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10 stars of 'cross-platformity'

Victoria Ivey | June 12, 2013
At work or play, these 10 applications can be used across a variety of platforms.

The Earth now houses more devices than people. That's simple math. Back in 2008 Gartner counted all the computers on our planet and got a number of 1 billion. Back then researchers also promised that by 2014 there would be 2 billion computers in use. Meanwhile, Cisco has predicted that mobile devices will outnumber people by the end of 2013 -- which means we'll be passing that milestone this year.

Putting those figures together, you realize two things: There are already more computing devices than people, and the technocratic era is already in full play, while everyone's still waiting for it to come. And I haven't even brought in the statistics on robots yet.

Some people, because they are too young to use them, too old to care about them, or too poor to afford them, own no computers, no tablets and no smartphones. That can only mean that a lot of people own more than one device. You can take my word for that or head over to the nearest Starbucks, where you're sure to see someone reading on a Kindle, surfing the Web on a laptop and listening to music on a smartphone -- all at the same time.

Of course, since you're reading this in Computerworld, you probably don't have to either take my word or drop by a Starbucks; there's a good chance you have more than one device yourself. Maybe it's the standard set of home PC/work PC/smartphone.

Some people add a tablet or a laptop to this kit. But whatever set of hardware you have, each piece needs some software to enliven it. And that's where things get ugly. Because you have to remember how all of that software works on different platforms. And because if you create a file on your laptop and want to work with it on your Android phone, there's a possibility that the corresponding software won't be able even to open it. That's bad. I mean, that's really bad.

Does it have to be that way? No. In fact, more and more software developers are trying to provide a similar user experience across platforms. Mostly, such software accommodates arrangements like using a Windows PC at work, a Mac at home and an Android smartphone or tablet. Some also extends to the iOS used on iPhones and iPads. Here are several I have tried and recommend, to satisfy many basic and not-so-basic needs.

Business before pleasure, they say, so let me start with an application for office use. Kingsoft Office rates pretty well in what I call "cross-platformity," being available for Windows, Linux, iOS and Android. With the help of Kingsoft Office, you can create text documents (Kingsoft Writer), presentations (Kingsoft Presentation) and spreadsheets (Kingsoft Spreadsheets). The program is compatible with most common formats of Microsoft Office, like doc, dot, xls, rtf, txt, wps, etc. The application's interface is quite standardized, so you won't have any trouble with it no matter what OS you are used to.


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