Hit Me with Your Best Doc: Document-Sharing Services on the Web

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File sharing has had a bad rap, but thanks to still image, video, and audio sharing services such as Flickr (http://www.flickr.com--and even the Library of Congress is there), Google's Picasa [http://picasa.google.com], YouTube [http://www.youtube.com], and Odeo [http://odeo.com], file sharing is now a good thing. If it's your creation and you crave spreading the written, numeric, or presentation word around, a range of free services can help you. This activity is called document sharing and may or may not involve the ability to edit a document, regardless of its initial file format, written by you all alone online. You might also be able to collaborate on a document in real time with members or a group or team a la the wiki principle.

Due to space limitations, I've classified the growing number of services into two broad categories: document (file) storage, sharing, and searching services and document storage and editing services. The former do not contain any online document editing capability by a single individual or a group, while the latter feature the ability to store, share (publish), and edit documents online through a web-based interface. I've placed some of the project management web applications in the document storage, sharing, and searching category: Although these services may include the word "office" in their names, some do not offer basic online office functionality, relying on local PCs for that capability. Since the services in either category rely on a web browser and most work in either a Windows or Mac environment, you do not normally need to download any kind of client software. If you don't have a recent version of the Flash player, however, you might have to download it, as well as various kinds of Microsoft ActiveX controls and the Google Gears browser extension that lets you work offline with some of these services. For the services touting Microsoft Office compatibility, I found that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser appeared to "play best with others." Complete cross-browser functionality may remain an elusive and unreachable goal for these services.

I've limited my listings of online document-editing and -sharing services to those that are free or offer a free trial, usually of 30 days' duration. In some cases, even without a subscription plan, you might be able to continue using a service after your trial period expires.

Document Storage, Sharing, and Searching: From Google Apps to Project Apps

These services want your documents and they want to index them so others can find them. If you're overly anxious about sharing or exposing your intellectual property to a third party, these services may not necessarily be for you.

I remember not too long ago in internet time when finding free file storage for more than 10MB was difficult. With the costs of hard drive technology dropping and storage density increasing, it's no wonder the current minimum for free file storage is in the 1-2GB range. Of course there's a trade-off, as you might find yourself having to agree to a copyright license not in your best interest. But if you're no Picasso, George Lucas, or Madonna, perhaps that won't really matter to you.

Google Docs, Google Apps, and Google Sites

I blame myself for Google gobbling up Writely.com. I blogged about Writely on Aug. 3, 2005, and by March 2006, the media were talking about Google's first foray into online document editing through its acquisition of Writely. (How's that for market power?!) Writely evolved into the web word processor component of the free Google Docs service [http://docs.google.com]. The two other components are a spreadsheet editor and a presentation editor. You need a Google account to access the service. To tour the beta offering, go to http://www.google.com/ google-d-s/intl/en/tourl.html.

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One intriguing aspect of Google Docs is its ability to create content you can post to one of any six different major blog hosting providers or to virtually any blogging application you host yourself. …