A few years ago the idea of cloud computing seemed vaguely absurd to me. I infinitely preferred using desktop software to any kind of online alternative and I hated the idea of having my data floating off somewhere in the "cloud".
I liked it here, at my desk... safe.
2 years later and I still prefer using desktop software but have slowly made my data accessible to me anywhere over the Internet. I manage my email through a desktop client but it's also all stored online (Gmail, Hotmail), my bookmarks are all kept in del.icio.us, I use FeedDemon which synchronises my feeds to NewsGator online, my documents are stored in a couple places including Live Mesh and Office Live and all my photos are backed up. I have almost a dozen social network profiles and 5 different email accounts.
In fact the only thing that I hadn't moved online was my actual desktop itself. After trying out the tech preview of Live Mesh my interest became aroused in the whole subject as I wanted something more fully featured.
I managed to find almost a dozen online desktops and gave every single one a trial as I determined which provided the best experience. I've managed to narrow the list down to three.
This was possibly the fastest desktop I tried; menu's opened as snappily as on my PC and icons and windows could be dragged and moved smoothly.
The interface is similar to Windows so you'll have no trouble navigating around the desktop for the first time. A number of programs are provided such as RSS reader, email, media player, Address book, IM and web browser.
The biggest failing of Desktop2 is that there is no office suite. Not Google Docs, not Zoho, nothing. Also only 1 gigabyte of storage is allocated for free accounts and advertising is displayed on the desktop. It's not too bad but it does get fairly annoying with time.
It's still a little buggy (eg: windows will sit in a "loading" state forever) but still pretty impressive. It follows the Windows interface to the point of having an XP style "start" menu. There really are a lot of application provided and the ability to add plenty more if you wish. It has a good "explorer" style file management system and sharing capabilities.
G.ho.st has become my favourite online desktop and the one I would most recommend. It's not the fastest, best looking or most stable, but it manages to provide the compromise between all three plus adding in a lot of functionality and does the best job of integrating with online identities and web apps.
There are just so many little things about G.ho.st which make it so much more of a pleasure to use like clicking and dragging to select a number of icons and customizing the desktop. Little things, but ones that a lot of online desktops simply don't have.
You will also get 5 gigabytes of online storage and 3 gigabytes for email. Invite more people to sign up and receive an additional gigabyte for every person who joins. It has two office suites; Google Docs and Zoho, I prefer Docs as its a little speedier although Zoho gives a lot more functionality.
I like G.ho.st because you can really make it feel like your own workspace, and for me that's most of the appeal of working on a PC.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.