The Advantage of Web Applications

Web applications, or web apps, have, in my opinion, one huge advantage over “normal” programs. I’m sure you can guess what it is before you finish reading this.

I just got a new Apple MacBook, as I’ve Twittered about, told everyone I know on Facebook, and all but made a T-Shirt that says “I have a MacBook.” I’ve been trying to adjust to the new (to me) platform, and adapt my daily patterns.

Surprisingly, I haven’t had many problems with old Windows habits (e.g. reaching to the top-right corner to close a window). My biggest issues have been with software. Some familiar applications have Mac versions thankfully. (If there wasn’t a Mac version of Firefox, I wouldn’t have been so quick to want to get a Mac.)

I had to find some Mac equivalents of some programs, like NeoOffice to replace Microsoft Works, and CyberDuck to replace FileZilla. (FileZilla is great, and there is a Mac version, but it behaves oddly, lacking a normal window, and extending down from the menu bar.)

Luckily, my transition (so far) has been easier than it could have been, thanks to web apps. I use Google Apps for my email, so I didn’t have to migrate my email to Apple’s Mail App. I use my own MyNT RSS reader for my feed reading needs, so, again, I was okay there. (On a related note, MyNT 2.0 is in the works, and it will be a couple lightyears ahead of the current iteration.) If not for MyNT, I’d have had to find a good feed aggregator for Mac OS X, and then muck around with CSV or OPML export/import to move my feeds over.

Storing data online definitely has its advantages. While you don’t want to store everything online (I’d hesitate to trust all of my documents—especially documents with private information—to Google Docs), some things definitely do work well as web apps. If you’ve ever used GMail or Bloglines between several computers before, you definitely appreciate the power of keeping some things online.

How does this apply to you? If you use web apps for some of your key applications, like email, RSS, calendar, you can work from anywhere. Most blogging software is generally web-based, so you’re all set there. Here’s an example:

  • I use GMail (Google Apps if you want to be technical) for my email, so I can check my messages at any computer that has a reasonably modern browser.
  • I use MyNT for reading my feeds, so I can keep up on news from anywhere.
  • I blog with WordPress’s built-in editor, so I don’t have to worry about anything there.
  • I use Google Calendar to store events important to my blog, such as the dates ads need to be taken down, and when I need to do some sort of maintenance.

So I can theoretically run my website with any computer that has a web browser, and preferably an FTP client, though that’s not necessarily something I need every single day (unless I’m doing some design or coding work on a site).

Web apps make sure you’re prepared if you need to work from another computer for a day, and they will make things easier the next time you move to a new computer.

  • Siddharth

    Hello Matt,
    Actually people don’t like to change their old habits like many computer use don’t even dare to switch from windows platform including me. I always fear that it will not support software’s and have another way of navigation as we are familiar with. But you experience shows that when we start working on something we get used to it and then that look good.

  • Matt

    I’ve managed to find alternatives for most of my local software, and I’m not really missing anything. I still have access to a PC for some of my less frequently-used software, and even if I didn’t I could buy a copy of Windows and use Bootcamp.

    Web apps have helped ease the transition though. If not for them, I probably would have had a bit more trouble.

    I’m liking the MacBook though.