Zoho Writer: Post Beta Update – V

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It’s a double treat at Zoho today. Coming close on heels to the Zoho Planner update is Zoho Writer’s with so many goodies thrown in.

- Many of you have been asking the word count feature. Not only the word count but character count is also now available. Just save a document & you’ll get the word/character counts at the bottom-right.
- Auto-saving of a doc happened every 45 seconds. We have improved it even further. Auto-save now happens when you switchto another document & while signing out.
- Maintaining multiple versions of a document? You can now switch to any version now with the single-click ‘Revert’ option available under document ‘History’
- Are you in doubt who all you emailed a doc from Zoho Writer to? No problems from now on. A list of all email IDs a doc has been emailed to comes to your help now.

Happy writing with Zoho Writer.

Zoho Planner changes big time

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We have come up with a revamped Zoho Planner!

Zoho Planner did have a good dose of AJAX thrown in its screens before but the UI now boasts of being completely AJAX-ified. What this translates to is a much improved user experience and all the links you click load much faster.

And great news for the users of non-English speaking countries. Had trouble having your ToDo lists made in your native language? Not anymore. Zoho Planner now supports UTF-8 character set encoding. Have your ToDos made in your native language itself.

Your Free Zoho Planner account allowed creation of just 10 pages. Until yesterday that is. Now everything’s unlimited for Free. You can now have unlimited pages with unlimited reminders, unlimited images & unlimited files as attachments.

Organize yourselves better with the new Zoho Planner

ps : Make sure to clear your browser cache before trying out the new Zoho Planner.

Traditional Spreadsheets in a Non-Traditional way

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During a chat with Gibu this evening, he raised me this question. How my recent initiative, Zoho Sheet, is positioned against Excel? Let me answer it here.

Excel is one of my favourite software. I love its usability. Perfectly designed for its intended purpose and users. But its not friendly now for internet population who want to consume lot of data from internet into their spreadsheets. Time to give it a thought. Listing here some of the shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets. For now, I refrain getting into pricing.

  • Sharing is pain. Not collaboration friendly. You cannot share it online with your friends, colleagues and clients. You might be sending it now as email attachments.
  • Built for non-internet users? Absolutely. You cannot integrate any internet information or mashup with cool web services. How about the spreadsheet integrating sales data from salesforce.com, your yahoo finance data, your favourite books from amazon ? This blog post has captured it nicely
  • Not web friendly. You cannot access your spreadsheet from anywhere, any browser
  • Some internet users are comfortable filling forms than spreadsheet grid. Some may be fine editing as wiki pages. Traditional spreadsheet doesn’t have option to switch between different web app views and spreadsheet view.

Our goal is to overcome such shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets, in a non-traditional way. If this sounds interesting sign up for a sneak peek of zoho sheet and take a ride on it.


Battle of Media

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The age old argument of Blogs Vs. Traditional Media. Only this time it’s from Kottke. Head over here. The fight is between Blogs/ Citizen media/ “Traditional” media and NY times. Clear winner in 6 out of 8 trials: Blogs.
Couple of days back, I remember discussing with a friend about Wikipedia. “It’s a sort of an everyday affair, looking up things in Wikipedia; traditional encyclopedia or reference material is now synonymous with dusty yellowed books in bookshelves that no one bothers to look at”. Although the argument that Kottke bothered to verify is old, it is relevant now, considering the significant increase of blogs in the blogosphere.

Approximately three years ago, when I started blogging, it was an obscure thing to do. Probably the number of blogs could be counted – or listed by a blog directory. I had to painfully explain what it was to people, who wished to know what made me sit in front of the computer always. “It’s a sort of an online journal. You can put in any content you want”. They’d then curiously ask, “But who would read it? What use is it to people?”. That is not the case anymore. Many traditional media now cite blog references – Digit, a monthly tech magazine carries the best of tech blog references. And after the Tsunami help blog and (more recently) Hurricane Katrina help blogs that were widely publicized, people do consider them seriously.

That is a healthy trend because, far from being “an online journal” where one can write about how they cleaned the cage of their pet rabbit, blogs now carry stories that appear in papers only after a couple of days. It’s become rather habitual to see someone quote from the morning paper, a story of a turtle that befriended a hippopotamus and reply with a smug look on the face, “Oh that! That appeared in ‘Boing Boing’ a couple of days back”. There is variety, and there is little room for mis-information. Most bloggers double and triple check their facts before posting them, because in the present days of what I call “Superior Search Engine Technology”, it’s impossible to lie or deliberately provide wrong information. Blog readers, clever as they are, tend to check for accuracy of the information. I was once told by a reader of mine that she thought I’d got my facts wrong and correct me. She searched prior to correcting me, and found that it was not so. Several other times, I’ve not been so lucky. People bother to find factual inaccuracies or gaping voids in arguments. I read several comments regularly where blog readers conspire to trash some poorly written posts or posts which lack content, but nevertheless are widely read.

Newspapers aren’t ready to let go easily, too. They have enabled RSS feeds for their editorials. One newspaper recently went to the extent of creating a new position – that of an “Ombudsman” whose responsibility is to try to enhance the credibility among its readership and maintain the high ethical standards involved with traditional media. However space constraints and Pointy Haired Bosses restrict the depth and the width of editorials; and so, to get an unbiased opinion of what the journalist thinks, people resort to their blogs instead – which is “Free Press” in the truest sense.

Having said those, I don’t think Blogs will “replace” traditional media altogether. Nor will they be called “alternate media” anymore. Traditional media’s reach is enviable. Several people still swear by editorials that appear in the print form. Blogs can never reach to that level. There may be a day when people start to rely upon blogs for their source of news or gossip. Then too, I don’t think people will stop their subscription of the daily paper. Even if it gets dusty and yellowed over time.

Brainstorming using Web 2.0

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Only when there is a need to do a presentation, and the resources to be used are stored at different people’s terminals, and the deadline is a few hours ahead, do I begin to love the “Share” button in Zoho Writer. I can simply give “Read and Write” permission to my friends who are a part of the team and whose computer terminals, unfortunately are separated by a great distance from mine, and wait and watch while the ideas pour in. If ever there is a group of people who’ll be most benefitted by such Web-based applications, it’ll be the student community, who unfortunately cannot all afford a laptop to carry around.

Previously, when I had to do similar kind of work, I’ll have to send the document as the text of an e-mail, for the college terminal doesn’t have MS Office installed, contrary to most domestic PC terminals, and e-mail it to myself. Then open the e-mail and do the necessary formatting and take print outs. With web-based Word Processor, it becomes a lot less clumsy. “Share’ and more specifically “Read & Write” is now (exploited and loved) by several friends of mine for various purposes – college homework and otherwise where several heads, instead of one are involved.

Office 2.0 – The evolution of office applications

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Let me try to define (my version of) Office 2.0.

Office 2.0 should offer an a la carte of collaborative applications as products/services from which users/businesses can choose from.

Key points to note in Office 2.0 are…

1. The users should be able to choose from a la carte of applications
2. The offerings should be available both as a product and as a service
3. All of these products/services should have collaboration features built-in

Let me explain each of these points….

1. a la carte of applications:
How many of us use all the components of MS Office for example that comes with just one price tag? In my case, I just use Word and a PPT. The rest like Excel etc are of no use. Even Outlook is of no use for me as I use Zoho Virtual Office. But we end up paying for the whole package which in my view is not right. For those who use all apps in office suit, probably it is worth the price tag. But for the rest of us, it is wasting money. Instead, I would prefer purchasing some other application I use – may be a Wiki.

In the next generation of Office applications, the vendor should provide a list of applications to choose from. The office suit should have apps like Word Processor, Spreadsheet, presentations viewer/builders, Messaging and Groupware, Wiki, RSS Readers, IM, CRM, Calling, Blogs etc. The list goes on. The end user should be able to select which apps he’ll need and just pay for those. This should be the model for Office 2.0 apps.

2. Product + Service Offerings:
It is not Product or Service. It should be Product and Service. Both product and service have their own advantages and disadvantages. The choice should be given to the end user to choose from either a product or a service. Ideally, it should be a product combined with a service will can offer powerful benefits.

3. Collaboration features Built-in:
Collaborative features are going to play a crucial role in the next generation office applications. This is very important that collaborative features are built into each and every application that is offered.

Office applications are no longer restricted to the ones that are defined by leading vendors in the market. Its time to redefine this.

Ismael Ghalimi has some very good posts on Office 2.0. I completely agree with him on the rules for Office 2.0.