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How to Choose an Online Desktop

Anyone who regularly uses multiple computers knows the value of Web-based apps like Gmail, Google Docs, and Zoho Projects: Wherever you go, your documents and data go with you. Wouldn't it be great, then, if you could have an entire desktop environment that lives on the Web and houses your contacts, calendar, e-mail, documents, instant messages, and even applications? You can: Here are three "Web desktops" worth checking out.

  • Goowy One of the Web's first desktops, Goowy serves up all the basics -- contact and calendar management, file storage, IM, etc. -- along with cool, custom widgets for things like weather, RSS feeds, and to-do lists. I'd say this is the most practical, and functional, of the three.
  • Jooce A still-in-beta newcomer, Jooce offers by far the slickest Web desktop: Everything lights up, fades, slides, and so on. It's also relatively limited at this point, offering only file storage, instant messaging, and embedded YouTube videos. But it's worth trying if only for the way-cool rotating 3D desktops (pictured).
  • YouOS Like Linux in your browser, YouOS offers a robust desktop environment -- but one that's not nearly as warm, fuzzy, and user-friendly as Goowy and Jooce. Even so, it's amazing to see how close YouOS comes to approximating the real thing.
All three online desktops are free to use, and you can take Goowy and YouOS for a spin without even signing up for an account. I'm not positive any of the three are ready for prime time, but there's no debating how handy it would be to have a unified desktop that's Web-accessible instead of just a few scattered files and documents. What do you think? Would you ever use an online desktop?
Rick Broida

Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

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