Zoho Writer’s latest update

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We had one more Zoho Writer update yesterday. The update addressed quite a few issues that creeped in when we moved over to the grid. It also added a few cool features.

You can now post to your blog even without having to sign up to Zoho Writer. Just invoke the feature rich Zoho Writer editor through the ‘Quick Create‘ button, type your blog post (you can even embed images), click on ‘Post to Blog’, give your blog configurations details & you are ready to publish.

Previously, we allowed uploading of documents (doc, html, odt etc) from your desktop. Now you can upload (import) documents into your Zoho Writer account directly from the web.

Want to insert html code snippets? Previously you had to toggle to the HTML source view, locate where you wanted to insert & then paste the code. It’s now been made a lot easier. Below’s an example of embeding a Zoho Sheet chart.

Impressed with Zoho Writer & want it to introduce to your friends? We have made it easier with the ‘Tell a Friend’ option. Just type your friends’ email IDs & we will post them a mail inviting them on your behalf to join Zoho Writer.

A few issues are being looked into now & fixes should be available in the next update. This includes intermittent problems in posting to blogger.com blogs & cache issues in IE6 – the docs listed in left panel disappear, new docs not getting listed even after getting successfully saved, shared mail info not being visible etc.

More on Office 2.0 going mainstream

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This is in continuation to Ismael Ghalimi’s post ‘Office 2.0 is going Mainstream‘. Yes, web apps being put to use by journalists & getting mentioned in MSM is the next logical step in the right direction. Zoho Writer was mentioned in ‘The Wall Street Journal’ too by Jeremy Wagstaff sometime ago. (the article requires subscription to be viewed)

We have received feedback from a very diversified community that’s put Zoho Writer to good use. Schools use it as teachers give presentations & assignments online while students collaborate on projects easily (no emailing of documents to & fro), librarians recommend it (Gary Price uses Zoho), writers use it (we have got mails from a few budding authors who are using it to pen their novels/books), bloggers post to their blogs as Zoho Writer is compatible with WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal etc and this got us surprised – even doctors find Zoho Writer useful!

The same’s the case with other Zoho applications too. This shows how web apps in the Office 2.0 space are making a significant impact too, in tandem with their more famous social networking cousins like Flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube etc.

The New York Times mentions Zoho Writer

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Damon Darlin at ‘The New York Times’ in an article titled, “Now, Free Ways to Do Desktop Work on the Web” mentions Zoho Writer. The article lists many free web services that users can take advantage of. Instead of installing costly desktop based software like Microsoft Office (that costs around $400), users can make use of these services. About Zoho Writer, he writes,

If you don’t want to wait for Google[‘s Writely], a similar browser application is already available called Zoho Writer at www.zohowriter.com. (I wrote most of this article on Zoho with as much ease as writing with Microsoft Word.) Writeboard (www.writeboard.com) is a competitor. Another program, called Ajax Write (www.ajaxwrite.com), lacks the spell checking and word count functions that Word has taught us to rely upon.

Nice seeing Zoho Writer being put to use by journalists for their word processing needs. This sure will make strong Web Office advocates like Ismael Ghalimi proud. Thanks a lot Damon, for using Zoho Writer & mentioning it in your article!

Take a Zoho Creator Tour

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We launched Zoho Creator demo (8 minutes) recently to showcase some of the useful features and different ways of creating an application. Above all we wanted to get more eyes to look at it and understand how useful Zoho Creator is.

We have split the demo into three sections, same as the three ways of creating an application.

Zoho Creator demo

1. Create application – FROM SCRATCH
You can create customized business/personal web application for your needs, in few mouse clicks. You don’t even need to know HTML or PHP to create an application.

2. Create application FROM TEMPLATE
Zoho Creator has bunch of popular application templates like -Project Tracker, Help Desk, CRM, Expense Tracker, To Do, Issue Manager and more…You can create your application using the templates and customize to your needs.

3. Create applicationBY IMPORTING DATA
When you have data in the form of a spreadsheet (.xls .csv) and want to manage it collaboratively over the web, you can create application by importing data from your file. You can import data either by simple copy and paste or import the whole file.

Watch the demo and if you have people in your office/neighbourhood who want to create application on their own, make sure you get them to watch it with you.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions.


Office 2.0: The facts

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Atleast for the past couple of days, the Blogosphere was buzzing with a lot of sceptics of Office 2.0. More or less it amounted to the “what if” question. What is it that causes a hesitation on the part of most people to trust in an online Office application? Mostly it amounts to the following questions:

(1) Why should I use an online Office alternative when I have other Office packages that offer greater level of sophistication?

The classic answer to any “why” question is the George Bernard Shaw style, “why not!”. However, a more contemporary (and acceptable) answer will be, there are some compelling benefits of a web-based Office suite that a classic install and use Office package lacks.

(2) Which are?

Firstly, you need not worry about that pesky little virus that may do a clean sweep. Or an unreliable hard-disk that can crash when you expect it the least. Wasn’t it painful the last time it happened? Also, don’t you find attaching a file clumsy? Haven’t you ever felt the need of two heads georgraphically located at different places pouring over a research paper? How time-saving it will it be if the two of you could simultaenously edit the document!

(3) Yeah, but this requires a decent-speed internet connection, right? What if I suffer from connectivity problems?

Which brings to the next advantage: You can access your data from your neighbourhood cyber cafe should your Network card fail, or if you home-internet connection goes awry. You can access it from any corner of the World that has a decent speed internet connection, from anybody’s computer as long as it’s inside an insignificant blue-green planet called Earth. No one’s planning a lunar office, as of now 😉

(4) Hey, am not ready to store my confidential documents in a third party server, you know.

Web-based e-mail is third party, right? Haven’t you sent or received e-mails? Do you think your e-mails are intercepted? Has any information you shared by e-mail leaked to an outside source? Most online office applications work pretty much like e-mail.
(5) What if one of the Office 2.0 service I trust goes out of business?

It never hurts to do a little bit of research before you “trust”, does it? In this case, lot of people have already tried, tested and reviewed several services. It’d be a lot safer for you to take a lead, or may be pick up a hint or two from there. Ismael Ghalimi’s blog, for instance, carries several blogposts on the topic. And for exclusive test-driving, Zoho services have a “demo login” which you can put to use before settling for documents that are important to you.

(6) I still haven’t got an answer for the “greater level of sophistication” part.

True, there isn’t a feature-to-feature web alternative for any Office application. But hey, the good news is that we are evolving; at a good pace too!

Collaborative editing – Multiple users editing a document simultaneously

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In the current version of Zoho Writer, we lock a shared document when one of the shared users is editing it. Lots of users want to have collaborative editing i.e multiple users editing the same file at the same time. Through collaborative editing, users get to realise the full true power of collaboration of a web based application. We are working on this and the initial cut has come out very well. Following is what we plan to do:

— When a shared document is opened, we will be showing all the users who are currently viewing / editing the document in the left navigation pane
— Each user edit area will be blocked. So, more than one user will be allowed to edit & each user will know the block area being edited by the other user(s)
— Also, we plan to have a notification pop-up when someone is shared a document

Google Spreadsheet: Adding more to the noise

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Going back to Google Spreadsheet again (really, is it possible to not mention it at all? The noise seems to grow louder with each passing minute)

“… is it okay for Google to compete with many smaller companies, using its massive scale, integrating the applications into its platform – and not even bother to try and monetize those applications? And it is not even in its mission?”

The mission is (no, not World Peace) to index the World’s information. Following a few more links, I came across this comment in a 2.0 blog which is definitely worth pondering over:

“Less than 1% of spreadsheet users will switch from some other spreadsheet to Google’s. There are no smaller companies involved with this.”

And while talking about Google Spreadsheet, Jeremy Wright had written:

8. Users need to be trained to move online. First by extending existing office tools with online apps (ie: Outlook Web Access, etc). Then by providing fully online services.

The truth is there several Online Office applications around for a while. Zoho of course – Writer, Planner, Creator, Sheet, and there are several individual players as well – iRows, Editgrid, Thumbstacks and many, many others were alive and kicking even before the Writely acquisition. However lot of folks still aren’t ready for a Web Office suite, least of all from smaller companies. Robert Scoble says he’s very unlikely to give even a big company my corporate data, but far far far less likely to give a small company that stuff. He feels that smaller companies may go out of business that way and that is a risk not worth taking.

Short answer: Your data will be a lot safer in our servers. Long answer: Heck, your data will be a lot safer in our servers. Don’t we all like to leave the domestic responsibilities to somebody else? Same works here.

This blogpost offers a better explanation:

“I hate the whole “backup my PST/OST, install Office, re-boot, download the 400 service packs / urgent security upgrades, re-boot, where did I backup my OST/PST (and what the hell is the difference between the two again?)” rollercoaster. It shouldn’t take a day out of my life to re-build my PC. I can see the day rapidly approaching when I install an OS, a browser, and then get back to work. The thing I love most about Gmail is that my data is safe. I can’t screw it up. I can’t accidentally format a hard drive and lose it.”


Oh, and on a related note, thanks (once again) to Zoli for the visual comparison on ZohoSheet and Google Spreadsheet.