A few weeks ago Google acquired Writely, an online word processor that supports Word and XML formats. Here’s word of another such app – AjaxWrite – which claims to free you from the need for Word at all.
The apps are definitely interesting. They sure don’t provide all of the style management, mail merge, long document indexing, etc, capabilities of Word, but how often do you use those features, and how often do you simply format for presentation? If you mostly do the latter, and you can get a .doc file out of the system at the end of the day, why not use an online editor. You don’t have to worry about whether the critical doc is on your work PC or laptop, and the online sharing features blow away the problems of multiple emails of different versions of Word file attachments. Just set some sharing privileges and provide a link. Of course, some docs are too sensitive to go online, but the security setting seem adequate for 95% of what we do.
Perhaps most importantly, online editors use the OpenDoc format, an open standard, which means your documents will never be made unusable by Microsoft.
Probably the biggest problem isn’t features or security but the fact that sometime’s there’s no internet access. For the forseeable future local apps are still the way to go. But things are changing quickly and we don’t necessarily have to shell out for Microsoft’s next bloated offering.