Zoho Show Update

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We did an update to Zoho Show yesterday. Many new features have been introduced. The release in a gist:

  • Import presentation files (ppt, sxi) of upto 5 MB (before it was 1 MB)
    • Import happens in the background while you can work without interruption
    • You get notified by email when import finishes/fails
  • Insert images from the web by giving URLs
  • Embed live charts, HTML code snippets & links
  • Set background color for objects
  • Keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl-S (Save), Alt-N (New), Alt-O (Open)
  • Bug fixes including some JavaScript memory leak issues

And, we have made a presentation to highlight the above! Click on this Zoho Show presentation & tell us what you think.

Update: Ramesh comments

Here is how you can publish a live chart from Zoho Sheet – http://blogs.zoho.com/sheet/publish-charts/

You need to copy the 1 line HTML code for publishing Zoho Sheet chart as mentioned in the above link and paste it into the Insert HTML window in Zoho Show. Changes to the chart data in Zoho Sheet will automatically be reflected in this published live chart in Zoho Show.

We also have plans to integrate this more tightly.

Zoho Creator – Script integration on a more micro level

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Noticed the ‘D’ icon next to every field in the ‘Edit GUI’ mode of Zoho Creator? Deluge, the script language of Zoho Creator is now more integrated into the GUI mode itself. Previously, the only way to include scripts was to click on the ‘Edit Script’ link. (you can ease this a bit by having separate browser tabs for ‘Edit GUI’ and ‘Edit Script’ views). Now, clicking on the ‘D’ icon allows you to write “on change action” scripts associated with a specific field alone.

You can write the “on submit” and “on success” action scripts by clicking on the “Form Actions’ link present at the bottom of the form. You can also create formula fields now in the “Edit GUI” mode itself by selecting the field type as “Formula” while adding a new field. All these give you more control & ease over what you want your application to do.

To know more about the scripting language integration in Zoho Creator, click here & here.

Zoho Creator : Form input validation

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An application that gives a free ride to input incorrect data is useless. So validating form inputs is one area that needs to be done carefully while creating applications. Zoho Creator allows you to accurately validate the form inputs and helps you to give clear feedback to the user when the form does not accept the data.

Here is an overview that will help you to utilize this feature in Zoho Creator to the fullest.

Validations during a form submit can be classified as

  • User interface validation
    You can specify the constraints for the fields you are defining while creating a form. If you define a field to be of type Email, Zoho Creator checks if the data entered in the form for that field is a valid emailid, else it displays an error message to the user. Half the validation is done if you choose the type of the form field appropriately. By default, Zoho Creator supports an adequate number of field types.
  • Writing algorithmic logic
    In addition to performing user interface validation, you might want to check the user input with the data that you already have. Zoho creator allows you to write deluge script(an on submit action) for custom validation that will get executed before the form data is persisted.

What really happens when you submit a form in Zoho Creator ?

  • Zoho Creator first validates the submitted data based on the type of the field and properties defined for each of the fields.
  • The on submit action gets executed in the server. The default action of an on submit script is to submit the data, so you need to do a cancel submit if you want to stop a form from being submitted. You can also choose to provide proper error message to the user while canceling.
  • The same form is then shown to the user to re-enter the data.
  • Please note that the data gets persisted only if the on submit action does not get canceled.

Lets take a recruitment application for example to understand better. This sample recruitment application has just two forms

  • File Application
    Applicants can add fill in their details here. The admin can write deluge code to check if the application being posted satisfies the basic requirements, else he can display an error message and cancel the form submit. View the sample form and deluge code here.

The on submit action that executed while submitting the “Post Application” form is given below.

on submit
{
opening = New_Opening [Position_Name == $Applied_For];
if (opening.Status == “Closed”)
{
alert “The job profile ” + $Applied_For + ” for which you have applied is not currently open “;
cancel submit;
}
}

The code snippet given below fetches the data corresponding to the particular position applied by the applicant. You can access all the details related to that position by accessing the variable “opening”.

opening = New_Opening [Position_Name == $Applied_For];

The code snippet given below checks if the Status for that position is currently closed and displays an error message to the user.

if (opening.Status == “Closed”)
{
alert “The job profile ” + $Applied_For + ” for which you have applied is not currently open “;
cancel submit;
}

You can also read deluge help to learn more on scripting. Do try this feature and let us know your comments / suggestions.

Some bug fixes in Zoho Writer

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Zoho Writer had a small update a few minutes back & that fixed a few bugs. Torley, a longtime user of Zoho Writer had been complaining about the right click contextual menu not coming up after clicking on for a few times. With some good co-operation from Torley, the issue was narrowed down to the Image Properties dialog box. We have fixed this one.

Some of you had this issue of multiple tabs not opening even if you have checked the ‘Open each document as a new tab’ in your Zoho Writer ‘Settings’. This is now fixed & you should be able to open multiple docs in tabs.

The set of image icons on the customizable Zoho Writer were getting re-arranged in some incorrect order. This too has been fixed.

Do clear your browser cache before trying out the above.

Can Zoho Survive against the Giants?

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Recently, two bloggers we respect asked much the same question. First it was Pandurang Nayak asking Zoho in the Web 2.0 revolution: Creativity, yes! Business, where? and then Robert Scoble asked Online wordprocessor updated, but does it have a chance at survival?

First of all, thanks for asking, guys! We at AdventNet (the company behind Zoho services) are delighted to get noticed. We have been toiling away for 10 years now, building a profitable business. We actually predate a lot of the famous internet names, though whether that is something I should be proud of as CEO is debatable :-) At least we have the excuse that we never took any venture capital, mostly because at that time in the mid 90′s it wasn’t so easy to get for us hard-core engineers with no business experience whatsoever, focused on some “boring niche markets”, as one VC helpfully commented in 97.

There, I said it. “Boring niche markets” are how we can survive and endure. Remember that even with the absolute domination of Microsoft in the PC industry, companies ranging from Borland to Novell, in direct cross-hairs of Microsoft, endured. Online productivity applications have many specialized markets where we can play, ranging from education to legal services to journalism [as some commenters on Scoble's post point out]. And we fully intend to keep a respectably-featured free edition, even as the Zoho services emerge from beta, as we currently do in almost all other AdventNet products. As an example, ZohoCRM offers a 3-user free edition.

And as a quick glance at the AdventNet site will tell you, we have a pretty good track record serving such smaller markets profitably, providing affordably priced products with good customer service. So it is not all or nothing in business. Smaller players continue to thrive in many different industries long after giants have “conquered” the broader markets. Our own 10 year history is proof.

As a company, we are pretty conservative financially – we don’t spend money we don’t have. That has kept us going in some good times and bad, and I believe that will keep us going for a while yet. That financial prudence is the real guarantee for users who depend on our products that we will be around to serve them.

Natural Language Addressing in Formulas

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Did you know that Zoho Sheet can recogonize and correlate names used in formulas with cells / cell ranges automatically? You have to just give the row / column header of a table as arguments to functions and Zoho Sheet will auto-recogonize the cell range associated with the name. It is very convenient to quickly type in the formulas with these names instead of worrying about keying in the proper cell range.

Consider the following sheet available at http://zohosheet.com/public.do?fid=25835

Look at the formulas in the cells F5:F7 and C9:E9. The formula =SUM(USA) will automatically add the cell values in the row with the header “USA”. Earlier you had to use =SUM(C5:E5). Now the row header can directly be used. You do not even need to name / label the cell ranges. If the row / column header has a space in between, then you can use single quotes in formulas. For example: =SUM(‘United States of America’). Please note that special characters like a single quote in a row / column header needs to be escaped using a back slash – \. For example: =SUM(‘Bob\’s Expenses’)

You can even copy and paste these formulas to adjacent rows or columns and they will automatically be adjusted relatively. In this case, copying the F5 cell and pasting it to F6, will result in the formula =SUM(EMEA) in F6.

We hope it considerably eases typing in of formulas. As always, kindly try it out and send us your feedback and suggestions to support (at) zohosheet (dot) com.

Zoho Teacher

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No, we haven’t released another product, nor do we promise a weekly product release. ;) While tracking back the blogs that mentioned Zoho, we came to know that there were a good number of teachers who use Zoho for various class-room related activities. Alan, a Zoho user compiled a post on how he uses Zoho tools for teaching or other tasks. As an addendum to that post, here are a few more ways in which teachers can use Zoho effectively as educational tools:

(1) Zoho Creator with its form-building capacities can be used to survey, or gather comments from people. A form can be embedded in your blog or you can provide a URL to the form. Here’s a sample.

(2) Zoho Planner can be used to plan lessons over a period of time, provide homework- reminders, assign a to-do list for students. You can then share it by e-mail or publish it as a public page.

(3) Zoho Chat can be used to encourage conversations and discussions.

(4) And with our recent Zoho Writer update, more than two students can simultaneously work on a homework or a project report. Or a teacher can work alongside the students and guide them. All this online! 

Coming soon: Team-Planner which will be an extension of Zoho Planner for teams working on projects. Stay tuned!