Remember The Milk

The Museum of Modern Betas has issued a list of the ‘biggest’ beta services out there, as measured by the number of times they have been bookmarked in del.icio.us. One of the ones it points out, that I hadn’t come across before, was Remember the Milk, an online to-do list manager.

It really good! You can have to-dos in Personal, Study or Work categories, and then tag them individually too. You can send tasks to other people, or share them all. Creating tasks is dead easy – just typing the title into a box – and then you can customise it, like setting reminders, priorities and adding notes, as much as you want to afterwards.

I had previously been using Backpack to manage my to-dos, but I will definitely be giving Remember the Milk a tryout for the next few weeks.

As usual with these services, they have a blog and a forum. The other cog in the machine of Web2.0 support, the documentation wiki, isn’t evident though!

[tags]Remember the Milk[/tags]

Eyespot

The latest announcement from Michael Robertson’s Ajaxlaunch is eyespot – an online AJAXy video editing service. Sounds cool, though I don’t have any video clips to hand to try it out on.

Seems a departure from the other Ajaxlaunch stuff though, and it doesn’t fit in with the style of the other apps.

[tags]eyespot[/tags]

Zoho

Zoho looks like it offers some interesting online applications, the word processor looks especially good as is an alternative for those who can’t get Writely accounts at the moment because of the post Google purchase embargo on new users.

[tags]zoho[/tags]

To Digg, or not to Digg?

Well, it’s certainly a question. When I load up my RSS aggregator (currently Bloglines – though this could change when the UK finally gets the new Newsgator look) there are always new Digg entries. When I leave it for a few hours, the limit of 200 news posts is nearly always reached.

Now, one of the criticisms, if it can be called that, of the use of the internet and technologies like RSS is that it can result in information overload. I’d generally disagree with this, but with Digg, I am afraid it’s true. The site is a victim of its own success – it’s nice to look at, easy to use and boasts some great features. But it just produces too much stuff – I can’t be faffed even to skim the feed sometimes. And then, when you see something you actually like, you can’t even read it because the so-called ‘Digg effect’ has rendered the site in question unusuable due to server pressure.

That’s why I probably still pay more attention to Slashdot that Digg. Slashdot doesn’t produce the number of posts that Digg does, largely because it has a proper focus in terms of subject matter and it has some sort of an editoral focus too – in that you know which way most of those who use and post to it lean on many issues.

As a completely non-scientific comparison, Digg has 3.909 subscribers on Bloglines, compared to Slashdot’s 66,089. There are bound to be many reasons to explain some of the difference, but I would say Digg has a lot of catching up to do.

One site I have never got round to using at all is the Tech Memeorandum. Perhaps I should subscribe and give it a go.

[tags]digg, slashdot, memeorandum[/tags]

ajaxWrite

There is a bit of a buzz around ajaxWrite, a new Web2.0 word processor, like Writely. Much of the buzz is around the fact that the guy reponsible for it is Michael Robertson who was previously behind Linspire, the user friendly Linux distro.

The first thing to say about it is that, at the moment, it is bloody slow. I guess part of the reason for that is the big demand on the servers at the moment as everyone tries out the new toy. People like me, then.

So what’s it like? It’s ok. It’s made to look like a desktop app, rather than the friendly colours of Writely and other AJAXy sites like that. It deliberatley sets out to take on Microsoft Word, in fact Microsoft Office according to the blurb on the pre-loaded document:

The look, feel, and functionality of Microsoft Word in a AJAX platform. This means you can load it in seconds from a web browser.

Did we mention it’s free? That’s right.

Microsoft Office Professional 2007 – $499

AjaxWrite – $0

Erm, ok. Well, for a start, there’s a little bit of a difference between what Office does as a whole and what AjaxWrite does. Even if ajaxWrite was the best word processor ever designed, it still wouldn’t be comparable, would it? What a bizaare claim to make.

ajaxWrite

Feature wise, it’s ok – better than Writely. It can open .doc files, and save them too, as well as PDFs which is great. However, it looks to me like you can only save files to a local disk – you can’t save them online or share them with others. This is a straight competitor to a desktop word processor.

One of my pet hates with software is non compliance with standards – especially on keyboard shortcuts. ajaxWrite meddles with the standards – like making bold text a ctrol-shift-b rather than just ctrl-b as normal. It’s all academic, anyway, as I couldn’t get any of them in any combination to work this evening.

In all honesty, I don’t like it. If you don’t want to use MS stuff, use OpenOffice.org, or AbiWord (both of which are just as free as ajaxWrite) or even WordPerfect or StarOffice if you don’t mind paying. ajaxWrite claims to have the functionality of Word, but it doesn’t come close – nor indeed to OOo Writer, and what’s worse it seems to me to fail to take advantage of providing a WP service online.

Update: the Office rather than Word comparison, according to this post, is because other parts of an office suite will be released in time. Ah yes, if I had read the post on Michael Robertson’s blog that I linked to above properly, I would have known that. So, that’s that cleared up then. Sorry, all.

Kiko

Kiko is another online calendar service. It’s filled with lots of lovely little AJAXy tricks and generally looks lovely.

Kiko

One of the cool features include having a text box which allows you to quickly add appointments using a human readable syntax, which is nice.

The problem with the site at the moment is that it is soooo sloooooow. Until they get that sorted, I will still be a HipCal user. But I shall be keeping a close eye on Kiko.

The question that everyone is asking, of course, is whether Kiko is named after the footballer:

Kiko

I think we should be told.

YouOS

YouOS, an online “operating system” looks really interesting. You register, then load it up in your browser. It’s best to maximise the browser window as much as you can. I’m at work, so am stuck with IE.

They describe the system as being “Still wayyyy alpha”, so I guess we shouldn’t expect too much. Still, they are blogging and have a forum, so are obviously interested in the thoughts of early users. They write a bit about what they are trying to do in their “manifesto”:

There is a glaring weakness to all traditional operating systems, however. They are, at the root, designed to run on one computer. Extensions like NFS and remote desktop alleviate this weakness to some extent, but they do nothing to enable collaboration on a larger scale between users on different computers. Imagine what you could do if every one in the world could work and play on the same “virtual computer”.

So, le’s give it a go. At first, you are presented with what appears to be a blank screen. I really wasn’t sure what to do at first, still I notice a small button in the top left of the screen:

Stuff Button

Which revealed the stuff menu:

Stuff Menu

So there are a few apps on there already. Some of them are a little specialised, however, like FlickRSS. You load it up, and a window with a text box pops up, which you fill in and hit the ‘Get Feed’ button, like I did with ‘Cats’. You then get a list of flickr photos tagged with the word cats.

Anyway, Chat I couldn’t get to work; RichTextEditor works fairly well, if a little slowly, though is obviously nowhere near to, say, Writely:

Text editor

TubeRSS, I hoped, was going to be some sort of RSS aggregator, but actually does for YouTube what FlickRSS does for Flickr – woo, and indeed, hoo; YouBuddy is, I guess, some sort of YouOS internal IM system, though as I don’t have any buddies I couldn’t check; YouFiles is a rudimentary manager for the files you have stored on YouOS; YouMail lets you email other YouOS types; YouShell lets you type in Javascript commands (!); YouSticky does the obvious sticky notes on the online desktop.

One of the issues with YouOS is that it looks so ugly. Gmail’s interface has shown that a largely text based service can still look good, and friendly. YouOS is very, very unfriendly looking. Also, being in alpha, it crashes an awful lot. I wouldn’t bother with it much at the moment except for the novelty value.

The notion of the online desktop is an interesting one, that conjures the image of computer boxes doing nothing other than handling the keyboard, mouse, display and internet connection; and where you can log in with any machine anywhere in the world and get your own desktop. I suspect, though, that the route that YouOS is taking is the wrong one. What the online OS needs to do is not provide the applications, just the means of accessing the applications, which can be developed by other people on other sites, and the means of storing data to be used and shared between those applications.

IRows

IRows is an online spreadsheet, a competitor with NumSum, in other words. One of the criticisms I have always had with NumSum is that it is just so damn ugly. Not something that IRows can be accused of, which is much prettier:

IRows screenshot, thumbnail

As you can see from the crappy test sheet I created, it’s easy enough to enter data and tot columns of numbers up with a SUM function. There are a load of other functions included too, which should serve for most people’s needs in a portable spreadsheet.

File exports come in three flavours: Excel, .csv and HTML. Of these, the Excel one works fine – it keeps formatting; the .csv seems ok though it obviously loses the formatting; and the html one looks pretty good and is the only one that keeps the graphs. There is no provision though to export to OpenOffice.org which seems a shame.

IRows, then, is very easy to use, easy on the eye and features most of the functionality one might expect from an online spreadsheet. Like Writely – with which IRows has much in common, not least in its interface – it offers a useful alternative to a desktop app, especially for the casual user and for those who need to collaborate over the web on a single sheet. Unlike Writely, it isn’t (yet) owned by Google, and so I don’t have to feel guilty about using it.

So the two main parts of the traditional office suite are now online and usable. Given the plethora of calendars and webmail systems out there, it should be possible for a user with a reasonable internet connection to get by without needing to buy or install bloated office suites. The one issue remains in getting them all to talk together. This could be solved in two ways: by one large company buying up a selection of these tools and forcing them to work together exclusively; or by some open standards being developed and adhered to by all concerned. No prizes for guessing which is the most likely.

Stikipad

Stikipad, which I mentioned in my brief round up of wikis recently, has now made it’s free account have unlimited edits. Thank goodness sanity has prevailed – 5 edits would be nowhere near enough for someone to work out whether the service was worth paying for or not. A good example of a company listening to their users’ views.

Thanks to Matt at Stikipad for the email informing me about the change – I’ll be giving the service another try soon.