As a disclaimer to this post, I should point out that I am not yet in the “Everything Online” camp in terms of productivity applications, and that’s why I still spend my life in Outlook, Office and a few other key products. Two reasons drive that choice: 1) I am not yet online 100% of the time (though I am looking with envy at one of these EVDO cards) and 2) online services have a tendency of going down a lot these days. Furthermore having had a demo of Office 12 from Scoble last night, I really like the UI work Microsoft has done for this release and am looking forward to testing it at some point (unlike the two or three last revisions of Office). That’s why I have not really reviewed a lot of online office applications, besides RSS aggregators, even if online suites like Zimbra caught my eye when they launched at the Web 2.0 conference.
Anyway, going through the pile of product announcements I received by email over the past “few” weeks, I went for a quick test drive of Zoho Writer – an online word processor which has just gone beta. I had not played with Writely in the past – even after the positive reviews it received from TechCrunch, and therefore can’t compare these two, but I found that Zoho Writer was quite rich functionaly – in the sense that I can’t point out to any limitations in the usage patterns I would be interested in..
My favorite functionality/characteristics:
- Fast and responsive for a web application
- The ability to diff and compare two different versions of a document
- The import/export capabilities (from/to Word, to PDF, etc.) even though complex Word formatting does not really survive the import.
In order to test this, I imported a consulting contract into Zoho Writer and exported it again into Word. Most styles definitions had disappeared from the resulting document, even though the actual pagination looked reasonably similar.
- The Edit features cover most of what I use in Word today.
The only limitation I found was that the user does not seem to have control on the frequency of the auto-save. I would want to be able to set to say 2 mins to make sure that modifications I have made to a document can be saved if I close the browser window Zoho Writer was running in. Alternatively, they could ask user confirmation on these kinds of events.
TechCrunch profiled Zoho Writer when it entered alpha back in September. There is an interesting debate between different companies in the Web 2.0 space claiming foul on one riping off the other – a truism in Web 2.0 land where it is often difficult to differentiate entire classes of services that implement similar functionality.
I will need to spend some time on all these tools and figure out which one is the most relevant to my collaboration requirements, as compared to a traditional wiki.