Quick poll: How many of us can’t remember the last time we opened Microsoft Word?
With the advent of web-based office suites like Google Docs, traditional word processing software is rapidly fading out of our lives.
While a lot of us have embraced cloud computing and online file storage with full enthusiasm, there are others who have serious reservations about leaving their data in the custody of a third party.
These are a few arguments from either side of the fence.
Why Google Docs is awesome
- You have access to your documents from any computer, anywhere in the world.
- You can share your work with anyone who has a Google account, and collaborate on stuff in real time without having to email Word files back and forth.
- You don’t have to worry (theoretically, at least) about backing up all your important files, because they’re stored securely in the cloud. If your harddrive dies suddenly, your documents are safe.
Why Google Docs is sub-awesome
- You’re entrusting your documents, and whatever information is contained in them, to a giant multinational corporation with vested commercial interests.
- You’re just another pawn in the G-Empire’s quest for global domination
- What happens if Google . . . I dunno, blows up or something?
Cloud-skeptics fear that we’re slowly descending into an Orwellian dystopia. Big Brother Google watches us 24 hours a day and knows our deepest, darkest secrets (because we were stupid enough to put them online).
The privacy issue is a legitimate concern – but that certainly doesn’t mean we should eschew online word processing and file storage. They’re just too damn convenient.
If you need the flexibility of a document cloud, but aren’t too keen on surrendering yourself to The Machine, you might consider this idea instead . . .
WordPress to the rescue
All the basic functionality of Google Docs can be replicated right inside your WordPress dashboard.
Even if you don’t use WordPress to publish your content (you should, by the way), it’s still a perfectly good application to write, save and share your work.
Writing: The visual text editor in WordPress has all the basic functions that you expect from a word processor: bold, italics, underline, pretty colors, numbered lists, bullet points, a spellchecker and so on.
Document storage: Simply click on ‘Save Draft’, and your document is now stored in your very own private data cloud, hosted on your server, far away from Google’s prying eyes. Your content only becomes public if and when you choose to publish it.
Collaboration: If you need to involve multiple people with your documents, it’s as simple as adding new users to your WordPress installation. All you have to do is:
- In your dashboard, click on ‘Users’ in the left hand column and select ‘Add New’.
- Fill in the details of whoever will be using the account: Username, password, email etc.
- At the bottom of the screen, change the new user’s role to ‘editor’ – this allows them to make changes to your saved drafts.
That’s it – the new user can now log into your WordPress and you’ve got yourself a collaborative working environment.
Need to keep a record of who’s doing what on your documents? You can install the revision history plugin, which allows you to follow the history of modifications to your content, like the ‘track changes’ function in Microsoft Word.
It gets better!
If you need to upload properly formatted content to the web, but don’t know the first thing about HTML, it’s WordPress to the rescue once again.
Just bang out your content in the visual text editor and format it using all those big shiny buttons, just like you would in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
When you’re done, simply switch over to the HTML editor and HEY PRESTO – there’s your content, formatted in clean and efficient HTML code, ready to be published on the web. Just copy and paste that stuff and you’re done.
If you already know the basics of HTML and prefer to add the tags yourself as you write, you can use the ‘preview’ button to check if you’ve made any mistakes.
So there you have it folks.
WordPress has everything you need for basic word processing, data storage and document collaboration.
It’s free, it’s secure, and it’s supported by the greatest open source community on Earth.
Is anyone using WordPress as a document cloud?
Throw your two cents in the ring – is WordPress a feasible alternative to an application like Google Docs?
Thanks to f-l-e-x, KP Werker, Dan Robinson, Andrew Nielsen and B Rosen for the photos.
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