The Star Ledger mentions Zoho

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Allan Hoffman at ‘The Star Ledger‘ in an article titled ‘Internet Software challenges
Microsoft
‘ had the following to say about companies trying to offer web-based alternatives to the MS Office suite, citing Zoho as the primary example.

Trash Microsoft Office.

That’s the message from a number of startups offering alternatives to Microsoft’s well- entrenched programs for word processing, presentations and spread sheets.

In providing alternatives, these companies don’t just trot out garden-variety software. Their programs are Web-based, meaning you don’t have to install and update software on your personal computer; the programs simply run from inside your Web browser, mimicking the look and feel of typical desktop applications. To top it off, they’re free — at least for now.

Too good to be true? Well, yes and no, as I learned after trying out Zoho (www.zoho.com), one of the innovators in Web-based tools competing with Office.

As with other applications in the trend known as Web 2.0, Zoho requires nothing more than a quick sign-up in order to get started. Unfortunately, Zoho requires separate accounts for the programs in its office suite — Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show and Zoho Writer. But once you have your accounts and sign on, you’re up and running, with an application inside your browser ready to create text documents, craft presentations or perform cal culations.

Anyone familiar with Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word should have a relatively easy time using these programs.

Among Zoho’s applications, the spreadsheet and word processing programs, in particular, provide many of the features frequently used by typical PC users. When you need to share your work with users of Office or other software, you can easily export (or import) your documents to standard formats.

The applications are particularly suitable for college students and mobile professionals interested in storing their work online, accessible from any computer. Others will enjoy Zoho’s sharing features. Zoho Writer, for instance, lets you make your documents public for others to read and offer comments, while Zoho Show will display your presentation online — a handy way to share a presentation with colleagues.

The software does have limitations. Zoho Writer only gives you seven different font sizes and limited font styles, while Zoho Show doesn’t offer anything close to the flexibility of PowerPoint.

That simplicity is a hallmark of many of the Web-based applications aiming to serve as Office substitutes.

We are working on a single sign-on and that should make things much easier for everyone using Zoho. And as is typical with any Web 2.0 application, like Zoho Writer & Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show will continue to evolve rapidly too.

And about tools like Zoho being web-based, Allan (like many others) had this to say,

Despite everything offered by these tools, I doubt droves of people will be abandoning Microsoft Office and other desktop office tools anytime soon. That’s not be cause of features or performance, but access. Unless you’re online, you don’t have the ability to run these programs.

Thanks to Allan for taking note of Zoho! And an answer to his concerns may be as stated here.

Zoho Writer Review in Hometown Life in Michigan

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Rick Broida writes about Zoho Writer in Hometown Life. Some excerpts.

It’s called Zoho Writer (zohowriter.com), and it’s my new favorite service.A Web-based word processor may sound like little more than a novelty, but trust me when I say it’s incredibly practical. It enables me to write using any Internet-connected computer.

And because my documents are stored online, I don’t have to copy them back and forth between flash drives as I go from one PC to another.

And he points to some bugs too

User beware: Zoho Writer is still in beta, and there are definitely some bugs in the system. For instance, importing and exporting Word files tends to produce some funky formatting and line spacing.What’s more, while composing this very column, I reached a point where ZW kept reverting to a previously saved version — it wouldn’t save any new changes.

I had no choice but to export the document to Word and finish it offline.

Thank you for your review Rick. We had a bug when a document was shared when this happens, and we have fixed it now, and it should be updated soon. We are fine tuning the product to enhance the user experience much further.

Real Time Collaborative Writing – NY Times mentions Zoho Writer

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NY Times has a Q&A section hosted by J.D. Biersdorfer where Zoho Writer is suggested as a possible solution for a question a user asked about real-time writing.

Q. My writing partner and I are on separate coasts but need a “real-time writing” collaboration tool, as opposed to writing a bit and then saving, e-mailing and reopening files, which loses the spark of collaboration. Are there any programs (chat, word processing, etc.) that can export to a usable file?

A. Most of the free instant-messaging programs (like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and Apple’s iChat) let you save transcripts of your messaging sessions and should let you copy and paste text into a word-processing document. AOL Instant Messenger, for example, even gives you a Text Only option when you choose to save the conversation in an open I.M. window by using the Save command under the File menu.

Some programs let you automatically save your transcripts to your hard drive each time you have an instant-message chat. Check your preferred I.M. software’s Tools or Preferences area for this option.

There are plenty of other collaboration programs around the Web. Some of the less expensive options include online word processors like Zoho Writer (www.zohowriter.com), which lets multiple users work on a document through a Web browser and store the files online.

That is exactly the need Zoho Writer collaborative editing feature is designed for. That is the power of a web based application, compared to the traditional desktop. Try it out, and let us know how it works.

Thank you, NY Times!

Is Zoho focused?

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The question about “Focus” for Zoho has been raised recently ( Competitors differentiates with Zoho by pointing the Focus angle ). To show you how focused we are, I am just giving the statistics of updates ( new features, bug fixes etc., ) we have been doing in each service. I have only taken the 4 services ( whole office suite + Zoho Creator ) as sample here to show our focus & commitment.

You can verify this statistics with those of competitors to see the difference for yourself. I am pretty confident that our pace will either be higher or on par with competition.

Here is the summary of updates for each service

Zoho Writer

Alpha Released on Sep 30 2005
( Update ) Beta Released on Dec 21 2005
22 updates in 10 months

Zoho Creator

Beta Released on Dec 21 2005
10 updates in 7 months

Zoho Sheet

Beta released on Apr 6 2006
7 updates in 3 months

Zoho Show

Beta released on June 22 2006
4 updates in 1 month

Here is a public sheet with the details http://www.zohosheet.com/public.do?fid=32310

Zoho Show : Add Notes, Save to your desktop & more

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Zoho Show had an update hours earlier. We have come up with some features that will assist you while doing your presentation.

There is a new Notes section added. Allows you to add Notes to each of your slides which you can refer to while giving a presentation. And worried about network connectivity not being available for giving your presentation? Don’t. Click on the ‘Export as HTML’ link & save the presentation you created in Zoho Show to your desktop. The presentation can now be viewed in the offline mode from within your desktop.

Other than the above there are lots of small enhancements too. Along with ppt & sxi, files with pps extension can now be imported into Zoho Show. The right click context menu has been enabled in Edit mode. The presentation file names you create in Zoho Show can now have special characters in them and issues while an iframe is drag n dropped/resized has been fixed too.

Try the new Zoho Show & tell us what you think.

Zoho at the University of Virginia

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The teachers/students at the University of Virginia are finding the Office trio of Zoho useful. They have multiple posts on us. (in fact they have separate categories created for Sheet, Show & Writer!). There was this post asking for comments about Zoho (and BubbleShare) and some of comments given there :

Leigh Says:
I can’t wait to introduce my English classes to Zoho writer In the past, we have had so many problems with saving the student’s work; using zoho tools, students will no longer need to panic when they discover that their computer does not have a compatible drive or that their disk is not functioning! I liked the appealing layout of Zoho writer and the capacity to track changes made to documents. I also love that the Zoho programs make work between home and school a breeze!

emilym Says:
I really like the Zoho programs. Zoho Writer would be very easy for me to use in Chemistry because I have to type many chemical formulas and equations and it gets tiresome trying to do subscripts and superscripts over and over. Zoho writer has buttons right there! Zoho Sheet would also be useful because I often use Excel and this would allow me to send my spreadsheets and graphs to colleagues instead of printing them out and making many copies. Zoho Show is nice, but I’m so used to PowerPoint that I don’t know if I could switch

Amy Mallow Says:
The Zoho features are pretty interesting. Like I said for the seedwiki, it would have been a useful tool for us in the last class where we shared our writing, made comments, and suggested changes. With the ZohoWriter, we would have been able to highlight the areas we were suggesting changes to be made, and we would not have had to send out numerous emails with lots of attachments. I’m thinking about trying the ZohoShow with my summer school students. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Katie Says:
Zoho is nice because the features are accessible from any computer, and you don’t have to worry about having your memory stick or disk. I like that you can share with others, too, on all of these sites (and choose the people you do so with).

Bland Says:
The Zoho Writer will be very useful in my class. We do not have Word on every computer in our school so this tool is very helpful for publishing.

Anika Armistead Says:
I think the Zoho programs are neat. I liked the ability to create the charts and graphs on ZohoSheet and then share them with other students. I can see this working great with our Pre-IB Chemistry classes and Pre-IB Algebra 2 classes that often share data on labs and projects where they analyze data.

It gives us immense satisfaction & pride knowing that Zoho is reaching the student community & serving them well :-)

Zoho Creator Under Maintenance, and Here is Why

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In our Zoho suite, popular services such as Zoho Writer and Zoho Show already run on a grid of servers. This means huge improvements in reliability, with downtime becoming negligible. They can also handle more concurrent users, as we keep adding more servers to the grid. In grid based systems, individual servers can come and go without causing service disruption. Zoho Sheet and Zoho Creator are still transitioning to the grid, and this process is expected to be complete within the next month. Zoho Creator is particularly challenging because database schemas for user applications can evolve. Our grid software makes some assumptions about schema evolution, which most other applications satisfy, but not Zoho Creator. This means some additional custom work, hence the delay.

Until that is complete, we are stuck with care-and-feeding the servers periodically. Data is backed up both in real time on disk and off-line so this is not a data protection issue, but more of a service availability issue.

Please accept our apologies for this service downtime. Once we move to the grid, this issue will not recur.

Update: It is up now.