What Are Browser-Based Tools and Applications?

A browser-based tool offers great functionality if you have an internet link

A browser-based (or web-based) tool is software that runs on your web browser. It may also be referred to as an app, application, or program. Browser-based applications only require an internet connection and a web browser 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 basic website and browser-based software is that browser-based software provides desktop-style, back-end functionality through your web browser's front end.

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 CPU 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 is the case with desktop applications.

For example, some software has to be installed locally on your computer's hard drive, which involves the process of downloading and installing the software. Or, if the software is disc-based, inserting CDs or DVDs. Browser-based apps, however, do not involve this installation process, as the software is not hosted on your computer.

This remote hosting offers another benefit: Less storage space is used on your computer because you are not hosting the browser-based application. The application also tends to move quickly because heavy-resource apps are processed remotely or "in the cloud." 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 have to download and manually install.

Examples of Web-Based Apps

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

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

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

Microsoft Word online

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

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