When many older people think of computer use today, they think of Microsoft Office. Obviously the folks in Redmond must love that, but this phenomenon may be challenged by the website thinkfree.com and its free webservices. According to the April 23, 2006 article in PC World, “First Look: ThinkFree Web App Outshines Microsoft Office – Updated online office suite adds easier sharing, more storage:”

It sounds too good to be true: free word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation programs that are compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts and that work in a browser. That’s the promise of ThinkFree, a Web service that offers all this, and more.

Dennis O’Reilly, the article’s author, was pretty optimistic after his test drive of think-free’s word processor:

In fact, ThinkFree’s full-blown word processor has all the features most people will ever need, including automatic table generation, auto-correct options, and an array of styles and formatting choices. It can save files in the .doc, .rtf, and .txt formats, or as PDFs. I was able to upload several .doc files I created in Word, edit them in the ThinkFree word processor, and then download and open them in Word as if they’d never left (with all the changes in place, of course). I also e-mailed links to the documents to non-ThinkFree users, and while they weren’t able to save the files locally, they could view and copy them.

The PDF creation features alone should get the attention of Windows-users. (Macintosh OS X users can create PDF files for free with software built-in to the operating system, using any print dialog window.) Creating and sharing PDF files without purchasing Adobe Acrobat is a big deal for Windows users, although free PDF creation utilities are definitely available for the Windows OS.

As with other web 2.0 beta web services, it will be interesting to follow development as well as usage patterns of thinkfree.com in the weeks and months to come. Attracting huge numbers of users in a short amount of time can be a big negative for bandwidth costs. I heard last week on a TWIT podcast that YouTube is spending around $1 million per month for bandwidth, which could bankrupt them pretty fast if they don’t get some type of corporate sponsorship. Hopefully Thinkfree will survive to be sponsored and continue to be a constructive, disruptive influence in the sphere of clerical computer applications! 🙂

To get a better idea of the capabilities of Thinkfree.com, check out their web tour.

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3 Responses to Thinkfree challenges MS Office dominance

  1. Cheryl Oakes says:

    I was just talking with a school committee member about this the other day. She asked when would people begin using this ‘free’ software. I think the shift will come with the graduating college group who are USED to downloading their music, movies, and software from the Internet. Most, college grads, have substantial debt going out to their first job. Do you think they will be continuing to support the big software giants? I think we will see this group make the shift.
    Cheryl Oakes

  2. Rick says:

    I agree, this is a great use of the new power of the internet. I think we will see so many more common applications (and tasks) move to the web with ‘web 2.0’ and AJAX.

  3. fred mcmurry says:

    Freeware IS the future. Freedom from the M$ tax which we have all paid all these years. Freedom to access your files through any browser on any OS, files stored free, your work anywhere you find an open connection to the net.

    I’ve had trouble – so far – using Thinkfree; it’s pretty buggy. On the other hand, Googles offerings (Writely.com, Google Spreadsheets, their entire suite of web tools and apps) are pretty dang stable and do all that I need them to do.

    I look forward to the day – and it’s not too far off, either – when I use a stable Linux OS and have M$ XP in a window, an occurrence of xp in a window for those times when you absolutely MUST use M$ stuff, ie some web pages still insist upon using M$ IE, though, fortunately, fewer each day.

    OS New World Order. It’s here, coming to your desktop soon.


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