What Are Browser-Based Tools and Applications?

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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 browsers are installed on your computer and allow you to access websites. Types of web browsers include Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge (which replaced Internet Explorer), Opera, and others. 

Web-Based Apps: More Than Just Websites

We call them "web-based" apps because the software for the app runs through the web. 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.

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.

Another huge advantage of web-based applications is the ability to access them from just about anywhere and on almost any kind of system—all you need is a web browser and internet connection. At the same time, these applications are usually accessible at any time of the day you want to use them, as long as the website or web-based service is running and accessible.

Also, users behind firewalls can, generally, run these tools with fewer difficulties. 

Web-based applications are not limited by the operating system your computer system uses; cloud computing technology makes working online using just your web browser a possibility.

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

There is a wide range of web-based applications available, and their numbers continue to grow. Well-known types of software you can find in web-based versions are 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 has a web-based platform known as Office Online and Office 365. Office 365 is a subscription service.

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.