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InstallFree Nexus public beta integrates MS Office and Dropbox in a web interface

InstallFree Nexus public beta integrates MS Office and Dropbox in a web interface


InstallFree Nexus, currently in public beta, integrates Microsoft Office and other file editing tools into a web interface that allows users to save to Dropbox or other cloud storage services.

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With Google Drive's storage service perpetually on the verge of launch, online document editors and cloud storage have yet to really reach maturity. InstallFree Nexus, however, is looking to fill that gap with an HTML4 and HTML5-based editing service that can integrate with Dropbox, SkyDrive, and other cloud utilities. We took a look at Nexus — currently in public beta — and though there's a lot left to be worked out, it's a service that fills a very real need.

Nexus works on the web browser of computers, tablets, and smart TVs, though we didn't have a TV on hand to test it. The paneled interface is relatively platform-agnostic, but the design is clearly modeled after iOS and built for smaller screens. Settings, "apps," and storage are on the left panel; tapping or clicking on a file brings up a preview on the right. From there, you'll have the option to delete a file or edit it in a new tab. On larger notebooks, it feels redundant to have to open the document separately, but for tablets or netbooks it's good to have a little extra room.

For basic office work, we doubt anyone will have a problem with the types of file supported: PDFs open in Adobe, images in Paint.NET, and documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows in Microsoft Office. Starting Nexus and adding storage services is simple, and the beta phase includes free licensing of the web-based Office software — later on, you'll either need to pay for a license or possibly enter the key for your offline copy. Performance is surprisingly good: editing Word documents involves noticeable delay, but it's not significantly worse than something like Google Docs. On tablet, you'll get a mouse to move around and a custom keyboard that includes function and control keys, rather than the standard OS version. The only thing we really wouldn't recommend is the bloated and sluggish Adobe Reader, which was almost unusable on both notebook and tablet.

In terms of pure document creation, this virtualized service isn't your best bet: there are plenty of excellent apps and webapps for most platforms, including Google Docs. The storage options, however, turn Nexus into an excellent choice for cross-platform editing, especially for people in a Microsoft-centric environment. The ultimate success of Nexus will depend on the services it integrates and the pricing of Office licenses, but it's off to a strong start.

Nathan Ingraham contributed to this story.