Tag Archives: Google

Comparing Online Office Suites: Google Docs vs. Zoho Office

Moving your Office to the Cloud Cloud and web-based office productivity programs offer several advantages over traditional desktop software office productivity programs like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org. As high-speed internet become more ubiquitous and IT departments have become more aware of the cost savings and benefits that cloud based office productivity suites provide, more and more businesses and everyday users are ditching the desktop software and trying web-based programs. Several are several reasons to choose web-based programs over desktop applications. Three main reasons include:

  • Lower costs
  • Lower maintenance
  • Better backup capabilities and version control

When you move your office to the cloud, you are basically outsourcing the tedious technical work that goes along with maintaining desktop software programs and file version control. There are drawbacks associated with cloud based office programs. The disadvantages include:

  • A loss of control of your critical files
  • Risk that your hosting service will go down
  • Potential security issues
  • Less robust application abilities

It is up to the user (or IT department) to determine if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of cloud based office programs. As part of this hub, I will compare and contrast two popular cloud-based office productivity programs; Google Docs and Zoho Office Suite. There are other players on the market also, including Microsoft Skydrive, Adobe, and ThinkFree. You can find reviews of the spreadsheet and word processor reviews of these and other cloud based office programs at the following articles, A Brief Comparison of Online Spreadsheets and Comparing Zoho, Google, Adobe, and ThinkFree Word Processors.

An Overview of Google Docs and Zoho Office
I chose to compare Google Docs and the Zoho Office Suite for this hub because I think they offer the best online office suites on the market today. I will say that that could change this year as Microsoft continues to pour more marketing and product development dollars into their SkyDrive office suite and cloud storage application.

Zoho Spreadsheet

Zoho Spreadsheet

Both Google Docs and Zoho offer spreadsheet, word processor, and presentation applications – the bread and butter of all office suites. I like the way that both work, although for users that are used to a traditional Windows style environment, Zoho is probably a better choice. Google Docs has a little different style of user interface. Long-time users of Google products should have no real problem using it though because it shares the same user interface style as all of their other products (like Gmail, Reader, etc.) In addition to the traditional office suite offerings, Google Docs also offers aForm application, which allows users to create web-based forms, and aDrawing application, which has similar functionality to Microsoft’s legacy image editing program, Paint, but also allows you to create equations and things like flowcharts. Google Docs also offers a beta product, Table, that allows users to transform data sets into unique tables and graphics.

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Zoho offers a Planner application, which allows users to create notes and To-Do lists, and a Notebook application that serves as a repository for images, links, RSS feeds, and notes. All of these items are included within the free version of Zoho Office. In addition, Zoho also offers their database application, called Creator, as part of their Business suite. I believe the free version allows for some functionality but it costs additional money to get the full blown version. I should also mention that both Google and Zoho offer more products for a cost than what I have just listed, including CRM, email, chat, and other business services. I have chosen not to discuss them in this hub because I instead wanted to focus on the typical free office productivity tools that are most commonly used.

Comparing Google Docs and Zoho Office Overall, I feel both products have their strengths and weaknesses. I use them both for different purposes. Google Docs is faster, cleaner, and integrates better with users that are heavily involved with Google products. Zoho Office is a more traditional office suite that has a nice array of products, a great Dashboard, and integrates with Microsoft Office better than Google does. Below is a summary of each of the products strengths and weaknesses: Google Docs Strengths:

  • Fast applications
  • Great sharing capabilities
  • Integrated nicely with other products for existing Google users
  • Unique functionality with Form, Drawing, and Table applications

Google Docs Weaknesses:

  • Does not import Microsoft Office documents seamlessly
  • No support for advanced Microsoft Office functions
  • Limited offline access for documents

Zoho Office Strengths:

  • Full suite of programs including Database and Planner functions
  • Integration with the wider Zoho Collaboration and Business applications
  • Support for advanced Microsoft Office functions (included limited VBA)

Zoho Office Weaknesses:

  • Slower than other online office suites
  • Sharing capabilities are not as robust as Google Docs
  • Does not have as large of user base as Google or Microsoft

Google Docs vs. Zoho Office

Functionality
Google Docs
Zoho Office
Spreadsheet
Spreadsheet
Zoho Sheet
Word Processor
Document
Zoho Writer
Presentation
Presentation
Zoho Show
Image Editing
Drawing
[Not Available]
Forms
Form
[Not Available]
Calendar
Calendar
Zoho Calendar
Planner
[Not Available]
Zoho Planner
Notebook
[Not Available]
Zoho Notebook
Database
[Not Available]
Zoho Creator
In Conclusion:
In summary, web based office productivity suites are becoming more popular because of the many advantages they offer over traditional desktop applications. Two online office suites, Google Docs and Zoho Office offer great benefits and user interfaces when compared to desktop office applications. These two programs are leaders in online office suite market, but several other products are competing for the up and coming online office productivity market, including Microsoft SkyDrive, ThinkFree, Sheetster, and LiveOffice. Please let me know your experience with online office suites in the comments section.
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Tech Primer: An Introductory Guide to Google Docs

Introduction:

This post will be the first in a series of post on using Google Docs and its new interface.  As I’ve written about on several different posts including ones on collaboration, integration, and usability, Google Docs is one of the leading cloud based office productivity suites on the market.

It offers many features and strengths over its competitors, including fast processing times, sharing and collaboration capabilities, and a large base of existing users.  This introductory guide will provide an overview of the user interface for new users of Google Docs

Accessing Google Docs:

In order to unlock the power of Google Docs, you must first have set up a Google Account (unless you already have one).  You can set up an account by going to www.google.com and clicking on “sign in” in the upper right hand corner.  Google will then ask for information and an account will be set up for you.  This account will allow you to not only access Google Docs but will also allow you to access the numerous other Google products that they have.

Once you have an account set up, you can go to docs.google.com to start using your new Google Docs account.   When you arrive at the Google Docs homepage you will see a screen that looks similar to the one shown in the image below.

Google Docs Main Interface

Navigating the User Interface:

I really like the user interface.  It is clean, intuitive and easy to navigate around.  For user that have used Google Docs in the past but have not used it recently the interface probably looks different.  Google recently conducted an overhaul of all their services’ interfaces to become more uniform.

Moving around the user interface is intuitive and easy to learn.   In the main body of the interface are the files that have stored in your account. The main interface is housed within the traditional Google interface with the search box located at the top and the Google ribbon included at the very top of the screen.  In the screenshot above, you can see that I have two files in my Google Docs cloud storage, one spreadsheet and one document.

On the left hand side of the user interface are two red buttons – one that allows you to create a new file (CREATE) within Google Docs and an upload button that allows the user to upload other external files (like Microsoft Office files, Adobe PDF files, or image files).  I’ve had good success with uploading different file types.

Google Docs using a file management system that is based on tags and collections.  It does not use a traditional folder style file structure like that used by Microsoft or other software companies.   This can take some getting used to but for long time Google users or users that have Gmail accounts, it shouldn’t be much a problem. The file filters are shown on the left hand side of the screen.  Google Docs allows you to filter by owner, starred items, or by user-defined collections.

In the upper right hand corner above the main body there are two other buttons – the ‘Sort’ button and the ‘Settings’ button (that looks like a gadget or bolt.)   The ‘Sort’ button allows the user to sort files by priority, time, size, and owner.  The “Settings” button allows the user to change things like the display and time settings.

Productivity Programs of Google Docs:

The Google Docs suite consists of the following programs:

– Document
– Presentation
– Spreadsheet
– Form
– Table
– Drawing

The mostly wide used of the programs; Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets, provide intuitive interfaces and resemble that of other office desktop and web-based suites, (such as Microsoft Office, Zoho Office Suite, or OpenOffice).  The other programs; Forms, Tables, and Drawings are powerful tools that provide users with other useful functionality that can be integrated within the other programs.

Below is a screenshot of what a Google Docs spreadsheet looks like.   I will be providing more detailed posts on how to use each of the Programs of Google Docs.

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Sharing Capabilities:

One of the great strengths of Google Docs is its sharing capabilities.  Since Google Docs is a cloud-based SaaS program, it is a naturally strong program for sharing and collaborating on the web.  Each of the programs within Google Docs allows the owner of the document to share the spreadsheet with other users.

Google Docs Sharing Window

Google Docs Sharing Window

Google Docs allows 3 sharing settings; 1) Public on the Web, 2) Anyone with the Link, and 3) Private.  “Public on the Web” allows for the most openness as anyone can search and find documents with this setting.  “Anyone with Link” allows additional control over who can view the documents by not allowing it to be searchable over the web.  “Private” allows the most control – only those users that the owner has granted permission to use are allowed to view or edit the document.

Google Docs Sharing Options

Google Docs Sharing Options

In Conclusion:

Setting up a Google Docs account is easy to do and provides a powerful and free office suite.  For long-time Google users, the transition to using Google Docs should be simple and easy.  For long-term Microsoft Office users, there may be a little bit more of a learning curve due to the unique file management structure and different user interface.

Overall, I find Google Docs to be a powerful tool that everyone should look into.  I’m quite impressed with it sharing options and responsiveness. Although Google Docs is not the only cloud-based office productivity suite on the market, it is one of the leaders.

Stay tuned for additional posts on how to use the programs within the Google Docs suite!

For more information, visit the following posts:

Comparing Cloud-Based spreadsheets
Comparing Cloud-Based word processors
Collaborating with Google Docs

Collaborating with Google Docs

One of the very useful features of Google Docs is the ability to effortlessly share files and collaborate in real-time.  In my tests,  I feel that Google Docs offers the best functionality for sharing.   Microsoft Skydrive has only limited sharing abilities and Zoho Office only has the ability to share with other Zoho users.  Google Docs offers sharing and collaboration with both registered and unregistered users which is a plus.  With Google Docs you have three sharing options available 1) Public, 2) Anyone with Link, and 3) Private.

The “Anyone with Link” option is provides the user with a the link that can be sent out to all other collaborators regardless of whether or not they are registered or not.  Under this configuration, each  user has a different color scheme is labeled with a name like “anonymous9001”.  To setup the “Anyone with link” option, a file must be created and then the  “File>Share” menu option must be chosen. Under the “Who has Access” box, the top line allows you to change the classification.  After you have changed the status, a URL link appears at the top. This link is what you will send to everyone that you wish to collaborate with.

The “Private” option requires a google account and then lists the people’s names that are editing.  The only difference between the “Private” and the “Anyone With Link” option is the naming convention for the collaboration colors.  Instead of showing up as “anonymous_xxx”, the user will show up as their Google account name.  The “Public” Option allows anyone to view the document, but does not allow anyone to edit it.

Overall, I feel that Google offers a great collaboration product.   Its sharing features offer superior flexibility for those wishing to collaborate.

-TW

Organizing Your Online Life with the Zoho Dashboard

As many readers know, I’ve talked about the Zoho Office Suite several times here at Techjotter and am a big fan of their service.   In this post, I want to discuss the Zoho Mail Dashboard and how it integrates with the rest of the Zoho Office suite (or other office suites for that matter.)

First, I want to provide a little bit of background about how I manage all of my online services.   I don’t think that I am unlike a lot of people who like to use several services at the same time.   Currently, I have at least 2 email accounts (personal & Techjotter), 2 online file storage systems, an online calendar system, an RSS reader, and several other websites I check on a periodic basis.

A lot of my online life revolves around Google products (Reader, Finance), but I also use several other company’s products, such as Yahoo, Twitter, WordPress, and Zoho.   The big question is how to get all of these services grouped into one area that doesn’t involve a lot of clicking and shifting between browser windows.  What has been working well for me is the Zoho Mail dashboard.

Zoho Mail

Some of the benefits that I believe put Zoho Mail above Google for example include the following:

– A clean and easy to use interface

– Access to the full Zoho Office Suite from the Zoho Mail interface with one click

– Access to multiple email accounts within one browser window

– Ability to customize and hide (if desired) the apps bar

– Ability to add non-Zoho products to the apps bar and have them open within the main Zoho Mail interface

The last item I think is the item that sold me on using Zoho over Google.   Google also has a very nice and clean user interface, but I found that it only works well if you only use Google products.   If you wish to use anything outside of Google (such as Yahoo or Twitter), then you basically have to go to different apps or open new browser windows.

A good example of this is how I can access and use my Box.net within the Zoho Dashboard, as shown in the picture below.   I can even edit files using Google Docs within the Zoho Dashboard.

Zoho Mail and Box.net

Don’t get me wrong, I am still a big fan of Google and I still use their products extensively.   But if you are looking for an online program that can serve as an easy gateway to several different programs, I would consider looking into Zoho.

-TW

Google Chrome Web Store – Is it Worth the time?

The Google Chrome Web Store has been active for several months (it launched in December, 2010) so I thought it would be worth discussing a little about it for the readers.    For anyone that is not familiar with it, the Chrome Web Store is basically and online portal for downloading free and paid applications that run native applications on the Google Chrome web browser.

First Impressions:

My first impressions of the Chrome Web Store are mixed.  It obviously  is trying to capitalize on the explosion of mobile app stores like the Android Market and Apple’s App Store.  The problem is that, unlike the mobile app stores, the Chrome Web Store distributes apps for a web browser which is a much different experience than a mobile device.   For many of the Chrome Apps, the “app” is really nothing more than a shortcut to the standard html website – it’s really just being masked as an “app”.  I’m not really sure if it is worth all of the effort to develop an app which offers no real benefit over just creating my own browser bookmarks or shortcuts.

With that said, I still think there are several nice aspects of the Chrome Web Store that make it a worthwhile effort.   Some of those reasons include:

Several apps are designed specifically for the Chrome browser and the Chrome Operating System (OS).  In many ways it appears that Google developed the Chrome store specifically for Chrome OS.   Three of my favorite native Chrome apps are the New York Times app, the Angry Birds app, and the TweetDeck app.

The Chrome Web Store also is a great medium to search for some of the very cool apps and web tools that are in the market (often times for free) today.   There are literally thousands of apps in the web store that are grouped by common categories such as productivity, games, utilities, news, and entertainment.  It would be very difficult to find all of these apps on your own

I also think it also offers developers another medium to get their products to the market.  With the nice way that Google has integrated the Chrome Web Store into the browser, it makes for a nice experience.    This is yet another way that the Chrome Browser is leaving Internet Explorer and Firefox in the dust in my opinion.

In Conclusion:

I think Google has done a nice job with their Chrome Web Store.  It offers users a chance to explore thousands of new apps with ease and speed and integrates with the Chrome Browser nicely.   I guess only time will tell if the “Browser App”  catches on with users or if something else will come along.

-TW

Google Docs now Integrated within Box.net

One of my favorite cloud file storage systems, Box.net, recently added the ability to edit files through Google Docs.  This is a great feature that sets Box.net apart from several of its competitors.   Of the online file systems that I have uses (Dropbox, SugarSync, ZumoDrive, Box.net), Box.net offers the best overall features for editing files.   In addition to having the ability to use Google Docs for editing, Box.net also offers the option to edit files using Zoho Office.  The editing capabilities were fast and efficient when I used Google Docs.

I really like how Box.net continues to expand its platform and continues to make it more user friendly.    Google Docs is part of the Box Apps ecosystem, which is continuing to expand its offerings.  In addition to Google Docs and Zoho, they offer apps that integrate with several popular cloud and social services, such as LinkedIn, Salesforce.com, and eFax.

Overall I continue to be impressed with Box.net’s expanding functionality.   I would recommend that people try out Box.net if they have not already.   The user experience is nice and the apps ecosystem is a nice feature that most other online file storage systems do not offer.

For a better understanding of how it works, check out the video below from Box.net’s YouTube page.

Switches

3 Reasons to Not Switch to Google Docs from Office

SwitchesThe Background:
There is a lot of news in the press recently about how Google Docs is poised to start stealing market share from Microsoft Office.  I’m convinced that Google has a good product and a smart plan for strategic growth, but I would not count on Microsoft’s dominance of the Office productivity market to end – at least not yet.

I have worked with both Microsoft Office and Google Docs for quite some time now and have come up with 3 reasons why someone would not switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs.

The Reasons:

1)  Google Docs’s Compatibility with Advanced Office Features: Google Docs does not have the ability to use advanced Office functions like custom animation, Pivot Tables, Custom Animation, or VBA Macros.  I’ve actually had much more success with spreadsheets using both Zoho and ThinkFree.  Although, Google has been updating Docs to include more of these items.  I think the basic issue is still compatibility with older Excel spreadsheets.

2) Linkage with VBA. There are a lot of Excel spreadsheets and Word documents that are heavily built around VBA scripts. From my tests, Google Docs does not have the ability to convert VBA scripts.

3) The Availability of Broadband: Although this is not really Google’s fault, it still is a reality.   I still get very frustrated with “The Cloud” when a connection is not available or a connection is unreliable.  This problem will become less of an issue as broadband becomes more widespread, but will continue to plague cloud computing applications until broadband is more available.

The Future:
As of now, I don’t see Microsoft in any danger of losing signficant market share.  This does not mean that they should not be worried.  Google (as well as others) is a force to be reckoned with and even if Google Docs is not quite ready for primetime yet. In 3-5 years I see them become a much bigger player.

Microsoft has went on the offensive again though with Office 2010 which will have a web-based component called Skydrive.    Only time will tell who will win the battle, but it should be interesting to watch in the coming months and years.