OmniDrive becomes perfect with Zoho

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Early last year I talked about Shortcomings of existing online storage solutions where the primary issue was upload/download. Once you have your documents uploaded to online storage solutions, you have to download them to view/edit them. This defeated the purpose of having online storage and hence online storage solutions were used more for backup than being your extended drive.

All of this is history today. OmniDrive, the online storage solution overcomes this limitation by integrating Zoho Apps. I call it ‘The Perfect Online Drive’. What does this mean? Well, if you have your documents online in OmniDrive, you can view/edit these documents just by double clicking on them. The documents then are opened in Zoho Applications. As of today you can open Word, HTML, txt and ODT formats in Zoho Writer. Next week this will also work with Zoho Sheet and Show as well.

Apart from viewing/editing documents online, you can also create new documents directly from OmniDrive.

It was really great working with OmniDrive on this solution. Look forward for more integration. Below are couple of screenshots.
od2.jpg od1.jpg
Here is the article on TechCrunch.

Here is the announcement from OmniDrive.

Zoho Projects Update

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Zoho Projects had an important update just now. Three most wanted features requested by you users are part of this update.

You can now attach notes to individual tasks. This brings in greater flexibility/benefit as you can now add description/comments for a task, keep track of task completion etc.

Administrators are now allowed to clear projects and start them afresh. This is an improvement over the past implementation where a project can only be archived. The new implementation will allow users a choice – either to archive their projects for later reference or delete old project data in one go This addresses user concerns of a simple delete option at the project level not being available in Zoho Projects before (hey Marty, this one is for you especially ;-)).

One oft heard feedback from users was that meetings can’t be set as recurring in Zoho Projects. Not anymore. Users can now schedule recurring meetings every day, week, month or year.

forumpost_preview


Other than the above, the current update includes the following features too – Users can now update their job title and contact details like mobile/phone number etc. Other than archiving projects, completed milestones can now be archived too to avoid clutter. And whenever a forum post is being typed, the user can see a preview of it at the bottom. Performance tweaks have also been done on select operations.

Try out the latest in Zoho Projects and have your say in the comments below or write to us at feedback(at)zohoprojects(dot)com.

Users participating in Zoho Writer Template Library

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A few weeks back we had announced a template library feature where not only users could pickup the readymade templates for drafting their documents but can also upload and share their own templates in their areas of expertise so that others can benefit from them. Well we have had many requests from users who had come up with their own templates to add to the template library and it is quite an assortment of categories ranging from resumes, proposals & multiple-choice test to musical concert tickets. Here are few of the users who have their templates featured in the Zoho Writer template library:

1. Ritesh Kashyap and Kalleanderson with their respective resumes.

BTechResume

ITResume

2. Pat Hypia with a sample speech outline.

SpeechOutline

3. Andy Wallace with his fundraising proposal.

FundraisingProposal

4. Ross Normy with his innovative multiple-choice test on quantitative & logical ability.

Multi-choice Test 

5. And last but not the least Chuan Pai with his concert ticket template.

ConcertTkt

Ritesh, Kalleanderson, Pat, Andy, Ross and Chuan thanks a ton for contributing to the zoho writer template library. We would love to have more users contributing to the template library here.

Link External Data, Comments and more

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Zoho Sheet had an update last week with some nice features:

1. Link External Data: You can now link external CSV files available in a public URL to a spreadsheet in Zoho. This spreadsheet will then automatically be in sync with the CSV file. Any updates in the CSV will be reflected in the spreadsheet with a max of 15 min delay. Just specify the URL of the CSV file, which cell to start and you get up-to-date information on your spreadsheet. With that data, you can then do some analysis, draw charts, publish them, etc. Ismael Ghalimi has an excellent post on this.

2. Commenting on spreadsheets: Apart from adding notes and comments to cells (which we already support), you can now even add comments / feedback on the spreadsheet as a whole. This will be very useful when working collaboratively on a spreadsheet. This will be further enhanced with email notifications, image verification while posting anonymously, etc in the future updates.

3. Semipublic Sheets: While publishing your spreadsheet as public, you can now specify whether to list it in Zoho public sheets or not. This will be very useful if you want the spreadsheet to be accessible in a public URL to a select audience but you don’t want others to land on your spreadsheet. This will also prevent search engines from crawling your semi-public sheets, unless you link to it or embed it on a public page.

4. Hyperlinks: Hyperlinks are now supported in Zoho Sheet. Just type in an URL and it will automatically create a link. You can also link the full text in a cell to an URL. Use the right click menu for this.

5. Auto versioning: Apart from manually marking versions, we now version the file automatically when you open it fresh and start editing. But we maintain only the last 25 versions. There are no limits to manually marked versions though. This is again useful when multiple people work on the same spreadsheet. Each one’s changes gets versioned automatically.

Apart from the above new additions, certain issues have also been fixed. Have a look at our What’s New page for detailed information.

We are working on some exciting features and are also giving high priority to performance. We will be improving the application performance in the next couple of updates.

The latest news about Zoho

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Some excerpts from recent blog posts and articles around the web here.

Update : Rod Boothby at Innovation Creators is running a (Zoho powered) poll on who will be Read/Write Intranet Idol in 2007. Vote for your favorite at his blog.

Bala has a nice review of Zoho Wiki. From his blog,

Here is yet another great product from Zoho. You can create your Wiki in a flash. No more ads in Wikis and a you have a full featured WYSIWYG editor without any limitation on the number of pages.


Larry Cannell in his Collaboration Loop column writes,

Ever since writing about Google Docs and Spreadsheets, I have been fascinated by the prospect of a completely web-based office suite. Since then I have been using Google Docs and Spreadsheets whenever possible. This past week I experimented with the Zoho suite of tools. They look to be several steps ahead of Google in terms of features and level of maturity.

Zoho has an incredibly powerful online application builder called Zoho Creator. Think simple (as in easy to use) yet powerful version of Microsoft Access for the web. These types of applications are especially well suited for web delivery.

Sys-Con’s Ajax world magazine had an article on Zoho and quoted Manikandan Vembu, our Director of Engineering.

“2006 was the year of the consumer web where companies like YouTube, MySpace took off. We believe 2007 will be the year of the enterprise web where AJAX applications will play a crucial role in the enterprise space. Web 2.0 will help enterprises drastically reduce their IT spending & we believe this will bring new opportunities for Zoho in enterprises.”

The blog ‘BULLETIZER’ in a post about introducing its readers to ‘cool new web efficiency tools’ had this to say on Zoho :

Zoho. Quite possibly the greatest suite of things you need but don’t know about, Zoho offers all kinds of great tools for free. It would be great if Zoho really took root, because their site is clean, the tools are useful, and the price fits into every budget.

Do you have anything to say about Zoho? Please leave your comments or if you have a blog, make a post.

iPhone impact on Web Apps like Zoho

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I almost spent the whole day at MacWorld and am certainly blown away like others with features announced with iPhone. While iPod and Phone integration excited many users (including me), I was particularly excited about the internet communications functionality part of iPhone. The reason is simple….when there is a device with a big screen along with built in Wi-Fi and a full fledged browser with very good ease of use, the chances of practically and regularly using web apps on a mobile device can only go up (considering my bad experiences with many existing devices). This can only be good news for web apps like Zoho as the reach goes beyond desktop.

What does this mean to Zoho….as Bill Seaver says, it can only be good news for us as we can now offer browser based office apps on your phone too. But first, we will have to work on supporting Safari. I hope we will have browser options (firefox) going forward on iPhone.

Update: Ismael Ghalimi has a good post on iPhone and Office 2.0.

Update 2: Sridhar Vembu says in comments

The logical next step would be for the mobile phone to dock itself through USB to a LCD display device, so the phone gets charged while driving the display & keyboard. In another variation, it can be even your LCD TV where you dock the phone, and drive it through a remote keyboard. You will have these 100% stateless display/keyboard combinations available everywhere you go, and people just dock their mobile to it, fire up a browser to get their work done. This would be my personal computing nirvana. I posted about it over a year ago at

http://blogs.adventnet.com/perma/5042/mobile-phone-as-pc.html

Phillip Greenspun has said the same thing before. I hope Apple/Nokia/Motorola/Samsung would get us that device soon.

Mobile and Office 2.0 is a marriage made in heaven.

A little conversation at this end of the blogosphere

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There has been lots of examples of companies ignoring users getting punished in the long run. And with the proliferation of blogs, the reaction’s much more immediate.

Thanks to gurus and blogging evangelists like Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel, Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod et al, Zoho has pursued and will continue to pursue the path of actively listening to what the blogosphere has to say of us. This is not something new to us though as at AdventNet (parent company of Zoho), we have been doing this for the last 10 years – listening to what our users and customers have to say.

While there are a lot many examples of Zoho’s active involvement with the blogosphere, I would like to bring to attention a little conversation that happened last month.

Yoav Ezer started this conversation when he published a very good and detailed report of how people are leaving sensitive information on the web while using web services like Zoho, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Thinkfree and others. He pointed out that many people didn’t know they have actually made the info public allowing everyone to see.

The post got the attention of many including a long-time Zoho user – Rich, another blogger – SaaS-a-fras and obviously us too. Rich’s point was about how it isn’t the online services fault fully – it is like with blogging or YouTube, users should know they are using online services and realize that it is their actions and it is their sole responsibility.

Saas-a-fras countered with “people won’t blame the posters but will instead blame the software companies even though users should know better.  So even though the security of the providers system was not directly being questioned, the end result it that it would be.”

We don’t make documents as public by default (unlike say YouTube or del.icio.us where things uploaded are made public by default so that it gets social). Users have to click on ‘Publish’ -> ‘Make it public’ for doing so in our case. And yet, Yoah’s report had evidence of people publishing sensitive info. What we found out was this – all Zoho services have a demo account which we have had as a policy for not locking in the first time users, who are here just wanting to try out Zoho. If someone copies and pastes data into the demo account, it is there for the next person logging on to see. So, we immediately canceled the demo account for Zoho Writer. (we followed up by taking of the demo for Zoho Sheet and Zoho Show too later)

As you can see it was a small thing to do from our side. But the beauty of it was that the whole thing was initiated by the users and blogosphere. If it hadn’t been for Yoav’s report, Zoho services would have continued to have had the demo account. And if we hadn’t been actively tracking the blogosphere, we couldn’t have found this sensitive issue.

Thanks to Chris Kasten for chipping in.