Web apps and the cloud – what does it all mean?

By | June 1, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this month:

  • Web apps and the cloud – what does it all mean?
  • A reader recommends…
  • Where can you find the clipboard – and what is it for?
    • A tiny bit of bad news and some good news

Hello ,

Well, I’m back from my holiday in Wales – I had a great time (and yes, the cottage was lovely!).  I didn’t even get too confused by the Welsh language on menus, once someone pointed out that if I looked just to the side, it was in English as well!

(Apparently Welsh was one of the 55 languages put on a record in the Voyager space mission, saying “Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd”  “Good health to you now and forever”)

This time I’ll answer a question about the “clipboard”, tell you about an alternative to ccleaner and explain all about web apps and “The Cloud” (sounds like something from a scary film).  Oh, and there’s a snippet of non-computer news, too.

Web apps and the cloud – what does it all mean?

Web apps is short for web applications.  And it just means programs that you run over the web.

For example, instead of using Microsoft Word or Open Office on your PC, there are now Word Processors that do much the same thing that you don’t need to have on your PC.  Instead they’re stored on a computer somewhere else and you run them across the web.  You start up Internet Explorer (or Google Chrome or Firefox) and go to a particular web address.  Then the program runs within Internet Explorer itself – complete with all the buttons for underlining text, making it bold, saving it and so on.

You might wonder why you’d want to do it that way.  Well, there are a few advantages:

First, you can often use this kind of program without having to pay anything, whereas to buy Microsoft Word costs quite a bit.  Of course, Open Office is free too so that isn’t such a big advantage.

Second, the program is always up to date – and you don’t need to bother about doing any updates.  Since it’s stored on some company’s website, they keep it up to date for you.

Third, you can then access your work from any PC.  So if you use lots of different PCs, it can be very handy to have your work (and the programs to use it) stored online.

There’s a fourth one too, though it’s only really useful for organisations with lots of PCs.  You don’t need to worry about whether everyone’s using the same version of a program. If they’re using it online, it must be the same version.  Otherwise you could end up with different people having different versions and unless you keep close tabs on it (and spent the money to always have the newer version on all PCs), not everyone will be able to use all the files.

But the big advantage of this way of working is if you’re working on something with someone else.  You can both access the same file – so if (for example) you’re working on a club newsletter with someone else, the file can be stored online and you can go in to write the editorial while they write the article on what happened last month.  In some cases you can even both work on it at the same time.  You get to restrict who can see (or edit) it, though – it’s not available to just anyone (unless you want it to be).

So it’s not for everyone, but I can see how for some people it could be very handy to have a program like this.

The cloud (or cloud computing), by the way, is just a techie word for all of this stuff that’s on the internet – all the programs you can use, the computers they’re stored on and any files you store on them.  So when you use one of these programs, you’re “accessing the cloud”.

Probably the best known “web app” is google docs – which includes a Word processor, spreadsheet – you can see more here.

I’m telling you about it now because the next version of Microsoft Office (2010, which is out in June) will include a free web version that anyone can use, whether or not you buy the normal version.  More about that in a few weeks once it’s up and running.

A reader recommends – Auslogics Registry Cleaner

Last month I mentioned you can use Ccleaner as a free way to clear up the computer’s registry if it’s getting a bit slow.

One reader mentioned a similar program he’s been using that’s pretty good – and also free.  You can read a bit about it (and download it if you like ) here:

(If you decide to get it, click on one of the pink “download now” buttons on that screen)

What’s the clipboard?

I was asked a good question the other day – the computer was saying something about the clipboard.  But if you look in the start menu you won’t find a clipboard program, so what is it?

Well, when you use copy and paste, whatever you copy is stored in the clipboard.  There’s no specific program to get at it – you just paste it into whatever program you want.  But the place inside Windows where it’s stored is called the clipboard.  So if it says there’s a problem with it, that means there’s a problem with whatever you’ve copied – it might have got it mixed up or it might just be so big it wants to clear the clipboard (ie stop remembering it) to free up some memory.

A tiny bit of bad news and some good news

The tiny bit of bad news?  The next 2 or 3 issues of the newsletter might be a little irregular.  You’ll still get them but they might come out slightly earlier or later than normal.

The good news is that it’s because my wife’s expecting.  We’re hoping the little one will arrive right at the start of July – but if the big day comes early I might be in the middle of writing the next newsletter when I get a call saying “Tim, I need to get to the hospital NOW!”  If that happens I might just get a bit distracted from getting the newsletter out at its normal time!


Right, that’s all for now.


Tim Wakeling

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