Communities Resolving Our Problems: the basic idea
[SUP: Sharing Problems] [THINK: Guidance] [LEAP: Solving Problems]

Evoke Options: Webtop and Desktop Tools for Composition

What do you want to create today? digital palette of composition tools in problem processing modelWhat problems can we solve today? To "evoke" is to compose so as to stimulate the thinking and action of oneself and others. It is the second stage of the LEAP problem solving model. As the digital palette on the left and the table details below shows, this palette of digital literacy composition tools covers all the media currently in use on the Net and on computers. The better the understanding, the better the composing for a wide range of problems and questions. Listed below are representative examples of applications on the digital palette in order of their display. The right column lists the generally more fully featured applications that can be installed on local drives and are designed for more individualized activity. The left column lists those applications that are found on the Web that can not only support private work but also be used for online social and collaborative efforts.

Will you get get most of your digital tools and information from the Net (Webtop) or from your local hard drive (Desktop)? The categories in the long table below can be reached quickly using these in-document links. Media: word processing/wikis; page/site design for the web; web publishing (blogging, web sites); email; social networks; numbers; programming; application suites; databases; organizers/graphic; mapping; image editors; audio; music; video; screen movies ; 2D animation; 3D animation; Virtual reality; sensors/robotics; dance sensors; multimedia ; interaction. Team Workflow: task/project management; sport management; OS; data storage; address books; calendar ; live online meeting tools; and business/organizational startups.

Composition Tools Comparison Chart
Webtop (Cloud)-Based Desktop-Based
Applications for Media Composition

Web Word Processing

Desktop Word Processing

Free online word processors and tools, for working solo or in collaborative partnerships (Awards):

Wiki's (Awards)

  • Wiki's (e.g., and wiki-farms
  • pbWiki & WikiSpaces ; Wetpaint
  • Content Management Systems (CMS)
    • Free: require a server but are free for the download and then provide for all writing to done online but with possible password protection set by page or element: Plone and Mambo are just two of dozens of free variants.
    • Commercial: Autonomy

Blogging, section below

Web Sites, section below

  • Microsoft Word processing tutorial.
  • Word Processor's Built in to Browsers
  • as Web page editors
    • SeaMonkey (free) Click the Lighthouse icon in the menu bar (Mac) or Communicator in the menu bar (Win) and select Page Composer.

Teleprompter applications

Organizers/text-graphics Organizers/text graphics

More desktop publishing apps

Free: Scribus

Proprietary: Microsoft Publisher; Adobe InDesign; PrintShop; QuarkXPress; Reviews

Paper & Web/Site Design Desktop Page Design

Great tools are available for composing both paper documents and web sites with many special features for web pages.

Paper designs

Web designs

Site and page tools

Free: Scribus

Proprietary: Microsoft Publisher; Adobe InDesign; PrintShop; QuarkXPress; Reviews

List of other publishing apps

Web site publishing  
Web Email Applications Desktop Email Applications

  • Desktop Email editors: Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird
  • Free Downloadable Email Editors

Web Social Networks Desktop Social Networks
Applications for creating social networks from teams to classes come in many different structures and serve many different purposes, including business, entertainment, and online teaching and learning.

This approach might be thought of as "sneaker net". People meet face-to-face, talk. plan and set up meetings. The desktop equivalent of file sharing is to put the data on some media and carry or ship it to someone or some group. The media might be paper, videotape, CD, DVD, floppy diskette, USB drive, portable hard drive, any physical object, or even a handheld or laptop computer. Networking hubs might be a library, the post office, or the NetFlix system.
Web Calendar and Appointment Tracking Desktop Calendar and Appointment Tracking

  • Microsoft Outlook is one of many.





  • eCalc - online basic and scientific calculators
  • Martindale's 'The Reference Desk': Calculators On-line Center
  • "You have free access to online calculators to help you solve problems and answer questions in the home, office, and school. Some solve problems, some satisfy curiosity, and some just for fun."


Other mathematics services



  • Excel, build tables and layout data for numerical problem solving.
  • Graphs and Charts using Clarisworks Spreadsheet or Excel Spreadsheet features.
  • A spreadsheet tutorial is available.


  • A long list of basic, scientific and graphing handheld calculators available for purchase: eCalc.
Web-Programming Desktop-Programming
Webtop Map Design Desktop Map Design

Creating maps has a wide range of uses (Awards):

Web-Databases Desktop-Databases


Limited free features, fee features


Databases build searchable and sortable collections of data, as well as provide for form letter merge designs. The database can also do some basic numeric calculations based on numbers. (A database tutorial is available.) Examples of database applications include FileMaker Pro; Microsoft Access, and the database application within Appleworks and Microsoft Works.e
Web-Still Image Editing Desktop-Still Image Editing

Image creating, sharing, storing and editing (awards):

  • Picasa (free, Win OS), iPhoto (free, Mac OS)
  • Gimp (free, Win, Mac, Linux)
  • Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Fireworks
  • Appleworks Works Paint, Windows Paint- Freeform, freehand drawing.
  • AppleWorks Draw, Microsoft Publisher- with Objects, allows fine control and easy re-editing of the placement of text and images useful for example for a collage or a newsletter.
  • Also: CorelDRAW, Canvas, AutoDesk (CAD).


Web-Video Desktop-Video

Full feature Edit systems

Set-shoot, capture, encode/compress, upload and serve in widely accessible format (overview of competitors)

Hosting and bandwidth

Remix media already online files

  • Cuts (remix video clips from YouTube, Google, & MySpace)
  • Photobucket (remix media in its space using Adobe online tools)
  • PBS offered a version of online video composition, though constrained by a particular topic- Make & Email a Civil War Movie

Server software for server administrators





    • Adobe Premiere Elements ($100), Premiere Pro ($800). After Effects ($1000),


    • Final Cut Express ($200)
    • Logic Express ($200); Logic Pro 8, Soundtrack, Studio instruments, Sound Library ($500)
    • Final Cut Pro, Motion, Shake ($500), Soundtrack, Compressor, DVD Studio Pro ($1300 suite)


    • Media Composer ($2000+ or $300 educational discount), Pinnacle Studio ($50-130)

    Other video editors


Screen Movies Screen Movies

Screen movie applications are movies of what is happening on a computer screen, with some applications providing options such as capturing voice narration and Webcam video of the presenter.

Keepvid or Vixy Free online tools for copying/downloading video on YouTube or other video site to desktop.




Web-Audio Desktop-Audio


Web-Music Desktop-Music

Noteflight create with multiple instrument sounds, view, hear, print and upload/download musical scores



  • Mac GarageBand (Mac), Acid Music Express
  • Sounder. Sounder is a Windows program that lets you create, save and exchange animated, 3-D interactive ambient musical pieces that play perpetually.
  • ETracker -free downloadable music writing software from Sam Coupe micro.
  • Making Waves allows user with a PC and 16 bit sound card to create professional sounding songs.


  • Finale, Sibelius, Notion
Web-Animation Desktop-Animation
  • GIF animation apps, Flash (Macromedia)
  • Scratch, animation tool that teaches programming skills (free download)
Web-3D & animation Desktop-3D and animation

Worlds.comActiveworlds; OuterWorlds;;

Second Life and its machinima.

Web-Virtual Reality Desktop-Virtual Reality

Web-Sensors (probes) Desktop-Sensors (probes)

Sensor to Web interface


  • iPad/iPhone and Smartphones have varying degrees of onboard sensors: Clinometer bubble level; compass & vector magnetometer; Gravitometer

Web Interaction Systems Desktop Interaction Systems

Interaction ranges from creating comments boxes at the end of Web essays to complex multimedia games.

Web-Dance Desktop-Dance


Web-Sports Desktop-Sports


Web-Multimedia Desktop-Multimedia
Tools for organizing multimedia essays and presentations online:
  • Examples of linear formats: electronic slide shows (Clarisworks/Appleworks Presentation Assistant, Powerpoint)
  • Examples of nonlinear formats: Web page authoring (SeaMonkey Composer, Cyberstudio; Dreamweaver); Hyperstudio; Hypercard, Toolbook.
Web Application Suites:
combos of apps

Desktop Application Suites:
combos of apps

  • Thinkfree (& a review)
  • Zoho, (over a dozen apps including word, graphics, spreadsheet, presentation slides and database builder, open to collaboration with others, etc.)
  • Google Docs (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation)
  • Ajax13 (word, drawing, spreadsheet, presentation, digital music player)
  • Zimbra (email, contacts, shared calendar, VoIP, and online document authoring)
  • gOffice (word processing, desktop publishing, presentations, spreadsheets)
Applications for Team Workflow Composition
Web Task/Project Management Desktop Task/Project Management

  • Microsoft Project
  • DotProject (free)
  • Nobzbe: Web-based time- and project-management application for busy people and teams
  • GTD (Getting Things Done) is a workflow design around which numerous applications have been created
  • Omniplan


  • OmniFocus (iPhone, iPad, Mac) syncs across multiple computers

Web Operating Systems
(virtual desktop)

Desktop Operating Systems

File & application management: goal to replace your PC desktop and run any application from the web

File & application management:


  • Linux
  • Foldershare (beta, free), synchronize files across multiple computers and share with others


  • Mac OS10, XP & Vista & Windows 7, Unix
Data Storage Data Storage

Goal to replace portable storage media and become primary storage with actual local hard drive seen as temporary or cache storage. Success of the concept will require great bandwidth,  not dial-in and large online storage capacity. There are general sites and media specific sites. Storing, sharing and promotion/advertising are increasingly merged into one system.

Each personal computer ships with its own internal drive and generally ports for connecting portable storage media. If stored locally, for sharing it must still be transferred to a "publication" system like paper, CD or DVD or a web site or in a folder flagged for public sharing over a network.

  • All devices hooked to a local area network can control the sharing of folders on their drives or on the network's storage space.
Web Address Book Systems Desktop Address Book Systems
Plaxo ; GoodContacts ;
  • Built-in to Outlook and many other email programs
Web Meeting Applications Desktop Meeting Applications

Also called Conferencing software, these applications enable live meetings online. They can be fully Web based (iMeeting) but often requires some client software to be installed before a conferencing connection is complete (all the rest). BOTH Web and Desktop applications use varying degrees of wired and wireless systems (Web/Internet access; 3G/4G wireless; WiFi). To varying degrees these applications share other features (try before you buy): text chat; video; audio; interactive whiteboard; screensharing, file sharing; quiz; Powerpoint slide compression; shared remote control of the cursor.

GoToMeeting ; iMeeting; Skype ; Collaborate (Blackboard)

The annotation on the left applies to this side as well.

  • Facetime (Macintosh, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)

Business/Organizational Startup Tools - team and organization building


Where's an application for creating and managing a team, business or organization, whether for-profit or non-profit?


The Webtop Cloud vs. the Desktop Well: An Analysis of Parallel Digital Tool Development

Today, the choice between getting information from the Webtop or information from the Desktop is rather simple. We grab much of our new data from the Web and previously captured information from our digital desktop. We are just as likely to store or our own creations online as on the desktop and often do both. However, the choice between running the application that will use this information and knowledge is not so simple. The Web is often not as fast or as reliable as the desktop but with each passing month does get better. Almost every thinking and problem solving event leads to making a choice between these two options.

The paper desktop? Not so much. Almost one hundred percent of the world's information is now in digital format with the world's digital archives growing at 23% a year (Hilbert & Lopez, 2011). The paper environment has become an option that fades a little further with each passing year and the next announcement of advances in handheld/mobile computing devices. The paper book and magazine is becoming a kind of endangered species that will be kept alive in small quantities in special preserves, the information equivalent of aquariums and zoos that we'll keep calling bookshelves. Our educational systems grow closer with each year to a radical revision in their operation and their curriculum goals.

The Webtop (left column of the table above) lists applications that run from servers available to those using the Internet (e.g., social media, Web 2.0, "cloud computing") while the Desktop (the right column) notes similar applications running from the hard drives of personal computers. The Webtop can be seen as like an electrical or water utility that builds a giant power or water plant that can use economies of scale to distribute its resources over vast distances. Desktop tools are more like a well that ones digs to draw water into the house. Both work but the former is generally more cost efficient in spite of the complexity of the network and the high reliability and speed of wells. Web-based tools such as those in the left column however gained from the Net another feature that has become critically important. Unlike power and water grids, information grids flow in both directions. This two-way flow facilitates team workflow. This created not merely a great expansion in the power to collaborate and interact, sharing whatever features are in a software application, it also enabled collaboration between any two points on and off the planet. This left column represents a not just watershed development in the history of the Web but in the global history of human culture. In addition to this huge cultural development, research has shown that Web based applications can significantly lower operational and support costs just as electrical grids did a century ago (Edwards, 2012). Harris reported on an independent study by TwinStrata that "...found on-site Microsoft apps [local computer]- Office and Exchange - cost 20x in capital dollars and 5x-6x more than Google Apps [Web servers] on a 3 year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) basis" (Harris, 2009).

As the Net continues its exponential growth, the challenge for team leaders and composers is to find, blend and organize the best suite or palette of online and offline composition tools for a given situation. If your word processing file is stored on the Web then it is a simple step to choose to make it not merely readable but editable by others. The online applications further encouraged teamwork and partnership. This development led to the emergence of label of Web 2.0 for a second generation Internet where "applications and their data reside on the Web itself" (Bull & Ferster, 2005-06) not on a local computer's hard drive. The webtop trend is also being extended to web-based operating systems and application clusters (Lyons, 2006). Others have seen new economic impact that emerges from mass collaboration, leading to the creation of new business models (Tapscott & Williams, 2006).

A transformation from personal work to increasingly global teams is underway. Professor Wesch's Youtube video below illustrates some additional aspects of this transformation. If the videoclip does does not automatically appear, use this link to The Machine Is Us.

As the table shows, software tools exist for composing Words, Outlines, Email, Social Networks, Numbers, Databases, Maps, Project Management, Programming, Still Images, Audio, Video, Music, Dance, Animation, Multimedia and more. At first these applications were proprietary commercial products that ran only on desktop computers. When necessary, email attachments and FTP were used to share data files between desktop applications. Now, not only are these applications (e.g., apps) increasingly available as free desktop-based tools, but they are increasingly available as a set of Internet-based web apps or Webtop-based tools (e.g., virtual desktop).

Problem solvers have always picked appropriate combinations of media and applications for gathering and communicating thoughts. Now, before selecting the application that is needed, the first choice to make is whether to find and run Web software from the Net or find and run software from the hard drive of a personal computer. Desktop based tools can run without the network, web-based tools cannot. Desktop tools often have more in-depth features but webtop apps are generally easier to use and are available on any networked computer not just one the one on which you installed the application that you bought. The two column list in the table is meant to be representative, not comprehensive of these choices, but new examples are always welcome and highly prized. Many of the web-based applications in the left column represent a point on a continuum between requiring a special client application and being totally web-based along with many other characteristics that indicate a Web 2.0 perspective (O'Reilly, 2005).

In reaction to a discovered problem/opportunity, composers must express themselves clearly and with such evocative quality that they attract the caring and interest of others. That computers can be as expressive an instrument as a paint brush is not widely accepted, yet computer composition tools are ubiquitous for a wide range of needs. This expressive quality requires mastery of the concepts of the application as well as mastery of many of its techniques. Once the basics of an application are understood, it is this mastery of the application to solve particular problems that must become the goal, not merely its selection and use from the webtop or desktop.

Evoke Thinking Skills - focus your composition with frame-your-question examples.


Sites Providing Other Directories to Web Applications



Copyright, Dr. Robert S. Houghton: Version 1.0 December, 2004; Version 2.589Updated 8/18/2012