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16 BEST cloud apps you should be using right now

Expert Reviews Staff
18 Sep 2014
Best cloud apps
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Why install software when you can do it all in the cloud? We show you the best cloud apps you need to start using right now

We’re becoming addicted to living our lives online. Every month, the British broadband network shifts as much data as you’d find in a billion copies of the complete Encyclopedia Britannica, and much of that is accounted for by online applications, with suites like Google Docs and Office 365, banking apps and map services occupying more and more of our time.

The great thing about the reliability of the modern high-speed internet is that it’s encouraging an increasing number of developers to produce online-only applications, which means more choice for end users – and, potentially, more confusion as we have to pick between them.

That’s why we've picked out 16 top cloud applications that are ready to replace your locally-installed software. We use them in our regular working lives – and so should you.

Wave Accounting

If you’re still casting around for a decent replacement for Microsoft Money, check out the free Wave Accounting. It lets you create budgets and download banking transactions so you can see how you’re performing against each metric. It also lets you store your receipts online, with a companion app for iOS and Android making it easy to scan them on the spot rather than having to stash them in your wallet until you get home.

The handy overview screens that provide a snapshot of your net worth are supplemented by income statements and transaction reports, and you can also track the performance of an investment portfolio, with daily updates on the movement of each stock, cost and market value, and your overall return.

Wave keeps itself afloat by integrating coupons and offers, but there’s no compulsion to take them up and the system works just fine without them, which makes us wonder whether there will ever again be a market for a full-blown paid-for offline app for managing household accounts.

Wave

Copy

Dropbox and Box.net finally have some serious competition, in the shape of Copy. Its entry-level account stretches to a generous 15GB of free storage, which contrasts favourably with Dropbox’s 2GB and Box.net’s 10GB. The really clever bit, though, comes when you see how it accounts for shared files. Share a 10GB folder on Dropbox with a friend, for example, and the full 10GB will be deducted from both users' accounts, not just from the one who originally shared the files.

Do the same on Copy and the 10GB deduction will be split across all participants. So, if you share the folder with one other person you each see your free space drop by 5GB. Share it with three others and you each lose 2.5GB. Share it with nine people and you all lose just 1GB each, leaving a full 14GB of your starting balance free to use.

Everything you store on Copy is protected – both on the server and during transfer – using AES 256-bit encryption, and there’s even a free small business plan for teams of up to five users. It has clients for Windows, OS X, Android and Linux, and if you sign up using the referal code https://copy.com?r=uRcz8b you get a bonus 5GB, which means your free account will start at 20GB.

Copy

Pixlr

If you haven’t come across Pixlr before, prepare to be amazed. It’s a fully-featured photo editing suite with an accomplished brush editor, gradients and common Photoshop tools like sharpening, dodging and softening. It even takes layers in its stride so you can perform non-destructive edits with full control over opacity, blending modes and masks to selectively obscure certain parts of an overlaying layer.

You can open images directly from your computer, a URL or a library like Google Drive. Once you’ve finished work you can save out the results to your PC, Flickr, Facebook or Picasa.

It’s perfect for beginners who need to quickly improve a few snaps before publishing them online, but even advanced users should find much to like here with a distinctly Photoshop-esque workflow that will feel immediately familiar. As it’s Flash based you’ll either need to have the Flash Player installed or be using the Chrome browser.

Pixlr

Draft

This tool lets you co-operate with others on writing a document, providing you with the changes they've made and letting you OK each one individually or en masse. It lines up the collaborator's document next to your own and lets you pick what you want from each.

When writing, Draft uses Markdown, a syntax-based system where you surround content with asterisks to make it bold and underscores to make it italic, precede it with hashes to mark out a heading, dashes for bulleted lists and so on. They’re converted to regular formatting when you come to export your work, so you can quickly knock out structured text without breaking your flow to grab your mouse.

We like the smart, knocked-back interface, default font and clever online file manager. There's even a professional copy-editing service built-in, so you can send your document off for a quick read through by college-educated editors.

It's easy to invite people to collaborate on a document, and they can then make changes, or just make comments. You get notifications of edits by email, so you know what's going on at all times. It's a useful tool for those who need to work together.

Draft

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