Scott Spanbauer gave up desktop software applications for one week, working solely on the web. He loved it so much he still hasn't gone back to the desktop

Experiments in which techies give up the programs on their PCs for a week and rely instead only on web-hosted applications are nothing new.

Afterwards, they always go back to the 'real' programs that reside on their hard drives before recounting the amusing experiences with the online substitutes.

But this little adventure had an unexpected ending: three weeks later, I was still living on the web – with no plans to return permanently to Microsoft Office or most of the other productivity applications I used to find indispensable. Click here for reviews of the best online applications.

Sure, online applications can't do certain things – such as rip and burn CDs or capture screenshots. But the convenience of storing and editing my documents and email online compensates well for the drawbacks and missing features of Google Docs, Zoho Office, Gmail and the like. Google and Zoho provided all the tools I needed, while sites such as ThinkFree offer similar features.

The web may not replace your traditional desktop apps if your needs go beyond basic email, word processing and spreadsheet tasks, or if your web connection is slow. But you'd be surprised at how much you can do in a browser.

Moreover, online office suites let you do something that locally installed apps can't: collaborate with others on documents in real time, regardless of each person's physical location. Over the following pages I'll explain how I became a true believer – and what you can expect if you take the plunge.

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