Is Zoho Creator high priority for Zoho team?

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This is a valid question raised by Andrew (DabbleDB’s founder) in their forums. With bunch of online applications under zoho brand, obviously, any one-product-competitor would say our weakness is “lack of focus”

To clarify on this,

We have extremely focused independant teams working on each zoho service – in Paul Graham words, each zoho service is a startup, and each product manager is the chief executive for the respective service.

In fact, too much of such independency to zoho teams is hurting us now 😉 Many of our customers have asked for single sign-on support between zoho services which we thought we could take up after each service has its own customers and stands by itself. Now its time and we are on top of it. This is a clear evidence that each zoho service has its own external focus and operate as separate startup.

Zoho Creator has come long way to what it stands today, still lot more ahead. We make almost monthly once major updates, which proves we have dedicated team and validates that we have high priority for it.

In the same post, Andrew had made interesting comment that Zoho Creator has water fall model of app creation and Dabble is more of incremental development. Your observation is wrong, Andrew. We have deliberately separated the “build mode” (app creation environment) and “live mode” (the actual app itself). We feel, when both mode mixed up it confuses the user, especially if the user is not the one who created the application. We do have option for users to change their application as they proceed with their data, like support for field type change, view configurations, filters etc. So, Zoho Creator is very friendly for incremental app creation. Please try it yourself and decide.


Deluge: Online Scripting Language

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Have you seen “import script” option in Zoho Creator -> create application? Wondering what the heck is Deluge? Here is quick intro (too much to say though – will cover in subsequent blog posts)

Deluge is the online scripting environment to create sophisticated database driven applications. With few lines of deluge code you can create your own web application. Everything online!

50 lines of code worth a 500 lines of explanation 😉 Here it goes..

Simple 4 steps to try this deluge script
1. Login to Zoho Creator
2. Create Application
3. select, Import Script
4. Copy & Paste this code

Voila! your feedback app is ready. You can embed the feedback form on your website as well.

With Deluge, Zoho Creator goes beyond GUI based app building. Which means, users can use either use GUI to create web apps or write code in Deluge.

How Deluge works ?

Deluge doesn’t have any concrete syntax. The actual code (the above 50 lines) itself is stored in bunch of database tables. The code is parsed and stored in hundreds of tables. The stored code in database doesn’t remember any syntax. Hence, in future, it just makes us easy to generate the same code in any well known languages like Java or PHP. Create with Deluge syntax, view it in Java! – sounds cool, ah?

No compilation, all changes are instantaneous. Underneath, deluge is driven by a powerful relational data model. Let say, you would like to add “Do not Contact me” checkbox to the feedback form. You can simply add this code: Do_not_contact_me (type = checkbox) to the feedback form script. The live app will reflect the change immediately (the changed code is parsed & updated in database and the live app fetches app details from the same database). Also, if you do browser refresh to “Edit GUI” form builder, the changes would be reflected. Similarly, you play with GUI then visit script. You can see the GUI edits reflected in deluge code (classic round-trip engineering)

Fine. where you guys are heading on?

Well, we have been working on Deluge for past few years now, based on some fairly radical ideas on language design. We have recently integrated it in Zoho Creator to make online app creation extremely easy with sophisticated scripting. We have just made an humble start and striving hard towards our goal to make ZohoCreator/Deluge as “Visual Basic for the Web 2.0


Google Spreadsheets Launch: what does it mean for Zoho Sheet?

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Few hours back google has launched its spreadsheets. The attention triggered by this annoucement has increased our zoho sheet traffic and registrations (with google restricting to limited signup). Thank you Google :-)

We anticipated this service from Google. We don’t see them as a threat. Google is focusing more on web 2.0 features like sharing and collaboration (by integrating chat features) rather trying to bring the MS Excel experience on web (though this is pretty early to comment upon). We think, zoho sheet can offer more value to the enterprises and traditional spreadsheet users by bringing most used features of excel on web and more. For instance, our focus would be more on charts, reports, integration with online databases, etc rather focusing on chat kind-of features – this may bring cool effect but not sure how far this would be used by serious users.

Zoho Sheet focus would be to offer more value for the enterprise market and small groups of business users.

One good about this announcement is that indirectly we get mentions by bloggers along with this news. Techcrunch has mentioned us

While you are waiting for your invitation you may want to try out one of the other Ajax spreadsheet applications out there, such as ZohoSheet,..

Thanks for the mention, Mike.


Less is More, But people expect more..

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For some people, less is sufficient, less has less confusion, less feels lighter and less is more-than-enough. I agree and for good reason: they’ve been trained to think that way. May be they advocate pareto’s 80-20 rule, just do the 20 percent – the less is more.

But most people want more, they need the extra one feature which may not wanted by most – they really want the long tail of features. The ‘more’ should not spoil the experience they had with ‘less’. Should not complicate the user experience introducing the more. What they really want is More features at the experience of Less – they expect more..

This drives to analogize with the classic example of longtail; Wal-mart and other major retailers don’t carry less popular albums (they carry less, the top 20 percent). The Rhapsody demand, however, keeps going. The rare songs find an audience, there are people looking for more. But impossible for vendors like Wal-mart whose physical inventory business model just restricts, to offer the more.

Zoho..expect more..

Traditional Spreadsheets in a Non-Traditional way

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During a chat with Gibu this evening, he raised me this question. How my recent initiative, Zoho Sheet, is positioned against Excel? Let me answer it here.

Excel is one of my favourite software. I love its usability. Perfectly designed for its intended purpose and users. But its not friendly now for internet population who want to consume lot of data from internet into their spreadsheets. Time to give it a thought. Listing here some of the shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets. For now, I refrain getting into pricing.

  • Sharing is pain. Not collaboration friendly. You cannot share it online with your friends, colleagues and clients. You might be sending it now as email attachments.
  • Built for non-internet users? Absolutely. You cannot integrate any internet information or mashup with cool web services. How about the spreadsheet integrating sales data from, your yahoo finance data, your favourite books from amazon ? This blog post has captured it nicely
  • Not web friendly. You cannot access your spreadsheet from anywhere, any browser
  • Some internet users are comfortable filling forms than spreadsheet grid. Some may be fine editing as wiki pages. Traditional spreadsheet doesn’t have option to switch between different web app views and spreadsheet view.

Our goal is to overcome such shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets, in a non-traditional way. If this sounds interesting sign up for a sneak peek of zoho sheet and take a ride on it.


Easy->Trivial, Difficult->Easy, Complicated->Possible

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Brainpipe has reviewed Zoho Creator. The below one was truly encouraging which the creator team strived for.

“Zoho Creator makes it remarkably easy to create very simple tracking applications, and parent-child relationships are handled so well you don’t even need to know what that means to use it.”

If you take any product feature it could fall under some range in the spectrum of – easy, difficult or complicated. Our objective, here at zoho, was to make the “easy” to “trivial”, “difficult” should be “easy”, and bring the impossible or “complicated” stuff “possible”. Every thing web based. In zoho creator context, it means

1. Creating simple forms or views in page should be “trivial”
2. Relating multiple forms or creating views across multiple data to build a custom page should be fairly “easy”
3. Transforming application data to show based on user needs and evaluating complicated workflows (rules and tasks), schedules, etc using a scripting language should become “possible”

We have long way to our Zoho Creator goals; we have just attempted to make it “trivial” for creating simple forms and views. And trying to make it “easy” to build custom pages. More to come..


We are heading on right direction

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Mike made a interesting mention in his Techcrunch post today claiming that

– 99.9% of the Internet population is looking to create new application from scratch
– should allow non-programmers to build applications. Don’t expect people to know PHP or even HTML

He said it perfectly. People want to build applications to their situated needs, their long tail of applications. Home users or small business people want applications that solves their local needs and problems, they want to build apps from scratch in minutes with just few mouse clicks and go live without any coding of PHP or HTML knowledge. They hate to get help from developers.

Happy that our Zoho Creator is heading at right direction