Image Courtesy: CNET News BlogThe Web 2.0 era has changed the internet so much. The browser has become some many different things. Some of the things they can do now, is create documents, spreadsheets and even presentations all on the web. Where could one do such a thing? Well, as long as you have a Google account, you are free to use the Documents application.

Google Docs doesn’t require a download. No worries though, with Google Gears you can edit project just like a desktop application when you don’t have a connection.

One of the reasons I like free online productivity suites like Google Docs is it allows students to collaborate remotely. Apple is trying to do this with “iWork.com” but they plan on charging for it eventually. Also, because of Google’s popularity, it’ll be easy for you to find people that have Google accounts.

Some people could make the argument that giving Google permission to handle your documents and other infomation might be giving away too much. If you feel that way, another free online productivity suite is Zoho. If you don’t want to give your info to a big corporation like Google, then Zoho is a perfect alternative. It still gives you the collaboration abilities Docs, but you might be hardpressed to find people with Zoho accounts because the site is not widely know in the college community.

I do have a disclamer though. While Docs and Zoho are quality web applications, it does lack a little bit of the sophistication that gets put into applications like Office and iWork. Going along those lines, if you do want a program you can download, I suggest going to Open Office or Lotus Symphony to get productivity on the freeness.  Beware, this will take up a substantial amount of space on your hard drive. Open Office is 167 MB Lotus (which was developed by IBM) is 195 MB.

In closing, the best part about Google Docs is IT’S FREE. So, for prospective college students, I implore you to not buy Office or iWork when purchasing a computer for school. If you are skeptical, try Docs out for your next paper. I’m sure you’ll be pleased. For college students, again, it’s a great way to collaborate or if you are out of luck as far as program access codes go, give this a shot.

Questions or comments about this article? Email me at mike@hackcollege.com or comment below.