Enterprise Software

Review: Zoho Writer 2.0 (beta)

Zoho Writer 2.0 provides mobile business users, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations with a dynamic cross-platform Web-based word processing program that enables online collaboration, and includes revision features and even offers offline editing.

Zoho Writer 2.0 provides mobile business users, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations with a dynamic cross-platform Web-based word processing program that enables online collaboration, and includes revision features and even offers offline editing.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: AdventNet
  • Product: Zoho Writer
  • Version: 2.0
  • Operating systems: Apple Macintosh / Linux / Microsoft Windows
  • Browser support: Internet Explorer 5.5+, Firefox 1.5+, Mozilla 1.4+, Netscape 7.0+
  • Import file formats: .docx, .doc, .html, .sxw, .rtf, .txt
  • Export file formats: .docx, .doc, .sxw, .pdf, .odt, .rtf, .txt, .html, LaTex
  • Additional information: Zoho Writer
  • Price: Free
  • For a closer look, check out the TechRepublic Zoho Writer Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

Mobile users, businesses with distributed employees, cost-conscious organizations, nonprofit institutions, and educational facilities are among those audiences who will find Zoho's hosted word processing application a capable alternative to more expensive alternatives and even other free document creation, editing and sharing options. Zoho's offline editing further extends its reach to users requiring off-site access to documents.

What problem does it solve?

Zoho Writer 2.0 fulfills a variety of word processing needs. Packed with common editing, formatting, collaboration and printing features, among others, the online-based application requires only that users possess an active Internet connection and compatible browser.

Using an optional Google Gears browser extension, users can also edit files offline and load them later when an Internet connection becomes available (such as occurs often when traveling).

And since the word processing program works well with recent versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox, the application is multiplatform friendly, so organizations supporting Windows, Linux and Macintosh computers should have no trouble creating, editing and sharing documents.

Standout features

  • Easy-to-use interface - Zoho Writer 2.0 boasts an improved, streamlined interface. Critical features (such as copy, paste, bullets, fonts, spacing, etc.) are easy to locate. Further, the interface is intuitive and straightforward. Need to insert an image? Click the Insert tab and select the image icon. Need to review spelling? Click the Review tab and click the Spell Check button. Any user that's ever used a word processor will likely find themselves creating and editing documents within minutes of creating a free Zoho account.
  • Widespread compatibility - With support for multiple import and export file formats, including the ubiquitous .doc and .rtf formats, not to mention compatibility with recent Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, users of most any contemporary computing platform (supporting Java use within the browser) will find their system compatible with Zoho Writer requirements.
  • Sharing capability - Zoho Writer makes it simple for staff to share documents. A number of publishing options are just clicks away. Users can publish their documents by accessing Zoho Writer's Share tab. In addition to publishing a file to a URL, users can email files as attachments, post files to blogs and share documents with other Zoho users. When sharing files (and the application makes it easy to invite new Zoho users to the platform), the owner can dictate which permissions (read only or read/write) other users receive.
  • Offline use - Using Google Gears, the same browser extension Google Docs leverages to provide offline use with its Web-based office productivity applications, Zoho users can download and edit files offline. Thus, mobile users can still prove productive when traveling or away from the office.

What's wrong?

  • Larger package pricing - It's important to note that Zoho Writer 2.0 is still a beta service. Currently Zoho Writer is free for personal use. Statements on its Web site indicate businesses will be charged a slight fee, which some may question, as Google offers a similar online document service (Google Documents) for free. However, Zoho offers a wide range of other applications that integrate well with its office productivity tools (which include a spreadsheet application and a presentation program). Businesses and organizations can also subscribe to Wiki, CRM and online meeting services through Zoho, thereby enabling organizations to integrate and consolidate additional critical business applications within a single portal.
  • Some features missing - Unlike a full-fledged word processing program, some users will find necessary features missing from Zoho Writer. For example, mail merge operations (especially those tied to data contained within Access databases) aren't supported in Zoho Writer 2.0, nor are complex graphical layouts. Still, users will find basic graphics, spell check, thesaurus, table, multiple language support, equation editing and other seemingly advanced functionality available.
  • Maximum file size limitations - Zoho Writer recommends importing documents 10MB or smaller in size. Users having larger documents, such as may be found when working with intricate tables or graphics-laden files, will encounter trouble trying to import those works to their Zoho account.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

Zoho Writer 2.0 is a compelling and capable online service for creating, editing and revising documents, regardless of the whether all users share the same operating system or even use the same traditional office productivity tools. While Google and others field similar robust offerings, Zoho Writer provides a worthy alternative. Considering Professional and Business versions of Zoho Docs adds antivirus scanning, revision support, group management features and SSL support, it's easy to see why some on the Web are leaving Google for Zoho's online document platform.

User rating

Have you encountered Zoho Writer 2.0? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of Zoho Writer 2.0 in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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