Zoho Planner & Matthew Moran at ITtoolbox

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Matthew Moran at ITTtoolbox finds Zoho Planner so useful that he first had a blog post titled, “The Joy of ZOHO Planner – shared todo lists, tasks, and collaboration…“. He then followed it up with a cool video showing how he uses Zoho Planner. From his post,

I have also been playing around a lot with ZOHO’s suite of applications. I’ll be covering these in more detail over the next few weeks. Suffice to say, their documents are more full-featured and have a better interface than google – hands down.


Zoho Planner allows us [Matt & his wife Laura] to have our own tasks page or pages. We can then share a page or pages of tasks with someone else – giving them read only or read/write access to the page.

I setup a page called Laura’s Shared Tasks and one called Matt’s Shared Tasks. I gave Laura read/write access to both.

Laura can then add tasks, appointments, and notes to my page and to her page. I can see them, I can add tasks, and I can add notes. It does a couple of things. First, she and I both have a place to add tasks to the other person – and notes with greater detail if needed.

Second, we can see the tasks we’ve added in context of other tasks and appointments they (the other person) has due. It helps us know two things – one that the other person has the tasks on their list and two that our tasks to them are not the only things they must do.

And here is Matt’s nice video where he explains Zoho in general followed by a tutorial on how he emails tasks (to-dos) & notes to his Zoho Planner account.

Thanks, Matt! Now, to the readers of this blog – do tell us how you are using Zoho Planner.

Mashing it up with Zoho Sheet and Zoho Creator

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Our users have created some cool mashups using Zoho Sheet and Zoho Creator. The first two examples are from Jynn, a software engineer from Hyderabad, India. In the first application, Jynn mashes up Zoho Creator, Google Maps and Yahoo Pipes.

Zoho Creator offers end users a brand new way to perform basic CRUD operations using the web both as a database and for processing data.

Here I will briefly describe how I used Google Maps to Integrate with Zoho Creator,Using simple transformations with Yahoo pipes.

The application and its uses:
This Integration i.e Creator +Maps can be used in many ways e.g., Tracking Inventory, tracking Human resources, Basic Travel maps or even geographic maps of movie theatres where a current movie is playing.

This application overlays Zoho creator data onto a Google Map i.e in this case Movie Theatres where a particular movie is playing shown on a Google map.
Zoho creator is used to update movie info using the UI or even Bulk upload and Google maps is used to overlay the data.

I also used the cool technology of Yahoo Pipes to basically transform the Feed generated by Zoho Creator.

In the second example, Jynn uses Zoho Sheet along with Dapper, Yahoo Pipes and Google Maps. Here’s how Jynn describes the application :

The Application:
There is a live excel sheet hosted on Zoho Sheets,which gives info on Radio stations in India for radio Enthusiasts….

Updating the sheet with coordinates will be immediately reflected in the Google Maps

Technology Used:

Zoho Sheet:
Can be embedded onto your blog/webpage (Here it is in my blog),and contains City name and Location

Dapper :
This is the killer app which I used to parse the HTML output from Zoho Sheet and convert to RSS.

Yahoo Pipes:
To extract Geo Encoded data From The RSS feed…

The next one comes from Pete Thomas of Land of Zoho Creator fame. Pete mashes up Oodle, the local classifieds site with Zoho Creator. Nicknamed Zoodle, the prototype mashup creates the work flow of the customer service process for Pete’s friend Ted. From the post :

Zoodle will let Ted enter the listing data he gets from a BuggyRocket customer as it becomes available and only publish it for Oodle to pick up once it’s complete. Other features include:

  • Listing detail page: Although it’s not the slickest looking thing in the world, we do manage to provide a “detail page” served directly from Zoodle. We also provide an image URL in the same fashion.
  • Private application with some public pages: Ted’s use of Zoodle requires his authentication but the detail page, image URL, and Oodle XML feed are all publicly available on the web.
  • Gradual approach to form completion: Through the use of several forms that are attached to the main “Essentials” form, Ted can easily fill out the parts of a real estate listing that he currently has data for and come back to finish the rest at any time before publishing.
  • Republishing: Data can be edited, overwritten, and republished at any time.

Thanks Jynn & Pete!

If you have such mashups made using Zoho, please do leave your comments.

Emergency Maintenance

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Update: As of 6:15 pm PST  We have put in a fix & the services are now up. We are monitoring the logs closely, to see if the race condition below recurs. We will keep you updated of the status. Our development team is also doing an exhaustive review of the impacted parts of the code. If you encounter any errors accessing services, please post a comment here or in the forums. We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused, and we assure you of our vigilant effort to maintain a high level of service.

(Original post 5:35 pm PST) We encountered an unexpected error (a potential race condition) this evening in a part of the common software framework underlying our services, and as a matter of precaution, we have taken down Zoho services (except Zoho CRM & Zoho Projects, which are on a different framework), as we work to isolate the problem. This race condition seems to occur under heavy load (as they typically do), and the past couple of days, our load has been quite heavy, several times the normal load. We have sufficient hardware infrastructure to handle the load, but we detected some potential software race conditions from our logs. Multiple teams are working right now to isolate the issue. We will post an update here as soon as additional information is available.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. We realize so many of you depend on Zoho services, and we take the responsibility you entrust with us seriously. We will bring up the service as soon as possible, likely within 3 hours (8:30 PM Nov 27, Pacific Standard Time i.e GMT – 8 hours).

Zoho Writer Supports Offline Editing

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Just a few days after we added features like Pagination, Header/Footer etc in Zoho Writer, the team is ready with another update adding offline editing capabilities.

In August, we made Zoho Writer available offline. When we released it back then, the documents were available in read-only mode when offline. With today’s update, you’ll now be able to view and edit your documents offline. This functionality is based on Google’s open source project Google Gears. We thank them for the project and their support.|

For Zoho Writer to work offline, you’ll need to have Google Gears plug-in installed on your browser (works on Firefox 1.5+, IE 6+). Click on ‘Go Offline’ to access your documents offline. By default, we download 15 documents each from ‘My Docs’ and ‘Shared Docs’ section. You can change the default setting by clicking on the down arrow beside ‘Go Offline’ link. The documents are downloaded based on the ‘Sort Order’ in your ‘My Docs’ section.

When you are not connected to the internet, you can visit http://writer.zoho.com/offline to access and edit your documents offline. When you are back online, clicking on ‘Go Online’ will let you to synchronize the modified documents with the online versions.

The following video should give you a quick overview on how this functionality works.

For better clarity, try this video. You’ll notice that not all functionalities available online are available in offline mode. This is because some of the functionalities are online specific while others will make their way into the offline mode moving forward.

Another new feature to come as part of this update is Right-to-Left language support. We have a lot many users from the Middle-East who had been asking for this. Click on the ‘Page Setup’ icon (), the third from left on the Zoho Writer toolbar and you will see the language ‘Direction’ option in the pop-up window that opens.

zoho-writer-rtl.jpg

Please do give our offline editing capabilities a try and let us know your feedback. If you’d like to be informed in advance of announcements from Zoho, subscribe here.

Related Posts:

The 1% Problem

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Sabeer Bhatia, of HotMail fame, launched Live Documents, on online office suite today. In the news coverage, this snippet caught my attention:

Bhatia said, “If Live Documents makes 1 per cent of Microsoft Office revenues, then we would earn USD 200 million a year. If Live Documents makes 10 per cent of Microsoft Office revenues then our revenues would be USD 2 billion a year in the next three to four years.”


Here is Guy Kawasaki’s The Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs and number 11 (sic) on that list is:

“All we have to do is get 1% of the market.” (Here’s a bonus since I still have battery power.) This lie is the flip side of “the market will be $50 billion.” There are two problems with this lie. First, no venture capitalist is interested in a company that is looking to get 1% or so of a market. Frankly, we want our companies to face the wrath of the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice. Second, it’s also not that easy to get 1% of any market, so you look silly pretending that it is. Generally, it’s much better for entrepreneurs to show a realistic appreciation of the difficulty of building a successful company.

Of course, every rule is meant to be broken (or rather, every lie has to be told!), and if anyone can get away with it, Sabeer Bhatia, with his hot(mail) track record can.

Trying to get 1% of “office productivity market” is about as meaningless as trying to get 1% of the “software market”: the category is way too broad. We tend to think of “MS Office” as synonymous with Word/Excel/Powerpoint, but I am almost certain that the $20 billion revenue figure includes a lot more than those. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Outlook, Access, OneNote, Publisher, perhaps Sharepoint, even Visio … as part of the broader office suite.

A more serious problem is that markets are ever-changing, dynamic categories. Ever wondered what happened to the “pager market”? Revenue that comes under one category today may come under a totally different category tomorrow – for example, licensing revenue may become advertising revenue.

Finally, there is what I call the “tail problem” – it is the old 80-20 problem. It is quite likely that 80% of MS Office revenue comes from 20% of their user base. Now guess which 80% of the user base is available to online offerings like Zoho or Live Documents? If you answered “the most lucrative 20% of the Microsoft user base will be ready to switch”, I want to bring your attention to that bridge we have available for sale.

Zoho Sheet Update – New sidebar, Themes, Autofill, Duplicate sheet and more

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Zoho Sheet just had an update with some nice features. Here are the highlights:

Enhanced Sidebar and Batch Operations:

If you are a regular user, the immediate thing you will notice is that the sidebar, which lists your spreadsheets, has undergone some changes. It now displays an icon next to the name representing whether it is shared or public or private. There are different filtered views like “Shared by Me”, “My Public Documents”, “Last Created (10)” and “Last Modified (10)”. You can also sort the spreadsheets by Name / Created Time / Modified Time. It will remember the last selected view the next time you login.

There are various batch operations too which are quite useful – Batch export, Batch share, Batch delete, etc. Just select multiple sheets and perform actions on them using the Actions menu at the bottom.

Sidebar DefaultSidebar

New Theme:

Tired of the green look of Zoho Sheet? We have now added an alternative Grey Theme which can be set using the “Themes” menu at the top.

Grey Theme

Auto-fill / Auto-suggest:

AutofillWe now support Autofill in spreadsheet. Zoho Sheet will try to suggest matching words available in the same column as you type the first few characters. This is pretty useful when a column will have the same set of values repeated. It also reduces human errors during data entry. You can also right click and use the “Pick from list” menu to pick and insert values available in the current column.

Duplicate Sheet:

Duplicating a sheet in a workbook has been supported. To do so, you can right click on the sheet tab at the bottom and select “Copy This Sheet”. You can use this when you want to duplicate a sheet in a workbook keeping all the formatting and data intact. You will also notice that we have added a “Move This Sheet” option too. Previously, you can move a sheet only by dragging it.

Duplicate sheetGoto

Goto:

You can now use Ctrl+G to go to a particular cell in the current sheet. Entering the cell reference such as A32 will take you to the corresponding cell.

Enhanced Color Picker:

Color pickerThe color picker for the cell foreground and background color has been enhanced. Now it will remember the last applied color, so that you can reapply the same color in one click. To apply a different color, you would need to click on the drop down next to the color icon.

And many more

Two more shortcuts, Shift+Enter to go to the previous cell in the same column and Ctrl+K to insert a hyperlink, have been added. A new date format “D MMM YYYY”, which is quite useful for Genealogists, has been added upon request from our user.

We have also improved the performance of the application – mainly in loading of spreadsheets and applying formatting (like font styles) on a cell range.

Apart from this, we have fixed few issues too. Refer our What’s New page for more info.

Let us know your feedback as always.

Ask Zoho: Why AJAX? Why not Flash?

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Before I begin, let me state upfront that we do have a good background in Flash; ToonDoo, a great place to create & share comics – think of it as our humble contribution to global unproductivity wink – uses Flash heavily. In fact, it is hard to think of doing the comic design tools in ToonDoo without Flash. So, yes, we love Flash – our fanatics are better than your fanatics!

Yet, for much of the Zoho suite, whenever we think “That feature would be hard to do in Javascript, we may need Flash”, our developers find a way to do it in Javascript. A forthcoming major release in Zoho would serve to illustrate it. We have had a team working away furiously for the past several months on this release. Let me just say that this team has made Javascript sing … and I am sure you are going to love the result!

As good as Flash is, Javascript keeps getting better. Let me outline some of the reasons we haven’t had the urgency to move.

1. Native to the Web

A real web application should natively support web standards – HTML & CSS are pretty much synonymous with “web standards”. The biggest reason we started out with Javascript is that it is native to the web – in the sense its core object model for Javascript is the HTML/CSS Document Object Model. The DOM is a gift to web applications. Even with the annoying browser differences in DOM (which sophisticated libraries increasingly hide), it is still far better to have the DOM than not have it. Flash, for all its advantages, sits in a separate space from the browser. In that sense, Flash is not that different from Java-on-the-client. In fact, Flash is Java-on-the-client-done-right.

I am sure Flash will eventually find a way to natively integrate with the browser but it is not there yet.

2. Open Source Library Support

This is a big one. The depth and variety of libraries available in Javascript just keep getting better. It is mind boggling just how much open source development is going on in Javascript. Developers keep pushing the envelope. For one example, look at the jQuery solar system demo. It shocked me the first time I saw it. Pretty impressive that Javascript could do that, right? The capabilities of Javascript exceed the client requirements of office productivity applications today, and there are tons more innovations coming.

3. Vector Graphics in Browsers

This is another big one. Vector graphics formats like SVG (Firefox, Opera), VML (IE), and HTML Canvas (Firefox, Safari, Opera), are becoming ubiquitous in browsers. Yeah, it sucks that IE doesn’t support SVG, but that can be worked around. Even cooler is the fact that SVG & VML are XML and very Javascript friendly. You can do real magic.

4. Mobile Support

Web browsers are ubiquitous in mobiles. Even when their Javascript engines are poor, it is easy to lighten up on the Javascript to offer a serviceable HTML client; the client can degrade gracefully. Flash is a zero or one proposition. One word: iPhone.

5. Size

Try any of the Zoho services. Try equivalent Flash applications. Compare the initial loading time. As broadband adoption spreads, this would matter less and less. But it still matters a lot today. In a country like India, where “broadband” has been redefined to mean as little as 128kbps (no kidding!) it really matters. Yes, it is only one time loading. Java Web Start said the same thing too.

Bottom line: we will use Flash when appropriate, but at this point, Javascript is getting better faster!