Mark Gibbs on Zoho Writer

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Mark Gibbs at Network World, in his widely read Web Applications newsletter wrote about Zoho recently. He reviewed Zoho Writer in particular. Some excerpts:

This service provides a familiar screen layout with a document management bar to the left with buttons for creating a new document, importing documents from your local machine’s storage, and deleting documents with a larger editing panel on the right. The document panel is divided into four sections: My Docs, for your current private documents; My Templates, you can save any document as a template; Shared Documents, for documents that others have shared with you; and Trash.

The editing panel is tabbed so you can have multiple documents open simultaneously. The WYSIWYG editor, which provides automatic backup, has all of the usual text editing features such as styles, fonts, font attributes, tables, links, and anchors.

A menu bar over the editing panel provides access to the document’s history (Zoho Writer includes versioning and difference display), local printing, export and import of documents by e-mail, document preview, save as template, and save. Formats supported for e-mail and locally save documents are HTML, Microsoft DOC, PDF, and OpenOffice SWX.

At the bottom of the editing pane are links to share the current document publicly or privately. Public sharing provides a URL that you can give to anyone and the document can be set to allow user comments. Any documents that you publicly share are also listed in an RSS feed.

So what we have here is a remarkably full featured document creation, editing, sharing, and collaboration system with extensive support for online integration making it the best online alternative to Word I have come across so far.

We are honored by the title he gave – ‘Zoho aims to beat Microsoft Office‘!

When does Zoho Writer get Wonky?

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Many people put Zoho Writer to several uses. I use it, among other things, to share movie scripts with my equally film-obsessed friends.  Unlike your normal documents, film scripts are unusally long. With a minimum of 10000 words, they may go upto 30000 words. Using Zoho Writer to edit and share them is a hard test for Zoho Writer’s performance, especially when testing with a turtle speed of 256 kbps, albeit DSL internet. (Yeah well, if it works with the barest minimum requirements, it will work in better environments, right? :) ). Performance is gauged by the response time. (or atleast that’s what users look for)

So while doing the above mentioned test, the following observations were made: Editing, including any copy-paste function took less than five seconds. Saving the entire document (of around 10000 words) took around twelve seconds. Timing the response isn’t a difficult thing to do. For Firefox users, the Fasterfox plug-in will measure the response time before an action is completed. Try for yourself and see! And do let us know.

ZohoCreator: Data Search in ‘View’

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Use ‘Search’ in the View to get to the data you need straightaway, without spending any time.

Data Search

Click on search_button.gif, type search criteria in the corresponding textfield and click ‘Go’

Eg: Type ‘Closed Won’ below the ‘Lead Status’ texfield and ‘Kevinson’ below ‘Lead Owner’ textfield to see all the closed won leads by Kevinson.

Now isn’t this simple?


Making 2.0 tick

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What makes Web 2.0 tick? Sample this:

As I’ve said in previous posts, it’s their direct contact with the users that makes 2.0’s so much greater than the “old school” way of taking care of users. I know that as their user base increases that won’t be so easy for them, but their blogs and forums are another way for users to interact with them and with each other, and help each other along.

Another user wrote:

This kind of touch is exactly what more tech companies should have, regardless of specialty. I understand, yes, busy people can’t respond to all their email, but even getting back to some—especially if it’s on an external blog and wasn’t sent in directly—is really warm and sends more good vibrations than 100 clones of Brian Wilson in a marching band on a midspring’s dusk.

Usually, we have seen companies respond by saying, “We’ll get back as soon as possible”. At least in the 2.0 days, “As soon as possible” is measured in hours, not days. I’ll be damned if I post a query and don’t get a reply in a few hours, either in a forum, or a comment in a blog. After all, the user could be working on a presentation at the office a few hours away and requires to embed a chart. It would blow up everything if the application doesn’t respond or gets buggy; worse than that, you report the problem at the company’s forum or blog and they don’t get back soon.

Usually at Zoho forums, we reply queries and work on bug-fixing within hours. However, at times, things to go wrong (as Zoho Writer had log-in problems recently). Worse, it might happen on a weekend or a holiday (as it did), so that it might not possible to receive user feedback immediately. At times like those, we hope the users bear with us. Ofcourse, the solution lies in embracing more stable technology and we soon expect to do the same. Oh yes, unlike “Old-school”, it’ll be really soon. 😉

Zoho Writer login issue

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You would not have been able to login to Zoho Writer for the past few hours. The issue was due to the loss of connectivity between the Zoho Writer application and the database backend. This has been sorted out & you should be able to logon now. Our sincere apologies to all Zoho Writer users who weren’t able to login.

We are in the process of upgrading our current infrastructure to a new grid based technology which we believe will prevent such happenings in future.

Conversations or not

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The Economist carried a story on Blogging. And the bottomline was:

Blogging is just another word for having conversations

Tom Raftery wrote a few days back that in his blog that Blogging was starting to become monologous as some of the most popular bloggers closed down/moderate comments.

And this is what Guy Kawasaki had to say regarding comments:

7. Acknowledge and respond to commenters. Only good things can happen when you read all the comments in your blog and respond to them. It makes commenters return to your blog. This, in turn, makes commenters feel like they are part of your blog’s community which makes them tell more people to read your blog.

It is rather ironical that comments are not “wanted” anymore, because in the early days of blogging, comments were an indication of how popular a blog was! With the advent of feed readers and trackbacks, popular bloggers have decided to shut down a window; one crucial channel of communication, blaming it on the trolls. Added to that, we have spams, word-verifications, comment moderations resulting ultimately in conversation-killers. Sad and sorry state, indeed. As Tom Raftery rightly asks:

how can we now seriously evangelise the benefits of having comments enabled when some of the most prominent bloggers have theirs locked down?