesn’t have to be installed; just stored on your hard drive or some attached device. This type can be carried around with you on a thumb drive from computer to computer.
The third approach to running software is to use online applications that you do not have to download or install. You access them through your browser and are actually working on someone else’s server, in the cloud. Three obvious advantages come to mind.
You’re not creating and storing files on your own hard drive, you can often access programs that have cross platform capabilities ( use Mac or Windows for example) and you can work from any computer that has an Internet connection. If you share passwords on a project, you can also use the cloud to collaborate with others over long distances.
Our friends from Gizmo’s freeware have compiled an extensive list of what they call the best free online applications and services that will satisfy just about any urge to try the cloud. Access their report and links at http://tinyurl.com/yb6totl.
Starting with a basic category; look at their links for free online office suites. I like Google Docs and what about Microsoft’s Office Web Apps? MS even gives you 25 GB of free online storage as part of Windows Live SkyDrive (your drive in the clouds, get it?). You can create and edit all kinds of documents, access them from any computer and share them with whomever you choose.
Another category with great apps is Image Views and Editors. There are tools to crop, resize, rotate and completely make over all kinds of image formats, plus the ability to change back and forth between formats like .jpg, .png and. pdf.
The list goes on and includes webware for security and privacy, disk and file tools, desktop enhancers and apps for multimedia use.
The best online calendar for my money (free) is still Google Calendar which allows you to schedule events and keep track of appointments. It is also easy to synchronize with MS Outlook for Windows users and Apple’s ical for Mac users. You can even sync with your phone in many cases.
Another popular category for cloud users is online storage and sharing. My choice for this service is Dropbox which allows you to store and share files with from a folder on your desktop. Windows Live SkyDrive is also good and you get more free storage.
Take a look at the Gizmo report and start using these great free apps and services.