December 14, 2006 8:34 AM PST

ThinkFree to take Web documents offline

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ThinkFree intends to offer a paid version of its Web-based productivity application suite early next year that will give users the ability to work offline.

The premium edition from ThinkFree will cost between $5 and $10 per month, company executives said. Right now, people can use the company's suite of Web-based online applications for free.

ThinkFree is one of a number of so-called Office 2.0 companies that offer Web-based productivity applications, including a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package.

ThinkFree

The free version, called ThinkFree Online Basic Edition, is supported by advertising. The company also licenses its software to organizations that choose to run it on-premise.

A closed beta, or test version, program for the premium edition is planned for January, with a wider beta planned for Feburary. The finished product will be generally available at the end of the first quarter of next year, said Jonathan Crow, the company's director of marketing.

Once available, the premium edition will let people work on documents offline, make edits and have those changes synchronized with documents on ThinkFree's servers, he said. That feature is not included in the free edition. The document formats are compatible with Microsoft Office applications.

"Basically, we're looking at the concept of a briefcase on your hard drive. Sort of like a file management system so you understand the latest state of a file," Crow said.

Features that depend on a person being online, such as collaboration with other people, will not be replicated on the premium version, he noted. It will require people to download a Java applet, which will allow them to run the ThinkFree applications when they are not connected to the Internet.

The premium service will also include e-mail support and a utility to allow people to create an archive on a hard drive of online files.

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