Over at Technologizer, Harry McCracken is in the midst of an experiment that he calls Operation Foxbook. The idea is simple: to forego desktop applications entirely for a period of time, doing everything on a netbook-class machine using Firefox.
McCracken’s initial progress report is encouraging, though as he points out, he’s hit a few roadblocks on the way. Moving stuff like blogging, email, and scheduling into the browser didn’t raise any issues. The tough application for him: image processing, since he’d been a heavy Photoshop user. His writeup includes some notes on the web applications he’s tried as a replacement.
Interesting as it is to read about McCracken’s experiences, it’s more interesting to contemplate what a life in the browser would be like for your own work. Could you manage to forswear desktop applications, even for one day? If not, which applications would be the sticking point for you.
In my case, it might be possible to move my life online, but it would be terribly difficult and I’d be less efficient. The big deal for me is managing all the pieces of a complex development project. While I know of online editing and testing environments for Rails, and in-browser tools for manipulating database files, they’re nowhere near as powerful as the desktop applications that I’m accustomed to.
Even if you don’t think you could make the move online, it’s worth thinking about what tools you could use if you had no choice. It might be smart to set up the necessary accounts, and have a record of passwords somewhere other than your primary machine, just so you could keep working (however impaired) in case of a disastrous hardware failure.