Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The difference between webapps and “real” apps

Much has been made recently of the shift from desktop-based apps into the “cloud”. Many people now rely entirely on webapps, and with the Google Chrome OS being announced recently, I can only see more and more people converting. In theory, this is a good thing. Platform independent, free, automatically backed up. If your computer dies, you use another, and all your stuff is still there. Brilliant.

However, even with all this news, I’m starting to move back to real apps again. I find I can concentrate more when there are separate applications and windows that I can focus on. I’ve gone from using Gmail entirely in the web browser, to using IMAP to connect to it on my iPhone and my Macbook. I’m considering doing the same on my main computer, but that may involve installing the hell that is Outlook. Especially with email, I can just leave Mail open on my laptop, and it pops up when I get a new mail. A browser can’t do that, even if there is much to be argued for having set times of day dedicated to sorting out email.

I’ve also been using a simple text editor to write words for articles, and then syncing them between computers using Dropbox. I find this also helps me focus. I can close my web browser completely, and this helps me to focus entirely on the task in hand. When I was using Google Docs, I kept on getting distracted by having the rest of the internet just a Ctrl-T away. I also find it much easier to email .txt files to people for proofing, rather than sending a pdf or doc file, which often don’t work, especially cross-platform. It’s also way easier to just drag and drop attachments into an email, rather than having to use a file dialogue, another benefit of using “real” apps.

Overall, I seem to be developing a bastardised hybrid approach to the “cloud”. Currently, though, I seem to have the best of both worlds. The convenience and reliability of desktop apps (with the offline access too, when my internet invariably goes down) combined with the peace of mind and ease of online access/syncing. I’m hoping that Chrome OS is going to go this sort of way, rather than everything being browser based.

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