Product Review: Onlive Desktop

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

2014-04-17 13.47.18

© 2013 G.N. Jacobs

 It’s the small things that make or break the average user’s experience. Once upon a time, I drove a rental Ford Escort and dinged it to my friends based on – pretty good engine and drivetrain, but those door handles, ARRRRRGGGGH! Accordingly, I unceremoniously dumped OnLive Desktop from my precious space on my iPad in favor of CloudOn (see review).

OnLive is very similar to CloudOn, where the writer uses a cloud server account to store documents remotely so that they can be worked on anywhere we might think to bring the iPad. Graphically, this class of app is meant to emulate Microsoft Word down to the Nth detail and OnLive did very well, possibly even better than CloudOn which I kept.

On the surface, it would seem that I made the wrong decision in the cloud writer rumble. OnLive was more stable and functional coming off that first hot download. There weren’t any scrolling crashes and getting the app to recognize that I just had to have that particular phrase in italics or that a footnote was truly called for was very easy. Tap the screen and the cloud writer genie didn’t talk back (I really like it when HAL does things correctly).

My first pass at the app from several months ago came before I figured out that an external keyboard powered by Bluetooth would give me more space with which to write. The keyboard gave at least half of my ten-inch iPad screen back so I could write and see my previous sentences in context. But, before I started using the keyboard, it was still a good experience two-finger typing using the popup keyboard (see screenshots). The response time between tapping a character and seeing it on screen was an impressively short interval measured in a few less microseconds. While CloudOn helps me get things done, OnLive, a free app, initially seemed better because it works.

So what happened? It’s all in the data management. The app is free because the seller really wants the user to pay $4.95 a month for the full account. Cheapskates like me who already gave to Netflix and Hulu+ have to use a special page on OnLive’s website to manage various documents. This adds extra steps to the process of writing because you will upload a document from your computer. You then link in from the iPad do your thing. Lastly, to clean up old file versions you have to erase the old unchanged version of the document that’s still on the computer. The free version of the account has no cloud integration (no Dropbox, Box or Google Plus), whereas CloudOn does this without charging monthly fees.

The free OnLive account only gives 2gb of space (very early on, I teased 6gb out of Dropbox linked to all of my writing and most of my image making apps). Free when it happens to be a good product is always better. Another annoying lack of a feature: OnLive has yet to do the coding to support Siri as shown by the lack of a microphone symbol on the popup keyboard (see screenshots). I personally haven’t made much of the voice activated writing features built into that smug female voice, but again more for less is always better.

Of course, even if a user with the extra disposable cash wanted to pay for the integration with the major cloud server of his or her choice, OnLive isn’t much of a screenwriting program in the same way that MS Word has never been much of a screenwriting program. For laughs and giggles, I typed out a page of bogus screenplay trying to eyeball the tabs for the character headers and dialog paragraphs. Sibling, eyeballing things like that actually adds to the writer’s workflow problems.

OnLive does prose well. Query letters? Yes. Treatments? Sure. Your novelization assignment? Yes. But, you still have to buy a screenwriting program to go from Fade In to Fade Out. I dumped it because I don’t need two app that do the same thing with the same general level of quality. It’s a good idea for writers with extra money (isn’t that an oxymoron?), but not for the rest of us.

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