The future of computing, so we’re told, lies in the cloud. It’s already possible to spend practically all your entire computing life in your browser window, using web-based apps like Google Docs and Photoshop Express Editor in place of more traditional desktop apps like OpenOffice and Paint.NET.

 

 

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The only downside of this approach is keeping all your online apps and accounts together in one neat place. This is where Jolicloud comes in, offering a desktop-like experience in your browser window. But why stop there? Jolicloud has gone one step further and developed an entire operating system, Joli OS, that takes your browser-based desktop and places it right in front of you.

There are two ways of installing Joli OS: there’s the traditional standalone approach. Download the ISO file, burn it to disc or flash drive and install it on a computer with no operating system. Jolicloud is keen to promote Joli OS in this way; its relatively small demands make it suitable for running on any computer built since the turn of the millennium, allowing you to press older computers back into service.

There’s also a Windows installer available — this installs Joli OS into its own folder (you’ll need 18GB spare) on your existing system drive, then updates your boot menu to give you the choice of booting into Windows or Joli OS. Annoyingly, Joli OS is made the default, but you can remedy the situation from the Advanced tab of the System Properties Control Panel (click “Settings” under Startup and Recovery).

Once installed, Joli OS replicates the desktop view seen in your browser window; the key difference between the OS version and your browser is that you can install traditional desktop apps alongside web-based shortcuts and apps. The best way to do this is to search the Jolicloud App Store; if your program of choice is there, select it and it’ll download and install silently in the background.

If that’s not enough, you can also install most applications manually too: Linux, Adobe AIR and Windows are all supported to varying degrees. You may need to install an add-on from the App Store first (for example, Wine for Windows).

Your Joli OS desktop is part of your Jolicloud account, which means it’s synchronized and accessible from web browsers on other computers (minus any native apps). If you install Joli OS on two or more computers, only those apps you install through the App Store will be synced between devices.

While Joli OS doesn’t provide an instant-on experience, it’s still much quicker to load than most flavors of Windows, which makes it a real option should you want to fire up your laptop, netbook or PC for a quick spot of browsing, social networking or word processing. And as time goes by, who’s to say you won’t find yourself spending more time in Joli OS and less in Windows?