Office Productivity in the Clouds: ThinkFree Online
There's Zoho, Google Apps and soon Microsoft Office Online. Do we really need another online productivity suite? Maybe not. But have you heard of ThinkFree Online? It is also an online office productivity suite that includes word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software than can be used both off and online, and touch of collaboration to boot.

Let's take a look at how this suite sizes up.

The ThinkFree Corporation was established in 1998 and has been growing ever since. In 2000 they launched the first ThinkFree Office for Windows/Linux/Mac OS. The online service started in 2005 and saw a renewed investment last year making it the "foundation for integrated management for mobile office online/offline".

There are number of products/services that come with ThinkFree including ThinkFree Office, ThinkFree Mobile (for Android, Netbooks and MID) and ThinkFree Server.

ThinkFree Online is an online version of the ThinkFree Office productivity suite. Currently in beta, you get 1 GB online file storage and the ability to work with your files offline or online.

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ThinkFree Solutions and Services
 

Get Started Quickly

There are three ways to use ThinkFree Online. You can get started quickly with some basic functionality without ever registering with the service. This is called the Quick Start and offers the following capabilities:

  • View: Select a file from your desktop or at a URL to view online, including Office 2003 and Office 2007 files, PDF and HWP. You are limited to 5MB if you want to preview the document correctly.
  • Convert: Convert a file into another format.
  • Embed: Upload a file and create an embed code that enables you to embed a link to the file on your website or in an email. The file will only stay on the site for 7 days.
  • Share: Share a file with a someone else via an email
  • Upload: Upload files to your MyOffice service (more on this soon)
  • Search: Search for files that have been published on ThinkFree and selected as publicly available.

 Set Up Your Office

The quick start is nice, but if you want the full Office experience you need to register for MyOffice. This creates your online suite.

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ThinkFree MyOffice

MyOffice reminds you a lot of the Google Apps Dashboard, providing a view of your current files and folders. You can create folders, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes in html. You can move, copy, delete, rename files easily.

If you want to share your file you can. You can allow people access to change or simply view the file. You can also publish your file online to ThinkFree and share it with sites like Digg, Google Bookmarks, Delicious and others.

A quick look at the word processing interface shows you how much it resembles MS Word. Note that the first time you load the interface you need to install a JAVA applet or store information to your JVM -- java virtual machine -- on your machine (for spreadsheet or presentation service).

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ThinkFree Write

Power Tool

There's a tool you download and install on your desktop that provides the ability to work on your MyOffice documents offline and synchronize up later on. The Power Tool is also available smart devices.

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ThinkFree Power Tool

Collaborate and Share

Along with the basic productivity suite, you can create workspaces for collaborating on projects. Create a workspace, upload your documents, invite others and collaborate away. You get three projects free, each with 100MB space for your files.

And if you want to share your documents with the world, you can upload and publish them on ThinkFree Docs:

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ThinkFree Docs
 

Overall Thoughts

This is a pretty standard productivity suite. Similar in parts to Google, Zoho and MS Office, there's enough here to get started fairly quickly.

Not too thrilled about the Java applet and the information stored to the JVM, especially since solutions like Zoho and Google Apps don't require the installation of anything -- you work completely in your browser.

Is there enough here to make you switch from your current online service, probably not. But if you are still shopping, it's one to add to the list.

ThinkFree Online is best viewed in Internet Explorer and FireFox, Google Chrome doesn't work the best. The service is currently free, but there are plans to charge at some point in time.