I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of an online desktop, a workspace that is accessible on any computer with an Internet connection. Last year, I tried to set one up for myself using a variety of free services: from free online file storage to online notes and to-do lists. I ended up with a collection of various free services and scripts, gathered in an online start page, that I continue to use today.
The problem with this is that I have to log into multiple accounts to use various components of my setup. I tried Goowy hoping to get a more desktop-like online interface but it didn’t have online storage then (it now integrates your Box.net account, which is really a great feature) and it was so slow. After more than a month, I wasn’t using Goowy as extensively as when I started with the service.
I also tried the EyeOS.info service, a showcase of the open source EyeOS program. Again, it’s a great service and an even better script (it’s on my try to install list). The service also doesn’t have an online storage, which is understandable because EyeOS.info was started to showcase the open source project.
Desktoptwo is by far the closest thing to a desktop among the services I’ve tried. (Click on screenshots to view larger images)
The free service is still undergoing public testing but is already useable, albeit slow at times. Desktoptwo has a desktop feel to its interface, offers a 1GB hard drive, and comes with applications such as an address book, the Open Office suite for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations and a text editor. It also comes with an e-mail client that can connect to any pop 3 account or to a free Desktoptwo email address that you can configure during the signing up process.
Desktoptwo also has an instant messaging client that can connect with your MSN contacts with the ability to send e-mail or files and save conversations. The service also comes bundled with a free blog but I didn’t set one up for myself. Desktoptwo says that if you want to have a blog, you need to configure one during the sign up process.
Desktoptwo also has an MP3 player. I tried it for a few minutes but could not figure out to add a music track a so I just gave up. With people using portable digital music players, you don’t really need an online storage for your songs.
Of the three online desktop services I tried, Desktoptwo is the most visually appealing. It really feels as if you’re using a desktop and you even have to double-click on icons to launch program components. It’s easy to use but you do need to have a host of browser plugins for it to work: Flashplayer, Acrobat Reader and Java.
I particularly like its hard drive feature. I mean, what’s the use of an online workspace if you have to download and upload files and then worry about versioning.
With Desktoptwo, I can just write articles in its text editor, I really don’t need an online word processor and it slows things because of the larger memory requirement, and then save it into my online hard drive. I can then go wherever I want to, carrying only my hipster PDA or notebook and a ballpen and yet continue working on it if I had to: in any computer with an Internet connection: at the office, in a cafe or over at a friend’s house.
I tried saving this article into my desktop but I encountered errors and the file was never saved. It’s a curious error since I could save documents using the Open Office word processor. I hope the developers fix this soon as writing things with the text editor is faster.
I started this article using its Open Office word processor and stopped after a few paragraphs when things slowed and the cursor mysteriously started jumping into previous sentences. But its text editor was better and I was able to write the article up to this point. I then copied the article, pasted it into the Open Office word processor and saved it into my online hard drive.