Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thing 16: Now My Whole Office is Online!

Howdy, all, and welcome back. If you haven't already filled out the Midway Survey, please take a few moments to do so. For those of you who have, my thanks.

A few years ago, the notion of "the paperless office" began to circulate among business theorists and efficiency experts. Don't bother with printed memos and endless forms, they said. Just put it all onto shared computer networks and your costs will plummet. Email was the first attempt in this initiative, but trying to collaborate on larger documents or spreadsheets produced a mess of revisions and miscommunication.

Online office suites are the first social computing answers to this problem. Users can create documents, save and store them online, invite collaborators to make changes as needed, and publish them for a small audience or the world. Like web-based email, you can access your documents on any device connected to the internet and not worry about what files you have saved on which machines. Better still, so can co-workers, friends or anyone else you're working on a project with.

One of the more obvious uses for online office suites is to publish the notes or slides for workshops and presentations. But how about coordinating a budget for a nonprofit organization, or for a party or a wedding? With everyone involved in planning able edit the spreadsheet, keeping up with expenses is a snap!

Google Docs offers the three most popular tools an average user needs: word-processing, spreadsheets and presentations. They aren't meant to replace your Microsoft products -- yet -- but they do the basics well enough. For a better idea of how Google Docs work, take the tour.

Zoho is more comprehensive, designed from the start to integrate all the workings of an office into an online platform. Stroll through the product list and see what the future may hold for telecommuters, solo workers collaborating on projects, and independent workers of all stripes.

Discovery Activity:
Create a Google Docs document or spreadsheet, add some content, and save and publish it. Choose anything from a simple letter to an imaginary library committee budget -- whatever you'd like to do is fine. When you click on Publish (under the Share tab at the top right of your document), please copy and paste the URL into a blog post.

To Go the Extra Mile, try your hand at a Presentation (aka, slide show).

Think we're getting a little too corporate? No worries. We'll return to a strong library focus in Thing 17: Classrooms Without Walls.

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