Rules for Office 2.0

Wednesday, January 25th 2006 | Ismael Ghalimi

In defining the Office 2.0 setup I am using, the following rules are applied:

No client application other than a web browser
This is the essence of Office 2.0: one should be able to perform most office productivity tasks without having to use any client application other than a web browser. That means no email client, no word processor, no spreadsheet, no presentation tool. Nothing but a web browser. Of course, special needs create exceptions to this rule. For example, I am still using iTunes to listen to my music and Adobe Photoshop to work on pictures, but other than that, all my productivity applications are online now.

No files on personal computer
Once all your applications are online, it makes sense to leave your files there too. I am using a combination of services to manage the different types of files I consume and produce, as described in this past article. The ‘Documents’ folder on my personal hard drive has been empty for the past three weeks and I do not expect this to change anytime soon.

Compatibility with the most popular web browsers
Because I want to be able to do my work using virtually any personal computer I can get access to, the services I use have to work with the most popular web browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. Opera is a nice-to-have, but I do not make it a requirement. Also, I assume that the personal computers I use have been properly upgraded with the last versions of the different pieces of software they host, therefore I do not require support for older versions of web browsers. And who cares about Internet Explorer 4.0 anyway?

No browser extension or plugin
For reasons explained in a previous article, browser extensions and other plugins should be avoided at all cost. If two services offer the same functionality, but one requires an extension and the other does not, I will always go for the later one, even if that means that I have to lose a couple of features along the way.

Collaboration features are good
Part of the value of storing your data online is that it enables collaboration with other people, as described in this article. For that reason, services that support document sharing and publishing will always get my preference over services that keep data to myself only, as long as they do it in a secure manner. In that respect, support for both public and private bookmarks was one of the primary reasons why I upgraded from to Simpy.

Syndication is the way to go
Beyond peer-to-peer collaboration, syndication opens the door to social cooperation. This really is the essence of Web 2.0, and Office 2.0 should benefit from it as much as possible. Syndication also provides the mechanisms that are required for integrating multiple services with each other, as described in this recent article. As a result, services that offer RSS feeds and REST APIs always get my vote over ones that do not. Hint to LinkedIn: this is where I believe the most significant improvements could be made to your exceptional service.

AJAX is better
I got the idea for Office 2.0 seven years ago, which is the reason why Intalio was originally called Exoffice, using the Greek exō prefix, which means external. Back then, JavaScript did not work and all we had was plain HTML. I remember implementing an online file manager in PHP with a tree viewer that sported the exact same look and feel as the Windows file explorer, and all I can tell you is that it was painful. Today, JavaScript is finally working and makes AJAX possible. It brings the user experience to a whole new level, and even though it still is not as good as what one could achieve with a client application, I tend to think that it’s getting good enough.

Competition brings alternatives
When your applications are installed on your personal computer, you’re pretty much in charge of your own destiny, that is until you lose the previously mentioned computer. But when all your applications are served by online service providers, they better keep serving it without too much disruption, or you’re at risk of losing the productivity gains that you managed to achieve by going online. For this reason, I never use any service for which there is no good-enough alternative offered by some competitor. If goes out of business, I could always switch to NetSuite. If Google becomes evil, I can move from Gmail to Yahoo! Mail. In the past two months, I have migrated from TypePad to WordPress and from to Simpy, and in both instances, migration was a relatively easy process, even though TypePad’s lack of RSS syndication for comments made it harder than it should have been.

Data import/export is mandatory
Migrating from one service to an other is possible only if all data can be exported from the first and imported into the second. This is why I never use any service where I cannot get data in and out easily. One problem I faced with this rule was related to Gmail and the fact that one cannot export email archives out of it, but I found a way to work around this limitation by automatically forwarding all incoming emails to a separate email account managed by Yahoo! Mail, as described in this article. Similarly, the .csv export feature offered by LinkedIn does not include unique user IDs, therefore manual synchronization with contacts stored into is required, and that’s a total waste of time. Hopefully, the good LinkedIn folks will get the hint and add this little field into their .csv export. Patience is the mother of all virtues!

Entry filed under: Office 2.0

27 Comments - Add a comment

1. Harry Chen&hellip  |  January 26th, 2006 at 2:39 pm

[…] In this blog, he describes few rules that a good Office 2.0 application should obey: […]

2. Dennis D. McDonald  |  January 26th, 2006 at 6:36 pm


A couple of questions about your superb article:

(a) I’m a consultant. I visit client offices. Is there a web-served business process modeling tool available I can use that is web browser controlled?

(b) Say more about the “no local files” requirement. Why are/are not data files treated differently in Office 2.0 from browser accessed application services?

(c) Is there any reason iTunes couldn’t be browser-delivered?

(d) Corollary to (c): if iTunes were browser-based, what would be the implications for physical file location?

3. Ismael Ghalimi  |  January 26th, 2006 at 7:02 pm


Thank you for the kind words. Here are some answers:

(a) I do not know any that is offered as a service. Some business process modeling tools such as IDS-Scheer ARIS offer process modeling in the web browser, but I do not know any service provider that currently provides hosting for it. This is something that Intalio is looking at.

(b) The idea is to have all files hosted remotely so that you can freely move from one computer to an other and not worry about loss or theft of your computer. The benefits are described in more details in this article and the ways to achieve such a result result in that article.

(c) Actually there is not. iTunes is itself implemented as a web application and the iTunes client software is not much more than a web browser itself. The real issue is where files are stored. For security reasons, iTunes only lets you stream music files that can be accessed through Apple’s proprietary Bonjour protocol. If you have a broadband connection and VPN access to a remote server supporting this protocol, you could access your music remotely. If Apple were to provide a browser-based version of the iTunes client software that could run with Internet Explorer and Firefox, your wish would come true, and I do not believe that there is any significant technical barrier that would prevent it at this point. Unfortunately, I doubt that Apple will go for it, but I would love to get proven wrong on this one.

(d) Following the answer to the previous question, you could store your files remotely, as long as you get VPN access to the remote server that is storing your music files. Using something like Hamachi would make the solution totally Office 2.0 compliant. If you decide to go for it, let me know, I would love to share this experience with other readers.

4. IT|Redux&hellip  |  February 11th, 2006 at 7:13 pm

[…] Integration with is achieved through the use of a custom ‘Link’ object where I record the URL of the document stored into my Zoho Planner account. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it respects most of the rules for Office 2.0 any service I use must comply to. A couple of things could be improved though: First, it would be great to be able to publish documents instead of just sharing them, much like Zoho Writer does today. Second, a document is attached to a page, but it seems that there is no way to get to the URL of that page, therefore I have to record the URL of the attached document into, instead of recording the URL of its parent page. Now, here is the best part: when I started using Zoho Planner, I tried to upload a 5.1MB document, but somehow it did not work. I used the feedback link that shows up at the top right of every page, asked for help, and was told a couple hours later that there was a 5MB limit to the size of files that could be uploaded. A week later, the good folks at Zoho came back and told me that they had increased the limit up to 10MB, which usually is plenty enough for most analyst reports I read. Since then, most of the large documents I used to store onto have been migrated to Zoho Planner, and I can easily share them with my peers and Board members. Here is an other service that made it into my Office 2.0 setup. […]

5. IT|Redux&hellip  |  February 11th, 2006 at 8:14 pm

[…] Ma.gnolia offers the same basic services as most social bookmarking tools, including tagging, syndication and badges. Private bookmarks are supported, which makes it compliant with one of the most important rules for Office 2.0. One-click rating is offered as well, much like BlinkList does it. But ma.gnolia separates itself from the pack for two reasons: […]

6. IT|Redux&hellip  |  February 12th, 2006 at 8:36 am

[…] There is no good enough Office 2.0 alternative to Adobe Photoshop or iTunesOffice 2.0 is called that way rather than PC 2.0 for good reasons. Not everything one does with a personal computer can be done online… yet. Any CPU-intensive application that requires real-time interactions with end users will be very hard to migrate online, therefore PC 2.0 is a long way off, but Office 2.0 is getting real, so there is no reason why you should not take advantage of it today. Also, as discussed in this previous article, we might actually find a way to make iTunes Office 2.0 compliant. So stay tuned! [Pun intended] […]

7. Slashdot Review&hellip  |  April 16th, 2006 at 7:45 pm

[…] He also cites some fundamentals - what he calls Rules for Office 2.0 […]

8. Slashdot Review&hellip  |  April 17th, 2006 at 7:38 pm

[…] Thanks to Larry LaCost for his continued underwriting support for SDR. And welcome also to Rick Williams, a recent subscriber to the email version of SDR. You can find the free sign up at the bottom of each days posting, right above the GoDaddy banner ad. Continued comments of the Office 2.0 Ismael Ghalimi’s blog IT Redux that was mentioned yesterday. “Performing most office productivity tasks without having to use any client application other than a web browser.” […]

9. Debbie Landa  |  May 12th, 2006 at 9:45 am

Hey guys! There is a great alternative to Photoshop, i just found them… It’s called PXN8. They are going to be presenting at my next Under the Radar event on June 14. iTunes is a problem to solve, but there are some pretty cool web based music players out there, even though they don’t synch up with iTunes… Wimpy, MusicGremlin, Songbirdnest and Streampad.

10. Rob Cottingham&hellip  |  June 28th, 2006 at 9:38 pm

[…] He’s hardcore, as he explains in his rules: no documents on the hard drive, and no web apps that won’t work with the most popular browsers. (The two exceptions: he still uses Photoshop for image manipulation and iTunes for listening to music.) […]

11. Arthur Walter  |  July 5th, 2006 at 2:58 am

A fascinating description, and thinking, behind the process. The computer I am using has suddenly gone “out of order”, so I hope this gets through.

12. Ismael Ghalimi  |  July 10th, 2006 at 8:16 am


Thanks for the feedback. To subscribe, just click here.

13. MiFoMM&hellip  |  July 23rd, 2006 at 4:12 am

[…] Sie finden alles von der Bookmark-Verwaltung bis zur Textverarbeitung. Die einzige Voraussetzung für Anwender ist ein Web-Browser. Hier lesen Sie, was Office-2.0 für Ismael Ghalimi bedeutet: […]

14. Jason M. Lemkin  |  August 29th, 2006 at 10:15 am

Looking at this again because of the Office 2.0 Conference’s link, one thought:

What’s ‘wrong’ with a client extension that enhances the experience but isn’t required? Instead of the web client being a degraded version (e.g., Outlook Web client) of a localish application, why can’t the client offer functionality (e.g., integration with other client applications) that can for now be done better on the client side? Similarly, what’s wrong with a plug-in that does the same thing, as long as it’s not required for core usage of the service?

15. Ismael Ghalimi  |  August 29th, 2006 at 10:58 am


Nothing really wrong, just not desired, mainly because users moving from one client to another will have to re-adjust each time. It makes your overall experience degraded as a result. The more goes into a plain-vanilla web browser, the better.

16. Virtual Communities&hellip  |  September 15th, 2006 at 1:17 am

[…] The Office 2.0 Database is a good overview … […]

17. Dennis Howlett&hellip  |  September 18th, 2006 at 7:06 am

[…] I was trawling through the Winweb site when it suddenly struck me — why am I going to Office 2.0? Stefan’s done it already, hasn’t he? Or am I kidding myself? Take a look at the checklist and then compare with this chart (reproduced below) […]

18. Office 2.0 Podcast Jam&hellip  |  October 7th, 2006 at 12:18 pm

[…] Eric Severson, Chief Technology Officer of Flatirons Solutions, walks through the rules of Office 2.0 from an enterprise and content management perspective. He identifies an important role for XML in the enterprise version of next-generation Web-enabled office software. […]

19. Office 2.0流行é�&hellip  |  October 18th, 2006 at 10:25 am

[…] 官網中有一個「Rules for Office 2.0」的頁面,提到了怎樣的軟體叫做Office 2.0;倒不是語氣艱澀的冗長定義,而是一般人所謂Office 2.0的必備功能: […]

20. Den’s Enterprisey F&hellip  |  October 20th, 2006 at 5:11 pm

[…] Don’t get me wrong. I like Google’s cavalier approach to software development. I like that it is giving all of us a glimpse of what an Always-On business could look like and how it is defined. Those are the fun parts. The not-so fun parts are the emergence of a business model that appears to contradict the founders’ mantra of ‘Do No Evil.’ That’s why we are making apparently ‘unhelpful’ choices in the quest for something new and exciting when it comes to our privacy. […]

21. Michelle Moore  |  October 29th, 2006 at 4:42 am


Do you have a plan to keep your documents backed up, or are you relying on the service provider to do this? I am also thinking of your rule for not storing files on the local computer while thinking of the answer to this question.


22. Ismael Ghalimi  |  October 30th, 2006 at 8:54 am


I am usually using service B to back service A up.


23. Andreas&hellip  |  October 30th, 2006 at 10:31 am

[…] 官網中有一個「Rules for Office 2.0」的頁面,提到了怎樣的軟體叫做Office 2.0;倒不是語氣艱澀的冗長定義,而是一般人所謂Office 2.0的必備功能: […]

24. IT|Redux&hellip  |  December 2nd, 2006 at 10:34 am

[…] Last, but not least, ThinkFree also provides a very comprehensive collection of viewers: a publisher, blog plug-ins, APIs, and Web badges. And if you’re not religious about following the rules for Office 2.0 to the letter, you might even want to consider using these browser extensions and desktop widgets. […]

25. IT|Redux&hellip  |  February 7th, 2007 at 5:19 pm

[…] Before I dive into the details of the implementation, let’s take a look at the requirements I initially set for the project. First, I wanted something that would comply to the rules for Office 2.0: no client-side application should be required, collaborative content development & publishing should be supported, and every bit of the solution should be avilable from at least two independent sources. Second, I wanted to limit the amount of coding to the bare minimum. Third, I should be able to get the job done in less than a week’s worth of work. Fourth, the resulting website should cost less than $25 a month to host, including the cost of all third-party services involved. To summarize: […]

26. Brazen Careerist&hellip  |  February 9th, 2007 at 7:09 am

[…] The list of photos is pretty unremarkable, mostly men, mostly headshots. There are a lot of visions for what the future of the office will be. Our computers will have no client application other than a web browser, for example, and virtual collaboration will be easy. […]

27. Andy  |  February 8th, 2010 at 8:14 am

For question (c), actually iTunes can be exchanged with a server application very easily: Use iTunes with your files on your harddisk, have it scrobbled and listen to everything you own on via “listen to your library”. Afaik that should do it for pretty much everything that can be called “music”.

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