Cloud-Based Office Apps for Writers and Other Maniacs

If you have a memory that functions better than that of a fruit fly, you’ll recall that on Tuesday I published a piece on why moving your operation to The Cloud just makes fucking sense in 2016.  I’m not going to leave you hanging there, though.  I went out to the web to figure out what options you had for Cloud-based office applications so this blog would be like… useful and shit.  Anyway.  That’s what I’ve been doing since Tuesday.

There are a ton of specialized Cloud-based spaces today, you can get anything you want from blank canvas hosting to point of sale software and project management tools out there in the wild.  There are also a ton of outdated links to tools that no longer exist (I realize the future irony of that statement, so shut your face).  In light of all of that, I thought I’d just make it a lot easier and bring all the information I found together into one space, tell you about my experiences and what I’ve heard and let you make your own decisions.  How’s that sound?

Enter the World of Cloud-Based Apps for Writers

In my hunt for the better Cloud-based office suites, I found four that I consider to be major contenders in the market as of right now.  Right now.  Remember, these things change constantly, new stuff comes in, old stuff shrivels up and dies like so many raisins in the sun.  Staying power is actually a major consideration for me, since I feel that The Cloud should host my data forever so I don’t have to bother to move it again.  That means really my choices are really limited to two, but I’m still going to present all four for you.  Ok?  Ok.  So here they are.

Zoho Office Apps.  If you read anything about Cloud-based word processing, it’s going to include the Zoho suite because, frankly, the writer’s desperate to get away from MS and Google.  The truth is that the Office section of Zoho is bundled UNDER the Mail program, which, to me, says that it’s basically an afterthought.  Zoho is really a productivity and project management tool, it’s not a fucking word processor.  I mean, it can get the job done, but unless you primarily want it for the other stuff it can do, I’d steer clear.  Forget this thing ever existed.

Polaris Office.  Admittedly, I’ve not downloaded Polaris Office, but from the tellings, the sayin’s on the web, this is actually a really awesome suite that’s super affordable.  If you can’t quite spring for Office, but you’re no fan of the Googler, Polaris can do everything MS wants to do and is free to get started.  Functionality and storage improves as your contribution improves, of course, but that’s the way life is, idn’t?  The one thing to note is that Polaris, like MS, will require some local storage.  So if you’re working with a device with limited disk space it might not work out for you.

Microsoft Office 365.  By now you’ve probably heard of a small company in Seattle called Microsoft.  They made an office suite, aptly called Office.  When it went to The Cloud, they called it Office 365.  We used to bitch about how much it cost, but now we can subscribe to it on a monthly basis for like $7.  It’s really quite cheap and you can save stuff in their Cloud space and all of that.  It works with all your mobile devices, it’s a Microsoft product so you don’t have to worry if your documents will be compatible with users of Microsoft Office (which is a rare complication of using any of the non-MS products).  Lots of bonuses.  Downside is that it’s still Microsoft, so there’s that.  They do at least now offer a free version (thank you, Nancy Allen, for that correction.)  Here’s the link.

Google Drive.  I saved the best for last.  Or, I saved the one I use for last, at least.  I love Google Drive… for a number of reasons.  First, I can export to just about any format, with reasonably few problems.  Second, it’s free unless I want to pay for extra storage (which I do, to the tune of a whopping $1.99 a month).  Thirdly, even though it’s still a pretty basic word processor, it can do a bunch of stuff — so it’s kind of a split between the graphically heavy, overly functional MS Word and the more basic WPs available elsewhere.  I can do a resume on this thing as well as write a document.  I don’t need another thing.  I can do all the things here.  So, it’s my go to.  It’s also compatible with my Chromebook, which I use for writing quite often.  *shrug*  I like it.  I’d actually pay for it.

As of right now, these are your options.  I’ve heard that LibreOffice is working on going to The Cloud, so if you’re a fan, you may want to watch for updates about that.  I don’t know more, I could sort of take it or leave it.  Whatever, yo.

Get thyself some Cloud computing.  It’ll change the way your life works forever.  FOREVER.

4 Reasons All Writers Should Be On The Cloud

In my early years as a young, budding journalist, there was no key combo as important as Apple-S.  Apple-S.  You wrote a beat, then Apple-S.  Oh, Apple-S.  Did I remember to Apple-S?  Let’s Apple-S just in case we didn’t Apple-S.  Every article was a long string of words invisibly punctuated with Apple-S.  (For you PC-types, that’d be CTRL-S)

The computers we used back then were amazingly sleek replacements for our typewriters and onion skin papers, but they couldn’t quite be trusted.  Oh no.  Those little fuckers would lock up or forget we’d written something or just sort of vomit whenever it seemed to suit them.  The closer to the deadline, the more likely this was to happen.  So, everything we wrote back in the 90s was punctuated with Apple-S because we were engaged in a never-ending battle with a technology that was created to make our lives easier and actually ended up creating a new subconscious keystroke for an entire generation of writers.

Eventually technology caught up to our actual needs and this amazing fucking thing was invented.  They call it The Cloud.  It’s not white and puffy, it’s not a sign of stormy weather, it’s a thing out there where you can store data and shit.  It’s fucking unicorn magic and puppies and fairy dust and donuts with sprinkles all wrapped up in a big soft down comforter and compressed into ones and zeroes for your fucking consumption.  So let’s talk about that.

Get On The Cloud Today, Freelance Writer!

So, The Cloud.  You can’t really understand The Cloud without experiencing it, but I’m going to do my best to explain it to you so we can both feel like we did our jobs here.  Now fucking sit and listen, because I’m sure as shit not going to repeat myself.

Do you remember when we had to use floppy disks or Zip drives or other portable media for files because we shared computers and did other unsanitary things in the newsroom?  You’re too young for that?  Hmm.

Well, there was a time when we had to carry our data with us because there was no where else safe to put it save inside the belly of a single computer, where it was difficult to share with anyone who might need it.  Instead of emailing files, we carried them to one another on coasters containing encoded magnetic circles that magically recreated our ideas — mostly.  I mean, if they got too close to a magnet or you dropped them or used them for an actual coaster, well, you were probably fucked.  And that’s why The Cloud is really important.

Know your computing history.   Here are four reasons why using The Cloud is superior to all that data lugging bullshit:

Two words: Auto. Save.  If you’re not part of the Apple-S Generation, you don’t know the struggle of constantly having to save your data for fear that you’ll lose it all if your computer were to suddenly crash or the power were to go out in a freak wind storm or something else horrific were to happen.  If you’ve never lost an entire article to one tiny computer hiccup, you don’t know the struggle.  But for those of us who lived through those dark times, The Cloud offers an anxiety-free alternative: Auto Save.  For example, Google Drive literally saves every character as you type.  It doesn’t get much more up to the second than that.  You can also configure your computer, smartphone or tablet to back everything up to your Cloud drive… so there’s literally nothing you can’t protect.

Improved Data Integrity.  Remember those disks I was talking about like 10 seconds ago?  Well, like cassette tapes, they didn’t have especially great data integrity.  Meaning that sometimes, even if you “Apple-S”ed as hard as you could go, you’d still lose your data because your disk was garbage.  Or if you did get your disk too close to a magnet or something that contained a magnet, it might wipe the disk entirely — making you double fucked.  Hard drives were also easily corruptible in the old days, basically nothing could be trusted.  So you had to print a copy and carry around a digital copy if you had any hopes of keeping your data intact.  The tech that backs The Cloud is so secure and has such excellent integrity that credit card companies and banks are moving their entire operations there instead of trying to upgrade their internal systems to match the level of tech.

Many Services Offer Built-In Software.  Your old, slow word processor that’s no longer compatible with anything or anyone needs to be chucked, along with the platform shoes in your closet and those fucking parachute pants.  NO ONE LOOKS GOOD IN PARACHUTE PANTS!  There are a number of Cloud services that offer built-in software suites for people just like us.  Access to word processors, spreadsheets and even presentation software is as easy as spending your $5 or $10 a month for your storage and access.  Your software’s always up to date and you’ll never have to have that embarrassing conversation with a client when they ask why they can’t open your file.

Group Think.  Even if the other stuff isn’t appealing to you, there’s one thing you can do on The Cloud that you’d never be able to do on your Earth-based PC.  You can’t share a document and literally work on it at the same time as someone else.  For any sort of group think project, from editorial calendars to branding projects and even blogging brainstorming sessions, having more than one brain in your working document can improve it exponentially.  Or it can fucker it up — I mean, I don’t know what sort of shitwads you work with.

Like it or not, unicorn butt sniffer, times change and we get better tools.  It’s to our advantage to use them instead of clinging to the same old technology we’ve been using since the Dark Ages.  Break your dependency on routine, check out some Cloud tools and see what you’ve been missing.  In part two of this two part series I’ll be discussing and reviewing some of the major Cloud subscriptions so you can make a more informed decision.