Twitter, Twitter Apps & Zoho

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For the past couple of months, we have been having a good time reaching out to our users, many of them at near real time, through Twitter. It’s nice to see so many of our users tweeting their Zoho experiences. Some recent tweets : Ken Pruitt, Ranjan Varma, Andy Affleck, Tom Whitaker. There’re lots more of these nice tweets which we’ve added as our favorites.

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Regarding Twitter apps, Terraminds is great, helping us generate a RSS feed to track all tweets about Zoho.

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And, Tweetstats offers a nice graphical snapshot of all our tweets till now.

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Been a web user of Twitter till now & haven’t tried the downloadable clients yet. Any compelling reasons we should try them? This page offers a great collection of apps. Will have to dig more. May be Chris Brogan, the Twitter Super Star can help :-) And we would like to hear how you are using Twitter (amazed seeing the Los Angeles Fire Department twittering!). Leave your comments please.

To all Zoho users out there, keep tweeting your Zoho experiences!

Zoho Creator : ‘Function’ support in Deluge scripting

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With the recent update in Zoho Creator, we have enriched the deluge language with ‘Functions’ support.

Let’s see, ‘What is Function’ in scripting terminology. In simple terms, ‘A function is a set of statements grouped together under a name and can be invoked/reused from elsewhere in the scripting‘.

Usage of functions can be broadly classified under the following.
1).Write once and reuse utilities
2).Serves as bridge between applications (created by the same user)
3).Custom action integration in views

Write once and reuse utilities :

‘Functions’ promotes code re-usability of deluge script within an application and even across applications (same user’s applications). It makes the code modular and easy to understand.

When you feel like repeating certain scripting functionality across different parts of application, you can define them as separate function and reuse it. With the help of built-in functions provided in deluge, you can create numerous util functions on your own, using the ‘Functions’ support.

eg:

  bool isLeapYear(int year)
  {
    leapyear = false;
    if ((input.year % 4) == 0)
    {
      leapyear = true;
      if(((input.year % 100) == 0) && ((input.year % 100) != 0))
      {
        leapyear = false;
      }
    }
    return leapyear;
  }

Help on creating a new function here

More samples here

Serves as bridge between applications (created by the same user) :

Not only can you define generic utilities as functions, you can even manipulate the application data from within the functions. Till now, it was not possible to manipulate the data in one application from the script in another application, which is now made possible with the help of functions. In this respect we can consider application as an object with its data and we can define functions to operate on this data which compares to member functions in an ‘object oriented’ world. The applications can communicate with each other using functions.

Custom action integration in views :

‘Functions’ has the potential to be integrated into various GUI actions, taking the scripting integration in Zoho Creator to next level. It makes the applications created, much more powerful and alive.

As a first step, it is integrated into views under the terminology ‘Custom Actions’. It enables the user to invoke specific function on a selected record in a view.

Custom actions in a view in live mode

More help on custom action in views


- Hariharan

‘Office 14′ to be more Web-friendly. Will it be Wallet-friendly?

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I just came across this article from Computer World quoting Bill Gates that ‘Office 14′ will be Web-friendly.

Microsoft won’t provide the full functionality of Office online, but it will offer limited online capability for viewing and editing the data in Office applications. It already does this for its Outlook e-mail client with a product called Outlook Web Access, and it will offer similar capabilities for other applications in Office 14, Gates said in a speech at the Microsoft Office System Developer Conference in San Jose.

I guess, Microsoft seem to be feeling the pressure from online office apps. I am glad to see them adopt to the change on the application side. I guess the next step for MS will be to adopt to the new pricing model for productivity apps – FREE.

These productivity applications has been around for years and don’t you think they should be commodity by now? Paying $400 for an office suite made sense when the price of the desktop/laptop were $5K. Now the price of the hardware has come down to $400 and we still pay $400 for an office suite. On top of it, there is a new version every two or three years asking for an upgrade (of features/$$$?). May be some day we’ll see a model like web apps where ‘All Upgrades are included’.

What do you think? Shouldn’t productivity apps be commodity by now?

Zach Sims of Rev2 & Sharon Machlis of Computerworld on Zoho

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Zach Sims at The Rev2 has an in-depth writeup on Zoho. From his post,

Zoho does replace typical Microsoft Office products like Word and Excel. As I mentioned earlier, however, Zoho brings lots of new features to the table. In their traditional products, like Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet, the company adds online collaboration like competitors Google Docs and Buzzword. Version tracking is included as well. Pagination is a new feature that Google Docs doesn’t include, and the easy Zoho Start page is a good way to edit documents with a tabbed interface. Raju conceded that Google Docs offered simplicity, but he claimed that’s not what he was after. Instead, Zoho beats Google’s offerings in both breadth and depth. They offer more, and each of their applications includes more features. Switching to Zoho seems like a no brainer for me, and Zoho says that’s been the typical trend they’ve seen. Users typically find Zoho after experiencing something like Google Docs. Finding more features and more applications, they settle on Zoho.

Much has been said across the web about the Zoho suite, and we’re not the first to praise the service for its usability. I’ve used lots of competing services, like Buzzword and Google Docs. To me, Zoho is the more businesslike environment for word processors on the internet, and that’s advantageous. It’ll be easier for those who are looking for features, not good looks, to adapt. I absolutely loved the writing atmosphere in Buzzword when I tried it out, and Zoho Writer is far more sterile. Still, it provides more tools than Buzzword and, for those looking for more than a simple word process, is a much better option. As far as I’ve seen, Zoho is the only word processor that truly encompasses most of Microsoft’s features and should make it easy enough for typical users of MS Word to adapt to an online word processor.

Zoho is miles away from the competition. They’ve created a mobile interface for Zoho Creator, and iPhone users can use a nifty interface to read their Zoho docs on-the-go. There’s no interaction available for those documents yet, but Zoho plans to enable users to write from their iPhones in the near future. Zoho’s Facebook application may take the fun out of Facebook, but it’s there as a productivity option for those who want an office within Facebook. I think it’s a valuable tool that actually adds some productivity value to Facebook.

Raju said Zoho loves feedback. I’d give them some suggestions, but I find that there’s so little not to like, and so much to like that it’s hard to come up with anything. In concluding our phone call, Raju told our users to “give Zoho a try.” If you do, I know you won’t be disappointed.

You can also listen to the podcast that Zach recorded with Raju.

Sharon Machlis at Computerworld blogs writes about her interview with Raju. From her post titled ‘How Zoho plans to compete with Google‘,

It’s a brave company that tries to go head-to-head with Google, the Internet’s most formidable presence. But that’s where Zoho finds itself, as it battles for mind and market share for its online suite of office applications.

There are already more than a dozen free Zoho apps: word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, wiki, organizer, database, planner, online meetings and more. And none carry advertisements.

If you’ve never taken a look at Zoho’s online suite, I suggest you give it a whirl. I’m a particular fan of Zoho Creator, the online database tool with an easy drag-and-drop interface for creating data input forms and data views.

Zoho doesn’t charge for most of its applications – exceptions are Zoho Projects (project management, a Basecamp competitor) and Zoho CRM (taking on another major powerhouse, Salesforce.com, which seems worried enough about the upstart to have purchased a top ad on Google anytime someone searches for Zoho).

Thanks Zach & Sharon!

Recent Reviews on Zoho

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Bill Ives at ‘The AppGap’ has a nice post on all things Zoho (including our blogs!) titled ‘Zoho: A Suite of Many Online Apps for Small to Midsize Business‘. From his post,

These apps are all designed to take advantage of the web with good collaborative features. You do not have to send emails with attachments to provide access to documents. You always see the latest version online and teams can make and see changes real time. Chat is integrated into all the apps so teams can discuss these changes.

Then there is the question of offline access, something blogs have not addressed as I write this post in Word at the airport, being too cheap for the $9.95 they want for wifi. Zoho is now offering offline apps, beginning with Zoho Writer. Later I edit it on the plane, hoping I get wifi in my hotel room. They built their offline capability with open source code from Google Gears. When you go back online, data is synchronized. You have the option to merge data or make your version the latest. This will require some team coordination on version control but is a good feature for business adoption.

Rob Bushway at GottaBeMobile is in awe with Zoho Notebook. The Library & Information Services Newsletter of DePauw University in its latest issue carries an article on Zoho in its Emerging Technologies section. From the article, “Zoho.com – Online Collaborative ‘Office’ Suite“,

Zoho writer and presentation allow users to import documents from Microsoft Word or PowerPoint to be edited or shared, and a plug-in is available to work with Excel as well.Like the Microsoft Office suite, all of Zoho’s tools integrate and work better together. Unlike Office, Zoho allows multiple users to share and edit documents simultaneously from any computer with Internet access.

In addition to integrating with each other, all Zoho applications can be integrated with Facebook, an increasingly helpful feature for college students, faculty and staff.

Thanks to Bill, Rob and DePauw University!

Zoho Mail: Scheduled Update on Feb 15, 2008

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It’s been a while since we had a post on Zoho Mail. Its just that we’ve been so busy working on some critical features and functionalities to move Zoho Mail out of private beta and integrate it with Zoho Business.

As a major step towards integrating Zoho Mail with Zoho Business, we’ve scheduled an update on Friday, February 15, 2008 between 4.30AM and 6.30AM PST. During this time, access to Zoho Mail will not be available. We greatly appreciate your patience and co-operation during this downtime.