Zoho Wiki Enhancements

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Since the release of Zoho Wiki Beta, we have made available some oft-asked-for features by our users. Listing them below :

  • You can rename your Wiki page title
  • Delete option for the wikis you created
  • Optional ‘Table of Contents’ for a Wiki page (Headings in the page will be made part of the TOC and linked when you choose that option)
  • Performance improvements for faster loading of the wiki pages

Other than the above, we have fixed a few bugs too. Coming up next are improvements to the current navigational system. Till we get that in place, please use the ‘Wiki Index’ at the bottom of your Wiki page for listing all the pages in your Wiki.

Do tell us if you have would like to have anything specific in Zoho Wiki.

Zoho Sheet Major Update: Collaborative Editing, Chat Integration & More

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We just rolled out an important update in Zoho Sheet. The key features include

- Collaborative Editing
- Zoho Chat Integration
- Extended API
- Open Document Sheet Support

Collaborative Editing:

With this update, multiple users can work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. When you open a spreadsheet that someone is working on, you’ll see a small message informing this.

editing.jpg

From then on, all the changes made by multiple users will be reflected immediately.

Zoho Chat Integration

If you want to chat with the users working on the sheet, just click on the chat icon (chaticon.jpg) at the bottom right corner and it’ll open up the chat interface.

chatsheet.jpg

APIs

We also extended our APIs for Zoho Sheet for reading more granular data like a cell or cell range. APIs are now available in 3 formats – XML, CSV and JSON (also JSONP). Complete API documentation is available here.

The following video demonstrates these functionalities.

Do give these new features a try and let us know what you think.

Update: I forgot to mention another significant feature we added with this update – OpenDocument Sheet (.ods) Support. Now you can import and export .ods sheets into Zoho Sheet. Thanks Samy for observing this.

Announcing Zoho Meeting

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We are glad to announce the latest addition to the Zoho Suite, Zoho Meeting – a web conferencing application.

As this is a different kind of application (more of a real-time streaming) from the existing zoho applications we decided to take it slow by offering the app to selected users first. We hope to open up the application to public in April.

As with other web conferencing applications, Zoho Meeting lets you schedule meetings, share desktop, chat etc. However it offers few unique functionalities. For the current release, the host has to be on windows and the attendees can be on Windows, Mac, Linux or any OS with Java or Flash available. The attendees need not install anything to attend a meeting.

Meeting also is integrated into Zoho Show. This means you can now embed your desktop sharing session inside a slide. The complete desktop sharing session can also be recorded and shared with the attendees right away. The follwing video should give you a brief intro to the app. By the time it steps out of private beta, you’ll see more exciting features.

Zoho Writer integrates Zoho Chat

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As you may know, Zoho Writer supports collaborative editing. This means multiple users can work on the same document at the same time when the document is shared among these users. With todays update, you can also chat with the users working on the document.

When a document is shared with other users, you’ll see a participant section appear on the left bar which lists the users to whom you shared the document.
writer-chat.jpg
Click on the chat icon beside the username and it’ll launch the chat session.

chatframe.jpg

Now, as long as the other user is logged into any Zoho application that has Zoho Chat integrated (Zoho Mail has integrated currently and we have more coming) he’ll see your message and can chat from that application.

Please do give it a try and let us know what you think.

Distributed Publishing with Zoho Writer

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Owen Kelly has come up with a great post on how Zoho Writer can help publishers publish their work online easily. He has a very good set of points on how easy the embeddable script code that Zoho Writer provides can help achieve this as against other methods available online currently. For the system to work, he recommends a few improvements to the present Zoho Writer. And he sees the implications as far reaching. From his blog post :

I found something that completely surprised me, and left me wondering what exactly was going on. The Zoho design team seemed to have solved a major problem without even realising it.

… if I have my curriculum vitae in my memi, why would I want to copy it to give to you? If I did that then the next time I altered or updated it you would be in possession of an outdated copy. Either I would have to remember to send you an updated version, or risk you continuing to distribute an old version.

In the same way, if I write a paper for an academic conference why would I want to send a copy to the organisers so that their web-master could format it and put it on their site? When someone kindly pointed out a factual error or typo I would be obliged to forward corrections to the organisers, hoping that they would ask their webmaster to update it. They might not and I might end up patiently answering emails from a growing crowd of conference attendees all helpfully pointing out the mistake I had already tried to correct.

This problem will not be solved by sending my contacts a link or an RSS feed. The conference organisers do not want to put a link to my paper on their site. They want to publish my paper, and all the other papers, in a uniform format on the conference site. Then, when the conference is over, they want to have them available in an online archive of papers.

The problem will not be solved by wikis either. Neither the organisers nor the authors are offering the work up for alteration and adaption – at least at this stage. They want to present the work as completed, while somehow allowing the author an easy way to correct, enhance, expand it or syndicate in the future.

What is needed to fill this requirement is a form of distributed publishing. This would allow me to publish my paper in my own memi, and then provide a simple mechanism that would allow other people to have the paper automatically published on their sites, using their style sheets. The paper would appear as a standard page on the site, but would be linked back to the originating site, and would be updated automatically to reflect any changes in the original.

The distribution of the linking mechanism would form the entire process of publication.

When you paste this [the code snippet of Zoho Writer] into any web page it calls a javascript function that inserts the content at that point in the page in such a way that it is styled with the page’s own CSS style sheet. Every time the page is opened the script is enacted again and the latest version of the publication is always loaded.

This means that if you post the code snippet on your site, everyone who takes it and includes it on their site will publish your articles in the style and format of their own site, while being certain that their published version remains in sync with the original version. In other words, out of the box, and with no announcement or discussion of the implications or the potential, Zoho Writer offers a version of distributed publication.

There are at least three obvious problems with Zoho’s current use of html.

The first and most important is the decision to make the normal use of the return key produce line breaks instead of new paragraphs. Open a new document; start typing as you might in Word; format a few headlines and then save. If you look at the html view you will find the headings are formated correctly but there are no paragraphs anywhere, only line breaks. On the other hand, if you open a new document and then (before typing anything) select the Normal style, pressing the return key will result in the closing of the current paragraph and the opening of a new one.

The second point is possibly less serious. Zoho marks up bold and italic by creating spans and then adding inline style to them, whereas WordPress, for example, marks them up correctly by using the strong and emphasis tags. This is correct theoretically because it avoids mixing up logical and literal mark-up. It is correct practically because it allows designers at the destination to apply whatever local styles they want: to put all the bold mark-up in a different font, and the italic in small caps, for example.

Dropping inline styles into documents intended for distribution and styling at the destination serves no logical purpose, and can only be the source of unnecessary problems.

The third problem is simple, and can be solved by simply adding another menu item. Zoho does not appear to offer a simple method for marking a paragraph as a block quote, something that is used frequently all over the web, and off-line in academic papers.

We see the merit in Owen’s idea and would be addressing the issues he’s raised. If you want to support Owen with his “distributed publication with Zoho Writer” idea, do embed the Zoho Writer script code of his article in your blogs / web sites. You can embed the script code of your own Zoho Writer documents too and see how easy it can be to publish your work in the same way. Also, please share your views in the comments below of how to improve upon Owen’s idea and what else needs to be done in Zoho Writer for more easier distributed publishing.

Owen Kelly is a writer, designer, artist and teacher. Currently he teaches digital interactive media at Arcada, a university of applied science in Helsinki, Finland. Thanks, Owen!

myDataBus integrates Zoho Sheet & Show

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Last Thursday I mentioned that myDataBus.com integrated Zoho Writer into its application. Less than two working days later, they integrated Zoho Sheet and Zoho Show. Thats fast. With this integration, they beat other online storage vendors in opening all major office file formats online without needing a local application.

As Brian mentioned in his blog post, Our Zoho Show API currently lets you view presentations online. We will soon extend the API to edit your presentations as well.

I’d like to thank myDataBus again for their integration. This also showcases the ease of integration using Zoho API. I hope to see more such integrations.

Scheduled Maintenance of Zoho Services

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The big moment is at our doorsteps and the mother of all Zoho updates is to happen from today. As announced earlier, we will be moving all of Zoho’s services to a new datacenter with more powerful servers over the next few days. The upgrade is to happen in a phased manner. There will be a downtime of a maximum of 8 hours starting 9 pm PDT for each of the Zoho services from today. The schedule to be followed for each of the Zoho services will be as follows :

First Phase: March 16, starting 9 pm PDT (Update : Completed)

  • Zoho CRM
  • Zoho Show
  • Zoho Creator

Second Phase: March 17, starting 9 pm PDT (Update : Completed)

  • Zoho Sheet

Third Phase: March 18, starting 9 pm PDT (Update : Completed)

  • Zoho Chat
  • Zoho Mail
  • Zoho Writer

Fourth Phase: March 19, starting 9 pm PDT (Update : Completed)

  • Zoho Wiki
  • Site24x7

You will not be able to access the respective Zoho services at the above said times. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused. The benefits once the upgrade is over are huge compared to the downtime of a few hours to be experienced just once. We sincerely hope all of Zoho’s users will understand and take this in good spirit.