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Zoho? What’s that you ask? Hmmmm, well, Zoho is a Web 2.0 Office Productivity Suite. Similar to what MS Office and Google Docs does. Yes, it provides users with a document editor, spreadsheet, and presentation creator, at the very basic level.

Web 2.0? Eh? Well, being a Web 2.0 application simply means, like Google Docs, Zoho also runs over the internet. That means, you don’t need to install anything on your computer. All you need is a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, etc. Just ensure that your browser supports Javascripts and cookies. These Web 2.0 stuff normally requires them. The only catch with most of these Web 2.0 application is that you need to be connected to the net in order to use them. Of course there are exceptions to this.

So, what does Zoho offer? Well, Zoho does not only provide the basic Office Suite to users. They have a whole set of applications ready to be used. They have:

Now, that’s a mouthful of applications ready to be used for free. Personally, I have yet to try out every thing they have to offer. I’ve just had a glimpse of their Word Processor – Zoho Writer. So, that’s what I’ll be covering in this posting.

Zoho Writer InterfaceMy first impression with Zoho Writer is.. Wow!! This looks like a great application. I like the interface. It looks polished and friendly. I immediately felt at ease when first opening the interface.

Working with your document in the interface is also a breeze. The learning curve to use the interface is basically none existent. Most keyboard shortcuts such as CTRL+C, CTRL+V, CTRL+Z, CTRL+B works just fine. It’s got most, if not all, of the basic word processing functions plus a few additional features, such as smileys.

Zoho Writer ShareOf course, among the benefits of having an online document is the capability of working on the document collaboratively with a few users. There is a collaborative function in Zoho Writer. To collaborate on a document with your peers, a mail will be sent to your peers with a link to the document. Of course they will have to be a Zoho user to edit the document. But then, registration is free.

Zoho Writer CollaborationIf you are familiar with Google Docs method of document collaboration, you will need to adapt yourself to Zoho’s way of collaboration. It seems that in collaboration mode, only one user is able to edit the document at a time. It utilizes the lock and edit method. You’ll have to first lock the document prior to making any edit. Thus, if the document is being edited by a peer, no one else will be able to edit the same document.

I’ve gotten into a situation where the person who holds the lock to the document is not able to edit. Another user is able to edit the document, instead. Strange.. could that be a bug? Another problem I’ve encountered is that if the person who locks the document were to logout without releasing the lock, then no one is able to do anything about it. I am unable to find a way to release the lock from the document without involving the person with the lock.

I haven’t really gotten the hang of this collaborative mode. I’m more used to Google Docs way of editing documents collaboratively. It is more user friendly, to me at least.

Zoho Writer CompareVersion control is also part of the Zoho feature. Everytime the document is saved, the system will create a new version of the document. Thus, you’ll be able to revert back to any previous version if there is a need to do so. Another additional benefit of the version control is you can compare the documents. You can specify to compare one version from another. the difference will be highlighted to you in a yellowish background.

Zoho Writer TagsZoho makes use of Tags to group documents. These tags, can be thought of as similar to folders. So, if your document needs to be grouped under more than a single folder, just create multiple tags for it. Thus, the single document will be listed under the tags it was created in. To list out the tags as folders, you just need to click on the tags (at the bottom of the screen), and select “Add as folder”. Upon which a folder will be generated at the side bar on the left hand side.

Zoho Writer BlogIn this age of blogging, I guess, a word processor is deemed not up to mark if it does not support any of the blog APIs out there. Well, certainly, Zoho Writer supports the metaWeblog API. Among the blogging system it supports are,, Livejournal, and TypePad. I have to admit, it does a better job at Blog editing than most blog editors that comes with the blogging system itself. I have yet to test out this feature, but since blogging is such a norm these days, I’m pretty sure it functions just fine. Will test it out after this to be certain, though.

So, those are the few features of Zoho Writer. I do think that it’s a worthy replacement for MS Office. My only beef with it is it’s collaborative features. It’s a tad too complicated to work with. As I said, I had problems with determining who actually has editing control on the document.

Think it’s time to regain back a bit of disk space in this notebook of mine. Time to uninstall the MS Office I have and start creating my docs in Zoho Writer instead. They also claim that it’s possible to work offline. All that’s needed to enable offline mode is to download Google Gears. Will check it out soon.

So, you ready to drop MS Office and do Zoho instead? Otherwise, give Google Docs a shot. Here’s a thought.. Will Microsoft go the way of Google and Zoho? That is.. will they offer Word, Excel, and Powerpoint up for grabs as a free service in the near future? Perhaps so, but maybe not with the full blown feature set I guess. Hmmm.. they do however have Office Live Workspace which is in Beta. I’m not sure what that requires. Haven’t had the chance to check it out yet.

You might also want to take a look at this ZDNet interview of AdventNet’s CEO. AdventNet is the company behind Zoho.