What Are Browser-Based Tools and Applications?

A browser-based tool offers great functionality if you've got an internet link

Man working on laptop in kitchen

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A browser-based (or web-based) tool, application, program, or app is software that runs on your web browser. Browser-based applications only require an internet connection and an installed web browser on your computer to function. Most web-based applications are installed and run on a remote server that you access with your web browser.

Web-Based Apps: More Than Just Websites

The software for web apps runs through web servers. The difference between a simple website of yesterday and the more powerful browser-based software available today is that browser-based software provides desktop-style application functionality through your web browser's frontend.

A web-based app isn't the same thing as a portable app—which runs on a flash drive—or a virtual machine, which runs locally and consumes computer resources.

Advantages of Browser-Based Applications

One of the main benefits of browser-based applications is that they do not require you to purchase a large piece of software that you then install locally on your computer, as in the case of desktop applications.

For example, office productivity software like Microsoft Office had to be installed locally on your computer's hard drive, which usually involved a process of swapping CDs or DVDs in a sometimes long installation process. Browser-based apps, however, do not involve this installation process, as the software isn't hosted on your computer. 

This remote hosting offers another benefit, too: Less storage space is used on your computer because you are not hosting the browser-based application, and the application often moves fast because heavy-resource apps are processed remotely. Thus, even a netbook could run a resource-intensive application as long as it runs in a browser window.

Web-based apps are also kept up-to-date. When you access a web-based application, the software runs remotely, so updates do not require the user to check for patches and bug fixes that they would then have to download and manually install. 

Examples of Web-Based Apps

word online

Well-known types of software you can find in web-based versions include email applications, word processors, spreadsheet apps, and a host of other office productivity tools.

For example, Google offers a suite of office productivity applications in a style most people are already familiar with. Google Docs is a word processor, and Google Sheets is a spreadsheet application.

Microsoft's ubiquitous office suite offers a web-based platform known as Office Online.

Web-based tools can also make meetings and collaborations vastly easier. Applications such as WebEx and GoToMeeting make setting up and running an online meeting easy.