App guide: In the clouds

15 May 2015

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IN THE beginning was the Word; although, in IT-terms, that is not entirely accurate. Those of us who first started writing on computers years ago may fondly remember SuperWriter, StarWriter, WordPerfect, or Ami Pro. And Apple Mac devotees are more likely to be familiar with Pages than Microsoft Word.

Most PCs come with free word-processors installed, whether MS WordPad, or MS Works. Despite this, it is Word, more than any other, that has cornered the market for word processors in industry, commerce, administration, and just about all other professional usage of word processors.

One of the reasons for this dominance has been the difficulty in sharing documents created on different word-processors. A document created using one word-processing package or version could not be opened by somebody using a different word-processor.

Thankfully, however, you no longer have to purchase different copies of MS Word for each device, as it is available through subscription. Subscribers can download versions for their desktop, laptop, tablet, and even mobile phone.

A subscription to the business version of the full Office suite of software costs £112.32 per year; the personal user can pick it up for £59.99 per year. For the same price, university students - and this can include ordinands, if they shell out £12 on an NUS card - can pick up a four-year subscription.

The biggest challenge to Microsoft's dominance may come from Google Docs, part of its free office suite of software. Google Docs is a web-based word processor. You can create, edit, and store your documents online from the web browser on your PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

You can also work on your documents on the move without internet access, so long as you use Google's Chrome browser, and have downloaded the Google Docs extension. This app is available for Apple's iOS and various Windows platforms. It replaces Google's QuickOffice app, which is no longer available to download.

If you do not like the idea of storing your documents on a server belonging to the world's largest search engines (they do promise privacy), or having to work on documents in a web browser, then there are alternatives.

The best is Kingsoft Office, by WPS. It is a free full suite of office programmes, including word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets, which allows you to save documents in various formats. And, besides saving documents to your device, you can also save them to your cloud storage service.

Cnet said that this was "almost too good to be true"; TechRepublic said it was "one of the best office suites on the market"; and I say it is impressive, and pretty indispensable. I have used it to write a 1000-word news feature on an iPhone while sitting on an aeroplane.

Kingsoft Office is available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux, and can be found in the app stores.

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