First Look:

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First Look:



If you like a little eye candy with your online applications instead of minimalist geek-chic, have a look at, a new collection of free collaborative tools and software from Adobe. offers a word processor, PDF converter and Web conferencing tools. There are no spreadsheet or presentation applications, which Google Docs and Zoho both offer in their free suites. Currently in beta, is compatible with Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox. You need to have Adobe Flash 9 installed on your machine and an Adobe online ID or an Acrobat account to use the service.




ConnectNow is the most interesting offering in the line up. It’s a Web conferencing service that lets people chat, speak (using a computer’s microphone or phone via a ConnectNow-provided phone number), do video conferencing, whiteboard, store/distribute files and share their desktops -- meaning that meeting attendees can, with permission, view or control a remote desktop. It’s an outstanding way to teach, troubleshoot, and review projects -- in my tests I used ConnectNow to edit a photo in Photoshop on a California colleague’s computer from my office in New York City, it worked flawlessly and fast.


The free version of ConnectNow supports meetings of up to three people (If you want to conference with more people, you’ll need to purchase Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro) you invite attendees by emailing them from the application. Beautifully programmed, well-thought out, and super easy to use even for those who have never done an online conference before, this application is a winner.



Adobe Buzzword is a basic word processing app that lets users create and edit documents solo or in collaboration with others. All the functionality most people need to work with words is here, as well as great collaboration abilities and the ability to generate html code that you can then use to embed a document into a blog/wiki post or website.




To work with others on a document you send an email to your desired collaborators directly from Buzzword (choose “Share” from the Documents menu).Your invitees can access the application without an Adobe/Acrobat account. Collaborators, depending on the permissions the document’s owner sets, can add text, images and tables and make comments. Buzzword handled the import of already created Word documents as well as exports in all the standard document formats and PDF without a glitch. Comments also exported successfully to other document formats and can be deleted during the export process if the document’s owner chooses.


Oddly, given that one of Adobe’s biggest claims to fame is Acrobat, the online PDF maker was decidedly disappointing. You can only convert documents of 200MB or below, just loading the PDF converter took close to two minutes (in contrast Buzzword and ConnectNow loaded super-fast), displaying converted PDFs within caused the application to stall with a “Creating Flash Preview” message three times with two separate PDFs. That said, document-to-PDF conversion was flawless and the PDF files (formatted in Word with text and images) looked swell. So it’s okay -- just barely -- for doing simple PDF conversions.


Adobe also gives you 5GB of online storage for your files, but you can’t upload videos, audio tracks, compressed archives, executables, or database files. Coders can grab’s API for free from Adobe’s developer wiki and use it to integrate services into their own websites.


Adobe also offers as an Adobe Air application. Adobe Air enables applications developed with web technologies to run on the desktop, across all operating systems. For a great example of how Adobe Air should work download the free personal time tracker program Klok from Mcgraphix. Sadly, on Adobe Air is far less impressive, it’s basically just a widget that lets you drag and drop files and folders from your local computer directly into your account. You can’t work directly with the applications from your desktop, clicking on an app icon just launches your web browser, Since uploading files through the web interface is fast and easy, the Air app version is just more desktop clutter.




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