Zoho Projects : Closer Integration with Writer/Sheet/Show and more

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Zoho Projects’ latest update has a few functionalities that you will love. The project files (typically doc, xls, ppt) that you have centrally loaded to the ‘Documents’ section of Zoho Projects are now viewable in Writer/Sheet/Show. No need to download and view them on a desktop based app. And it gets better. When you open & edit a doc/xls file in Writer/Sheet and save the changes, it automatically gets reflected in the Zoho Projects ‘Documents’ section as a new version! An example of how the option looks like below :

The other major area we’d concentrated on this update is that of logging time & how you see your work calendar. You can now have a consolidated calendar view of all your projects (under ‘My Home’ -> ‘My work calendar’). And there are filtered views too – By User, By Project, By Tasks, By Milestones etc.

The ‘work calendar’ also has the iCal subscription option at the bottom. You can subscribe to this HTTP Authenicated feed in your iCalendar and get automatic updates when new tasks get added to your projects, for example.

With the ‘log calendar’ view, you can now see the total logged time of a user across projects.

And Zoho Projects now allows consolidated export of  the logged hours timesheet for each user across Projects as a xls/csv file.


Generic tasks assigned to ‘Any User’ can now be logged by the user(s) who’d done them.

Other than the above, the UI of the ‘Forums’ section has been improved as well. Try the latest Zoho Projects and we would love hearing your feedback.

Zoho Writer & Sheet Update : More language options etc

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The latest Zoho Writer update added a few more goodies. In addition to English, we have had a Japanese version for quite sometime. Zoho Writer is now available in a lot many languages as well. Soon, there will be Chinese and Portuguese versions.

Zoho Sheet too has added support to more languages (to the initial five).

One main and valid complaint from our users is that the UI across Zoho services lacks consistency. And we have just started addressing it. We introduced the easy ‘Switch to’ option in Zoho Writer first and most other Zoho services now have it. Now, the collaborative chat functionality in Writer has been made similar to the one in Sheet. Clicking on the small text bubble at the bottom-right of your screen will open the Chat tab to the right. More UI related updates soon.

The last but not the least, a very important update has happened in Zoho Writer. Full search was disabled for sometime in between (due to performance issues) and you were able to search on document names & features alone. You can now search within documents as well. For now, we support searching in English alone and search for other languages will be available soon.

Do test drive the new features and we will be glad hearing your feedback.

Introducing Zoho Viewer

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We are glad to announce a new addition to Zoho apps – Zoho Viewer – an easy way to share and view documents.

You need not be a Zoho user to use Zoho Viewer. Just upload any of the supported document formats to view the document. The URL you get in your address bar will be the permalink to that document and can now share this document with other users. You can email the link to this document using the ‘Share’ option or you can embed it using the code given under the ‘Embed’ option. We also have options to export the document to different formats or you can just download the original document using the ‘Download’ option.

This short video gives you a quick overview of Zoho Viewer.

The documents you upload are not viewable by others unless you share the URL. They are also not indexable by search engines (unless you link a particular document).We talked about couple of points earlier – 1) Attachment are Evil and 2) Document are URLs. Zoho Viewer is a product designed along those lines. It lets you easily share documents as URLs without having to attach files. Some users internally call it as TinyURL for Documents.

We think this is a very simple and useful application. Please give it a try and let us know what you think.

Update: We increased the upload size limit from 5MB to 10MB.

Getting Productive with Facebook

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When we released the Zoho Online Office – Facebook mashup, it got a very good welcome from the innovative bloggers as the first online office suite to be available within Facebook. We knew students would love to share and do their assignments with their friends when logged into Facebook. And it showed when TechCrunch’s interns listed Zoho as one of their Top 10 Facebook apps & Read/WriteWeb made it a part of their ‘Top 10 Facebook Apps: Work‘ list.

Not just the 20-something students, the 40-something Robert Scoble liked it as well. He didn’t list it since he didn’t have anything public to share. As said in your Kyte.tv channel, hope we get to see Podtech’s stats in a public Zoho Sheet soon, Robert ;-)

Then came this blog post from Andre Malan, a student from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (he is also the winner of the ‘International Leader of Tomorrow Award’) where he says,

In my last post “Facebook… you’re dead to me” I lamented at the way in which Facebook apps have killed the usefulness of Facebook as a social networking application. I was wrong (at least to a certain extent) and two events since then have convinced me of that fact.

The first event was discovering that Zoho now has a Facebook App. Imagine, students can find their classmates on Facebook using the courses feature (and if Facebook takes that away I might just disown it again!) and then work collaboratively with them using Zoho.

The above post reiterates our faith in students loving to have productivity apps in their Facebook account. If you are a student reading this, be aware that you can do much more than sharing what you like & poking friends around in Facebook :-) Go ahead, add the Zoho Online Office App to your Facebook account and see the difference it makes.

We came across an interesting blog post by Shanna Germain as well. In a post titled ‘I (heart) Zoho‘, she literally gushes about all things Zoho.

Granted, I’m probably the last person on the planet to discover Zoho, but I am now officially in love. And this is coming from someone who has been a die-hard Microsoft Office advocate for years.

I’ve been using Zoho Writer as my web-based writing app for a while now (I like it better than Google, because it’s easier to switch between projects, and because you can see all your projects without opening a new window; however it could use a few things to make it my ideal processor. Still, they seem to be making regular upgrades, so I have faith).

And their Zoho Creator rocks! (I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for a web-based way to keep track of my writing submissions). It’s easy to edit, easy to use and you can even embed it into a home page. I also love Zoho projects, which is very similar to Basecamp in its design and use.

Plus, their customer service (especially for a company that offers free products) has so far been out of this world.

Thanks to the Techcrunch interns, Scoble, Shanna, Andre and the student community which has made Zoho part of their life routine!

Questions for Zoho Creator’s Lead Architect?

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After wrapping up Suganya’s interview, Pete Thomas sent me an email saying that he wants to make this a series of interviews with some more guys at Zoho Creator. As we team had a good time pulling Suganya’s legs after reading her interview, we decided it’s Sriram’s turn now to face the music! Get ready, Sriram ;)

Sriram - Zoho Creator's Lead Arcitect

Jokes apart, Sriram is Zoho Creator’s Lead Architect. A very cool and composed guy, he handles Zoho Creator’s Infrastructure, Security, Caching Architecture, Performance and more. Pete has already posted some topics which Sriram will be answering.

So all you Zoho Creator users there, if you have any questions in these topics, please feel free to post your questions at Land of ZC and get to know from Sriram what it means to manage and maintain such a user-friendly beast.

Success Story: K. Hovnanian Homes uses Zoho Creator

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K. Hovnanian® Homes™ is a nationally recognized homebuilder that has been committed to excellence since 1959. The company started as a family-owned business, and through well-defined acquisition efforts, has expanded over the years to become a family of homebuilders with localized expertise in numerous markets throughout the United States.

Getting to the point, this below picture demonstrates how K. Hovnanian® Homes™ operated their business on a daily basis ie., collecting the home listing information of various parts of the state from their sales representatives and publishing this information onto their corporate website (www.khov.com).

Khov.com
(click on the image to read the story)

And after putting in much effort and time, the team was unable to provide consistent, accurate and real-time information for their customers when they requested them for. It cost them a lot in terms of money and customer satisfaction.

Alan Bradford, the marketing consultant of K. Hovnanian® Homes™ stumbled upon Zoho Creator. Combining Zoho Creator, Zoho Chat and another free website hosting service, the team was able to setup an environment where their sales associates can update their information easily. The entire process took them just 3 weeks. Yes just 3 weeks. Read the full story here.

Another interesting thing I found from Alan’s personal blog is that he has been using Zoho Creator for his personal needs since Sep 2006. Since then, he has been waiting patiently for Zoho Creator to become more reliable in terms of speed and uptime to use it for business needs (read his comment at Land of ZC). Thanks for your patience Alan, hope it paid off.

Do check out his personal blog – Big Ugly Couch, he writes some pretty interesting stuff there!

Customer service 2.0

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Many Zoho users ask us why we provide good customer service even for free users.

I’ve seen many vendors who don’t support their free users….just because they don’t pay. They don’t recognize the time the free users investing on the product….and if the product is in Beta, they are worth even more. Other vendors give away the product and charge for support – I personally dislike that model.

We truly think customer service should not be an paid option, but an integral part of the product offering, even if it’s free. It is for this reason we include a ‘Feedback’ link for every Zoho application that’ll put you in touch directly with our developers – not just the support staff, but developers who really need to know how the product is being used.

Apart from the ‘Feedback’ link, every Zoho application has a very active discussion forums (again, with a link from every app). Our Zoho Meeting team is one step ahead as they include a ‘Live Support’ link inside the app where you can chat (ofcourse Zoho Chat) with some one from our Meeting team if they are online. Also, we try to be very reachable. You’ll find my contact information (including my mobile number) sitting on our Contact Us section.

We truly believe, good customer service is essential for maintaining a relationship with the customer. It is important for the company and the customer. The quote in our About us section says it all.

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work – he is the purpose of it.
We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.

- Mahatma Gandhi

Customer Service will be a key differentiator for Zoho. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree that customer service should be part of the application offering?