Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

LotusLive Symphony, Google Docs, Office 365

In school my gentlemen are supposed to use Google Docs, I'm testing LotusLive Symphony at work and Microsoft just started Office 365. I will not (at least for now) compare features and functionality here. So all the large vendors seem to believe that "Cloud Office" is ready for prime time. It certainly highlights some trends and changes in our work culture. Here are my observations:
  • The browser as primary interface is dominating (this is NOT about where the data comes from). While some cling to specialised eMail clients, the reality is HTML (I still would make the case for Lotus Expeditor but mostly to join HTML interface snippets that come from different places). Spolsky was right about The API War (and that is 7 years ago)
  • We hardly write documents for print anymore (the only thing I print are routing slips for travel claims), so the notion of a page becomes less and less important
  • The online editors take a "good enough" feature set approach which seems good enough for me (YMMV). Anyway my future favorite HTML based editors have different use and purposes
  • They solve a very old problem that was highlighted first in About Face (the first book, out of print for a long time): Users don't want to bother about saving and locations. It would be subject to a comparison to see how the contestants fare.
  • Since the output format is more likely electronic, print formatting options aren't that important anymore, but the capability to output to WIKI, Blog, websites and (my current favourite): eBooks.
  • More and more important are versioning and collaborating up to the level of concurrent co-editing. All these has been traditionally been handled outside of the Office applications, so the interesting question: will we get back the component idea sported by OCX/ActiveX where one could embed office components in custom applications, but now with web standards (didn't take off before)
  • Meta data handling is still a little thin
But what would it take to make it fully successful? What about:
  • OneUI (pun intended): I don't want to go back and forth between different applications that do the same thing. So if I switch to a HTML based editor I want to do that wholesale. Just give me a local server with the editor on it. And I expect it to update itself. Also don't bother me locally with files and directories to look after (unless I want to), just sync them properly
  • Private cloud support: A lot of documents I'd rather NOT store on a US based server regardless how much I trust my vendor, so the application should work in my own data center too
  • Wiki style version control: I don't want to save whatever.v1, whatever.v2whatever.v3, whatever.v4. GIT and Wave know how to do versioning and I expect a decent UI to show the history
  • Interoperability: Can I invite external parties to one document (and its related actions)?
  • Deep reuse: can I mix sides or cell ranges from multiple sources either by copying or subscribing (so changes there are reflected in my doc too)
Of course there are much more ideas to think about... in due time.

Posted by on 21 April 2011 | Comments (3) | categories: Software


  1. posted by Ian Randall on Thursday 21 April 2011 AD:
    You may hardly write documents for print anymore, so the notion of a page becomes less and less important.

    I dispute this assertion, as most users of my customers definitely write documents to print.

    Examples are local copies of procedures and other controlled documents that are accessed locally as hard copy or staff on planes that access hard copy manuals (rather than access soft copies of the same manuals).

    Also the document management of controlled documents by Google Docs, LotusLive Symphony and Office 360 are rudimentary at best.

    Where is the audit trail of the notification of version updates? Where are the competency assessments? Where are the audit trails of changes? Where are the bi-directional links between documents? Where is the automatically scheduled review cycle? Where is the role based document security? Where is the support of system generated unique document ID's? just to name a few missing features.

    I am not questioning the assertion that cloud based documents are fast approaching the status of a general norm, but the myth of the paperless office is just that, a myth! and current cloud based document systems still have crappy rich-text editors compared to their desktop forebears.
  2. posted by Patrick Kwinten on Thursday 21 April 2011 AD:
    wiki? the IBM one that never gets updated with fixes/enhancements?
  3. posted by Stephan H. Wissel on Thursday 21 April 2011 AD:
    Hi Ian,
    thx for stopping by. I appreciate your time and insights. Interesting reference with the airline manuals. I thought that these long time ago have moved from word processors to DITA editors. Emoticon smile.gif

    For the content management: I think they are better than what is build into the desktop word processors. Of course you can use standard content management applications (like IBM Filenet) interfacing to them. The online editors haven't catched up yet (and not only in content management, also as you point out: in editing capability).

    I've been to the mystical land of the paperless office before (Implemented that with Notes 4.x in 1996). The only paper handled was at the entry/exit to the company.