One problem we've encountered with many application service providers (ASPs) is the inability to accommodate mobile workers. Services designed for high-speed corporate networks can leave dial-up users out in the cold when they try to perform tasks as simple as editing a spreadsheet or writing a memo. WebOS tackles this problem with HyperOffice, a full-fledged Internet-resident office suite that's fast enough for even a modem connection. Based on the vendor's WebOS operating system, HyperOffice applications can perform sophisticated word processing, spreadsheet, and e-mail operations without constantly loading and displaying new Web pages.
All HyperOffice applications and documents reside on WebOS's Internet servers, which let you access the system with any computer that can run Internet Explorer 5.0. (The company plans to add support for Netscape Navigator 4.0 later this year.) The system's main workspace is a Windows-like desktop, complete with scalable windows, taskbar, right-click pop-up menus, movable icons, and even a launch button that works like the Windows Start menu. Transferring files between your PC and your Internet-resident HyperOffice virtual disk requires nothing more exotic than familiar Windows Explorer-style procedures.
The beta version offers a good selection of personal-information-management utilities, including a calendar, a contact manager, a to-do list, and e-mail, as well as animated tutorials and basic word processor and spreadsheet applications. Although most of these applications were prerelease versions, they provided stable operation and snappy performance on our 450MHz Pentium II testbed. Unfortunately, HyperOffice's major applications do not save documents in native Microsoft Office format. They do, however, export HTML code, which provides an intermediate format that can be read by Office 2000.
WebOS expects the final version of Hyper Office, which should be online by the time you read this, to contain more than 50 additional applications, including chat and instant-messaging software, news and stock-quote services, a presentation-graphics package, even wireless e-mail. While many of its features were still in the early stages, we found HyperOffice to be a credible option for anyone who wants to access lightweight productivity applications over the Internet.
Rating: Three Stars
Pros: Free; solid performance
Cons: Applications can't save in native Microsoft Office format; some applications not yet available
Columbia, MD; 410-730-9518
Requires: Internet connection
Price It! 33760