Services & Software

Beware pretty Web 2.0 apps

Glide 2.0 is a gorgeous Web 2.0 suite. But the beauty doesn't go deep enough.

The Glide home / file browser is very impressive for a Web app. CNET Networks

On Tuesday I covered Scrapblog, a very impressive service for creating personal presentations. Scrapblog is one of those very rare online applications that almost makes you forget you're working on the Web and not a desktop. It's not as fast nor as capable as desktop applications can be, but it's close. And here's another service that aspires to the same thing: Glide 2.0.

Glide 2.0 is a great-looking and ambitious Web suite full of day-to-day applications, including a word processor, a site builder, a photo editor, and much more. Most of the applications are very nicely designed and work well, if somewhat more slowly than ordinary software applications do. New to the suite are a presentation program and a Web site builder. Both are impressive, if not best-of-breed.

Glide's secret sauce is that it can synchronize data from your local PC or Mac to make it available anywhere you have Web access--including a mobile phone. It's an impressive trick. Glide will let you edit files and photos from the browser in your Treo or Windows smart phone, and it will stream videos and music from your account, too.

Glide's new presentation program is simple to use and makes nice online slide shows. CNET Networks

I didn't like the last version of Glide, and while this release fixes many of the suite's previous problems, especially the last rev's too-creative user interface, I still have reservations about Glide. It demos extremely well, but when you dive into it you realize that different applications in the suite have different user interfaces, and they're not all up to the standard of a modern suite like Microsoft Office, nor are they as simple as a barebones online suite like Google's. Collaboration tools are also missing. Also, Glide uses a variety of Web technologies, from ordinary HTML to AJAX to Flash, which contributes to feeling that you're dealing with a hodgepodge of apps instead of a well-integrated suite.

But It's worth checking out if only to see how the future of online applications is taking shape. I still find Glide ultimately an unsatisfying collection of applications to use, but I'm hooked on the vision, and I really like the way it lets you access so much of its richness--even from small mobile devices. I just hope version 3.0 is more coherent.

See also the online suites from ThinkFree and Zoho.