Cloud Services vs. Desktop Apps: What Fits Your Needs?


In the old days, this would be easy: Microsoft Office. That's because no matter what tools were out there competing with any of the Office applications, it really all came down to file compatibility. Businesses, schools, and home users exclusively saved documents in .doc, .xls, or .ppt format, and so you would too, by golly. But now the Open Document Format (ODF) is available, and even Office uses it, if somewhat begrudgingly; as a result, compatibility has become less of an issue when sharing files with others. It's not perfect yet, but it's definitely better. With that in mind, is Office still the better option? In word processing, you might not want to go with Word. Creating documents is, honestly, not something you need a lot of bells and whistles to accomplish. (or LibreOffice) Writer has much of the same functionality as Word, and is available on multiple platforms. Google Docs is extremely limited in terms of word processing capabilities; its best feature is real-time collaboration. Writer is the best word processor for the right price: free.

Spreadsheets are another matter. Between Excel and Calc on the desktop, and Google Docs on the cloud, it's clear that Excel is still the champ in this category. With more functions, better analytical tools, and easier charting, none of the other spreadsheet apps come close. The cloud-based Prezi will give PowerPoint a run for its money. When it comes to presentations, the cloud has a surprise dark horse entry: Prezi. Prezi enables the creation of multimedia presentations that go above and beyond the traditional slideshow format offered by PowerPoint, Presentation, and Google Docs. This is the one that the rest will have to beat in the coming days.

Managing your money is always something that we know we need to do, but never seems to have the time to do. Cloud-based apps in this category offer the convenience of being able to log in and handle finances wherever you are, which is one of the best reasons for using (which Quicken Online merged with in 2009). Mint will keep your financial data in the cloud -- if you're comfortable with that For personal finances, is very much the best application to use, though if you're squeamish about using the cloud to handle your money, you might opt for Moneydance, a very solid app that runs on the big three desktop platforms. Anyone with more complicated finances, such as investments or a small business they are trying to run, should stick with the old standby Quicken. Quicken has several flavors that fit a variety of situations and -- should even Quicken not prove enough -- can migrate to QuickBooks accounting software.