Sunday, July 14, 2013

Can web apps replace the traditional desktop office suite?

Screenshot of the Word Web App in Google Chrome
A few weeks ago I saw an article about the Office Web Apps adding header and footer support in their Word Web App, as well as many other features in the other web apps in an update that is set to arrive in the coming months (not sure how long it's going to be though.

Over the past 3 weeks that article has gotten me thinking about the potential for web office suites like Google Docs and the Office Web Apps to eventually overtake traditional desktop office suites like Microsoft Office and LibreOffice.

While currently desktop office suites are more feature rich and are likely to continue to dominate for at least the near future, it does bode a question: since everything else seems to be moving to the "cloud" and the web browser, will it eventually mean that whole office suites will transition to the web?

I mean, the benefits are clearly shown. Instead of an office suite being tied to desktops via platforms, a web based solution relies entirely on the browser, which in these days the main engines you have to worry about are WebKit and Gecko, with Opera already transitioning to Blink (Google's fork of WebKit). With Opera's change, Presto is pretty much out of the picture, which should be a relief for web developers because that is one less engine that they have to support.

I think it's best to do a compare & contrast by making a few ordered lists.


  1. Office suites are now multiplatform
  2. Support now relies on fewer things (just a web browser)
  3. Available anywhere
  4. Collaboration is easier
  1. Internet connection required
  2. Use of somewhat bloated browsers (Chrome specially can get very bloated sometimes.
  3. Documents could/could not be stored on remote servers (if a file is stored remotely folks could potentially spy on it)
  4. Apps could be "heavy" in the browser
I personally think that having full web office suites would be a good thing. While it could take some time to make web apps have all of the same features as desktop counterparts, I think it is very achievable and could make collaboration better. I personally use the Office Web Apps for most of my document creation, but I use LibreOffice for creating complex documents and for general desktop viewing of documents.

Let me know what you guys think about this. Hope you enjoyed the editorial.