Web 2.0, by definition, seeks to bring the desktop to the Internet. While we’ve seen desktops like YourMinis and EyeOS bring a desktop-like package to the internet, there’s never truly been a replication of desktop applications as Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Instead, applications have been created that offer a new host of features, including online collaboration and archived edits. Programs like Google Documents are within this realm. Web users have been waiting for years for a true revolution, and Adobe has finally provided one with Buzzword.
Buzzword’s Rich Interface
Why Not Google?
I use Google Documents every day. Rather, I used Google Documents every day. When it comes to working on projects, be they spreadsheets, presentations, or documents, with others, nothing beats Google’s all-in-one integration. Finally, an application provided a way to work on a group project without worrying who was going to compile the whole thing. For those unfamiliar with Google Documents, Google Documents in Plain English explains it further. The service allows you to work together with peers, at the same time, on various types of documents. While the tools are terrific for collaboration, all three (Spreadsheets, Documents, and Presentations) leave much to be desired design-wise. It’s difficult to format presentations correctly, and documents are displayed simply as text boxes, rather than as a paginated document.
Google pieced its online office offering together through a variety of acquisitions, buying Writely and Zenter to merge outside technology with Google’s “web office.” Adobe has followed suit, but so far seems to be taking a piecemeal approach beginning with the acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity. Adobe isn’t threatened by Google Documents (as Microsoft is) – they’re expanding the scope of their online offerings. Photoshop will make its migration to the web soon, competing with already established tools like Picnik.
Can Buzzword Compete?
With Buzzword, Adobe has achieved a coup-d’état, trumping Google Documents in nearly every way. The first and most obvious difference is the interface. Google Docs, in keeping with Google’s ethos of simple design, provides several tools but keeps the interface minimal. Buzzword is far more visually appealing – the use of black throughout is a stark contrast to the white “paper” that is typed on. Adobe uses Flash to power their offering, which is slightly different than the AJAX-based Google Documents. The use of Flash results in a snappier environment, one in which everything feels “springier.” Mouseovers provoke slight movement from the stacked “sliders” that serve as toolbars in Buzzword’s interface.
Buzzword’s Sliding Toolbar
The tools contained in those toolbars, however, are what really separates Buzzword from its competition. As Buzzword lays everything out as it would appear on paper, margins can be dealt with easily, and a ruler is provided for assistance. Image integration is terrific, as is tables. When using Buzzword, one really understands why it’s called a rich internet application. The experience is different than using Google Documents and similar competitors – not because there are more features, but because the UI is more defined and smoother.
Buzzword’s Commenting and Table Features
While Buzzword makes several improvements upon the various other web-based word processors, there are several glaring omissions. Adobe engineers have admitted that the lack of hyperlinking is a problem, and it’s currently being dealt with. In my testing, I was also unable to edit a document with a collaborator as one can with Google Docs. Instead, I had to wait until the document was “saved” by the other individual. I could comment at the same time, but there’s no way for two people to actually write at the same time. While not a deal-breaker, it’s definitely a knock on Buzzword.
Collaborative Editing is an Impossibility with Buzzword
It’s All About Packaging
Google Documents has the entire Google Docs office suite, consisting of Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations, to complement it. Buzzword, meanwhile, has only Adobe’s beta Share application to accompany it. Share is “a free web-based service that allows you to share, publish, and organize your documents.” I wasn’t able to test the service, but I imagine it’s simple and will be a nice addition to Buzzword.
Adobe has certainly made a big play with Buzzword. Adobe notes that versions for AIR are in development for offline use and syncing with the online version of Buzzword. Zoho Writer has taken that step with Google Gears, and their word processor is sharp as well. For the average user, Buzzword is a terrific solution. It’s user-friendly and provides a slick UI unrivaled by most web writers. While some users may crave the sophistication of Zoho Writer or the collaborative editing of Google Documents, Buzzword’s UI and feature set is too much to ignore. It’s taken the best aspects of most online word processors and distilled them into a simple, elegant product that’s sure to make waves on the web.