Zoho UI

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Dan, who tried Zoho a couple of days back wrote:

However in using them [Zoho] I was very disappointed to find that each program had a *totally* different look-and-feel to them – they were, in effect, four entirely separate applications. They in no way felt part of a suite, and do not have any of the advantages outlined above.

Craig, who has been following Zoho’s progress, too wanted to know:

how serious is Zoho taking the UI experience of the users out there?

We do take in feedback from users on their experience with Zoho and are only too glad to hear what users have to say on the UI and how comfortable they feel while using Zoho.

That said, it is true that there is some lack of uniformity amongst the Zoho applications. Of all our applications, users might have noticed that Zoho Writer and Zoho Planner have similar UI. Zoho Projects, our latest offering too adopted the same. This is just so that they all look like a part of the same suite. The users can be rest assured that other services will soon follow the familiar Zoho Writer UI, as a part of hooking all the pieces of the Zoho suite.

Alternative ways of viewing attachments

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Some people have expressed strong concerns on attaching documents along with e-mail. (Rather ironical that the most commonly used document type is considered the most dangerous as an e-mail attachment). Instead of sending a document as an attachment, with Zoho Writer, these methods can be alternatively used:

(1) If the document is hosted at a website: If the document is in any of the formats – MS Word (Doc), Open Office (SXW), HTML, ODT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, TXT – then use the “Import URL” option and enter the URL.

(2) If the document is not hosted at a website: If you don’t have the software such as MS Word or Open Office installed, then this will be of help. Click on the “Import” button in Zoho Writer. As the “Import Document” box opens, you will find an e-mail address. Usually it will be {somecharacters}[at]docs[dot]zohowriter[dot]com. You can e-mail an attachment to your account using this address and the document will appear in the left pane.

These would mean that:

(1) You don’t need any software installed to read the documents (mainly MS Word and Open Office formats)

(2) Free from vulnerabilities. No virus threat. (Atleast not yet)

(3) You don’t require a crash course in file formats and the problems associated with creating them. We support most common formats and export to one of these formats.

(4) It is independent of the version of software you used for creating the document. So to speak, it is irrelevant if you used version x.x.01 or x.x.02, you can import the document. Although there are possibilities of formatting losses, the document can still be viewed.

Plus, all other advantages of using Zoho Writer such as collaboration can be availed.

Why Zoho will survive – Part 2

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It is perfectly natural for all the Web savvy people to get carried away. And at times like those, when you feel like there needs to be a reality check, people are around. Dead 2.0 has been calling that the web is getting hyped for a while. Dead 2.0 also felt that Zoho Show, when it first released, was primitive to put it mildly. While it was a bit too early to ‘judge’, this recent post sheds light on bubble-bursts. While laying down survival-tips, the author (unintentionally, ofcourse) mentioned these points, which would serve as an addendum to these posts on why Zoho will survive:

Affect real people, not just bloggers.  If your entire business is about giving away plugins to bloggers, you aren’t a business, you are an open source or closed source software pool. That might be fun, but it has no legs.  If you can sell your widget, then you license technology.  Anything short of that and you better be something that is used not just existing for its own sake.  Finally, and most importantly on this issue, remember that bloggers aren’t really spending much money to blog, and will probably continue this trend.

If you are evolutionary, then there needs to be a big enough market to address with a “we’re a little better than them” vision.  Not only that, you need enough of a differentiator to get users to make a switch in existing patterns, which is not easy nor is it cheap.

Zoho Teacher

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No, we haven’t released another product, nor do we promise a weekly product release. ;)  While tracking back the blogs that mentioned Zoho, we came to know that there were a good number of teachers who use Zoho for various class-room related activities. Alan, a Zoho user compiled a post on how he uses Zoho tools for teaching or other tasks. As an addendum to that post, here are a few more ways in which teachers can use Zoho effectively as educational tools:

(1) Zoho Creator with its form-building capacities can be used to survey, or gather comments from people. A form can be embedded in your blog or you can provide a URL to the form. Here’s a sample.

(2) Zoho Planner can be used to plan lessons over a period of time, provide homework- reminders, assign a to-do list for students. You can then share it by e-mail or publish it as a public page.

(3) Zoho Chat can be used to encourage conversations and discussions.

(4) And with our recent Zoho Writer update, more than two students can simultaneously work on a homework or a project report. Or a teacher can work alongside the students and guide them. All this online! 

Coming soon: Team-Planner which will be an extension of Zoho Planner for teams working on projects. Stay tuned!

Innovate using Productivity Tools

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Quite a few people have felt that Web 2.0 isn’t just about creating flashy (or Ajaxy) little widgets. Or just another mashup of Flickr and Yahoo Traffic or tracking your favourite satellite using Google Maps. Here’s one article which is about how Web 2.0 can be used in organizations to harness innovation:

But what if you’re working in a marketing department for a company as big as British Airways? Making yourself heard isn’t going to be easy. Getting things done is even more difficult.

While it is true that the article discusses the essence of Web 2.0, it is also true that the tools and applications that come under this new wave are just as useful. To start with, most companies have their internal network and can quite efficiently run these new tools. Collaboration, to start with, has become a standard feature of any web-based application. The power of collective intelligence can be put to very good use that way. Tools can also be used to digg or bury ideas :) The result is that:

They can learn to listen to their colleagues.

They can fast-track feedback, and streamline development cycles and processes.

Think CRM. Think RSS feeds. There are a host of other tools that can be put to good use, much more than merely toying around with them. (Nothing wrong with the toying part, of course, it’s fun-work) As the author says, if organizations were to do that, Web 2.0 is all about:

making feedback loops easy to use, and making it work simply and easily where it really counts – with your users / employees.

Clipboard functions in Zoho Writer

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Many users while accessing Zoho Writer from Firefox (mostly 1.5+) would have faced difficulty while using clipboard functions like Cut, Copy and Paste. While the keyboard shortcuts work fine, why exert stress on Ctrl+V while an alternative solution exists?
Firefox, for security reasons, disables Cut, Copy and Paste commands in the rich text editor. These settings can be changed:

(1) Visit your ‘profile folder’ and create a new file named ‘user.js’. Here’s how you can locate the profile folder for various Operating Systems.

(2) Add these four lines to the user.js file:

user_pref(“capability.policy.policynames”, “allowclipboard”);
user_pref(“capability.policy.allowclipboard.sites”, “http://www.zohowriter.com”);
user_pref(“capability.policy.allowclipboard.Clipboard.cutcopy”, “allAccess”);
user_pref(“capability.policy.allowclipboard.Clipboard.paste”, “allAccess”);

(3) Save the file and restart Firefox.

This should solve the issue. Else, after saving the file, feed a a little bit of magic potion i.e. do a system restart and Clipboard functions will work in Firefox.