Tag Archives: Zoho

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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Microsoft Announces Updates to SkyDrive Cloud Storage Site

Introduction:
Microsoft recently announced a series of enhancements to SkyDrive, their web-based cloud file storage service.   This is another step in the right direction for Microsoft as they try to gain market share in the cloud-based file storage and web applications arena. Some of the recent improvements announced include:

Better sharing capabilities:
This is one area that was always a little clunky for SkyDrive.  Before, you were forced to place the files you wish to share within a folder that was “shared” and open for public viewing.   In addition, it was difficult for users to share files with other people who were outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

With the new improvements, both of these issues are addressed by allowing files to be shared individually from any folder (instead of only from a “shared” folder) and with other users through several different methods (email, links, and social networks).  As stated on their blog, Microsoft is hoping to create a more “app-centric” experience.

More User Friendly File Management
File management in SkyDrive has not been their strong point.  In comparison to other cloud-based services like Google DocsBox, and Zoho, the SkyDrive user interface has been underwhelming.    These most recent updates hope to address some of those issues.

Some of the added file management functionality include:

  • The ability to change file and folder names inline
  • Move, delete and download multiple files
  • Move and Copy folders and files more easily
  • The addition of right-click functionality for photos and documents
  • Faster creation of Office Web Apps files.

Enhanced User Experience
In addition to the improvements to sharing and file management, Microsoft also made some additional changes to increase the overall speed and user experience for SkyDrive.  Some of the other improvements include:

  • Better browser support for FireFox, Chrome, and Safari
  • Ability to read other file types (PDF, RAW, etc.)
  • Enhanced photo editing

In Conclusion
All of these improvements I think show that Microsoft recognizes that the future is in the cloud.  Even with these improvements, I still think they have a way to go to catch up with other services like Box and Google.

The good news for them is that cloud-based file storage is still in its infancy and they stand to grab a huge market share of enterprise users who currently use products like SharePoint and Office.  As businesses slowly move to the cloud, Microsoft will be in a position to gather a large portion of those customers that wish to keep continuity in their products.

We’ll be watching to see where SkyDrive end up in the cloud computing race.

-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

Additional Review of Sheetster Online Spreadsheet

Sheetster Online SpreadsheetRecently, I conducted a review of several online spreadsheets here at TechJotter.  One of the online spreadsheets that I reviewed was Sheetster.   I had stated that Sheetster did not have as many features as some of the other “mainstream” online spreadsheets like Google Docs, Zoho, and ThinkFree.

I have since then traded a few emails with Sheetster staff and have gained a bit more information about the program.  I still believe it is a niche product, but it does offer some nice features over the mainstream products.

Some of the main advantages of Sheetster include:

  • It is an open source alternative to SharePoint and Google docs.
  • It can be run offline or online
  • It can be hosted on your own servers, instead of large remote data centers
  • You have more control of your data and the security of your data
  • It is highly customizable through the use of java (and other programming languages)

Extentech, the developers of Sheetster, have provided good information on their website.  A comparison of Sheetster to Google Docs and Microsoft can also be found here.

After doing additional research on the product, Sheetster fills a need that none of the other online programs meet – a highly customizable product that offers greater control over your data and security.  Extentech also seems to have a good community built around the product and the staff was very helpful and provided me with a lot of good information over email.

I still feel that Sheetster is a niche product.  It is not as easy to use or as recognizable as Google Docs, Microsoft Web Apps, or Zoho and requires additional knowledge to be able to unlock all of its features.  It also does not offer as many built-in advanced spreadsheet features (like PivotTables or Macros).

If anyone is looking for a customizable spreadsheet application where security and/or control of your data are important, I would recommend doing some research into Sheetster.

Related Posts:
Comparing Zoho, Google, Adobe, & ThinkFree Online Word Processors
A Brief Comparison of Online Spreadsheets
Online Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Google Docs Word Processor

Comparing Zoho, Google, Adobe, and ThinkFree Online Word Processors

Some Background

Online office tools are rapidly gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional desktop office productivity tools such as Microsoft Office.  In my last post, I compared several popular online spreadsheet programs.  For this post, I focused on reviewing online word processors.

There are several online word processors available on the market today.  For this comparison, I focused on 4 of the more popular online word processors; Google Docs, ThinkFree Office, Adobe Buzzword, and Zoho Writer.

The main focus of this comparison was to see how each of the online word processors were able to import a small Microsoft Word document that included some advanced items like headers and footers, graphics, and bullets and formatting.  You can download the file that was tested here.

For the comparison, I looked at the following word processing elements:

  • Header/Footers
  • Fonts
  • Paragraphs and Spacing
  • Bullets/Formatting
  • Graphics
  • User Interface
  • Support of Advanced Features

The sections below describe the findings of my comparison:

The Comparison

Google Docs:
Google is the 800 pound gorilla of the online office suites.  I think this is mainly based on the pure size of Google’s user base though, because I

Google Docs Word Processor

Google Docs Word Processor

don’t really feel like they have the best product.   Overall, the Word document that I imported did reasonably well.

Some of the problems I saw with the import to Google included only a partial import of the header and footers, image editing that was not as seamless or robust as the other programs, a user interface that was just average and did not include a large amount of features, and a lack of support for advanced Microsoft Word features like VBA, mail merges, and reviewing.

On the positive note, Google Docs did a good job importing the fonts, formatting, and bullets.  They also offer some additional features that are not found in the other programs like the ability to create JavaScript macros as well as translation functions.

Overall Grade: B-
Brief Quote: “Average import and user interface with some advanced features, but still feels like it’s a few years off from catching Microsoft Office”

ThinkFree Office
ThinkFree offers the most Office-like feel for a program (as was the case in the online spreadsheet comparison) and is what I believe to be the

ThinkFree Word Processor

ThinkFree Word Processor

most intuitive for users of Microsoft products.

ThinkFree did an excellent job importing the fonts, paragraphs, bullets, and graphics.  They also did the best in importing the header and footer formatting that was included with the Word document.   The user interface was very intuitive and offered several nice features, including a drop-down zoom button, good graphic editing capabilities, and a very intuitive feel for the menu file drop-down buttons.

Where ThinkFree lacked was in its advanced word processing abilities.  From what I could tell, ThinkFree did not have the ability to create mail merges, conduct reviews, or create any kind of macros.  The program is also very slow.

Overall, I feel that ThinkFree offers the best interface for standard word processing documents, but falls short when it comes to advanced features.

Overall Grade: B+
Brief Quote: “Most Office-like with best import, but is slow and lacks advanced features”

Adobe Buzzword
I actually wasn’t even aware that Adobe had an online word processor until I started to do research for this post.   I’m not sure how long it has

Adobe Buzzword Word Processor

Adobe Buzzword Word Processor

been around, but I was pleasantly surprised with its features.

Overall, I would say that Buzzword is further behind than all the other online word processors, but they still offer a very nice, albeit limited, word processor.  They do have a very nice looking user interface as well as the best graphical editing capabilities of any of the programs, but they do not have a lot of features beyond the standard word processing features.

From a document formatting standpoint, Buzzword faired reasonably well, the header and footers, paragraphs, bullets, and graphics imported similar to all the other programs.  Their downfall is their lack of support for any advanced word processing features.

Overall Grade: C+
Brief Quote: “Nice interface and graphic capabilities, but almost no advanced features.”

Zoho
When I compared online spreadsheets, Zoho Sheet was the clear winner.  When it comes to word processors, I feel they still have some work to

Zoho Writer Word Processor

Zoho Writer Word Processor

do.   Zoho still has some nice advanced features, an intuitive and nice looking user interface, and a strong user base so I’m still hopeful that improvements will push the program forward.

From a user interface and functionality standpoint, I would place Zoho Writer somewhere between Google Docs and ThinkFree.   The import capabilities are much more similar to Google Docs, but the user interfaces has more of an Office-like feel similar to ThinkFree.

One of the bright spots of Zoho is their ability to develop mail merges and conduct reviews on their documents, something I did not see in the other programs.  Overall, I think Zoho is a nice program, but still is a little bit clunky when importing or developing new documents.

Overall Grade: B
Brief Quote: “Nice Features and user interface, but still feels a little clunky.”

In Summary

Overall, all of the online word processors I reviewed had value and each had something unique to offer.   Based on the grading system I used, it is difficult to say if there is a clear-cut winter, but I do think that ThinkFree has the best user interface and import qualities, Zoho does not have as nice of a user’s interface as ThinkFree, but still offers something that is functional with some advanced features that cannot be found in any of the other programs.

Although Google Docs ranked third, it still is a viable option, especially if you want to incorporate JavaScript macros or are a heavy Google Apps user.   Adobe Buzzword has a good user’s interface and is a nice option for basic word processing, but lacks any advanced features.

The one program that I did not evaluate was Microsoft Web Apps.  This is due to the fact that the full version of Microsoft’s online version of Office is not released yet.  From the previews I have seen, it does look promising though.

If you notice from my grading, none of the online word processors received anything greater than a ‘B+’ grade.  I feel that all online word processors still have some work to do before they will be able to truly compete with Microsoft Office and all of its advanced features.   The desktop version of the Office suite still far and away offers the best user interface and advanced features.    Over the next few years, I feel this will change, but for now Microsoft still has some time to develop an online office suite that can compete with the others.

Related Articles:
A Brief Comparison of Online Spreadsheets
3 Reasons to Not Switch to Google Docs
Online Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Zoho Spreadsheet

A Brief Comparison of Online Spreadsheets (and the winner is…Zoho!)

The Background

I recently conducted a test to see how several online spreadsheets handled advanced Microsoft Excel functions and features.   One of the key problems that I see in the use of online spreadsheets is their compatibility with advanced Microsoft Excel features (like Visual Basic for Applications macros, PivotTables, and Lookup Tables.)

Many people are so-called “power users” of Excel, myself being one of them.  If online spreadsheets are not able to 1) import existing Excel files or 2) recreate advanced Excel functionality, I believe there will be a long and potentially delayed adoption process.

For this test, I took a standard Excel 2003 spreadsheet that included a lookup table, PivotTable, and a simple Excel VBA macro.   You can download the file here.

I then imported the file into the following four online spreadsheet programs; Google Docs, ThinkFree, Zoho, and Sheetster.  I would have also tried the new Microsoft Web Apps, but it is not fully functional at this time.

The Results

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Google Docs Spreadsheet

Google Docs
I imported into Google Docs first.  In order to open the document, it had to be converted to Google’s format.  Once it was converted, all of the data imported fine and Google’s interface is nice and clean.

Of the three advanced features I imported, only of them worked properly – the Lookup Table.   The PivotTable imported only as text and the VBA Macros were non-existent.   This was pretty disappointing to me considering all the hype that has been present around Google Docs.  If Google Docs is not even able to import or support PivotTables or Macros, I don’t see myself switching to Google Docs anytime soon.

In Google’s defense, they do have several add-ons that could probably replicate PivotTables (I didn’t look into them) and you can create new customized macros using Java scripts.  The problem is – I don’t have time nor want to learn a new programming language to make all of my old Excel spreadsheets compatible with Google, it’s just too much work.

ThinkFree Spreadsheet

ThinkFree Spreadsheet

ThinkFree
ThinkFree has the most “Office-like” Excel feel of the four programs tested.  The drop down menus and file menu items are very similar in naming and appearance to that of Excel 2003.  This is very nice if you are migrating from Excel and are looking for something familiar.

Even though the user interface was probably the best of the four online spreadsheets, the functionality was really not much better than Google Docs.   The only advanced feature that worked was the Lookup Table.  Both the PivotTable and the VBA macros did not work – just like Google Docs.  In addition, ThinkFree was a little slow in loading.

Zoho Spreadsheet

Zoho Spreadsheet

Zoho
Of the four online programs, I liked Zoho the best.  It offered a feel that was intuitive and similar to Microsoft Excel 2003.   It wasn’t as similar as ThinkFree, but I don’t think anyone would have a problem figuring out how to use the program.

When I imported the Excel test file, I was pleasantly surprised to see a macro feature that was compatible with Excel VBA macros.   It was also nice to see that Zoho had functionality for PivotTable, which both ThinkFree and Google Docs did not.

Although Zoho had the most functions, it still was not a seamless import.   Although Zoho supports PivotTable functionality, it still did not bring them in automatically.  You basically had to create a new PivotTable and store it in a different worksheet.  It was not able to support PivotTables on the same worksheet as the data.   The VBA macros also worked well, but only for simple macros.  I noticed that it did not work well for VBA functions.

Sheetster Spreadsheet

Sheetster Spreadsheet

Sheetster
Sheetster was by far the least sophisticated of all of the online spreadsheets I evaluated as part of this test.   The user interface was really nothing special and it did not import any of the features well or even at all.   I think that Sheetster will be relinquished to a niche market that will only be used by a small population.

In Summary

Google Docs has a nice, clean user interface and a plethora of options, but lacked functionality.   ThinkFree offered the best user interface, but was not able to incorporate the advanced features.   Sheetster lacks the sophistication of the other three and is probably more for niche applications.   Microsoft Web Apps was not tested at this point because it has not been officially released.

Based on my experiences, the clear winner of the online spreadsheets is Zoho.  Although it did not have the best user interface, it still is easy to use, intuitive, and offers superior functionality for advanced applications over all of the other programs.   In addition, it was fast and has a growing user base.

Let me be clear though, I still think that all online spreadsheets have some catching up to do before they can truly compete with a desktop version of Excel…at least for now.

If anyone has other experiences with these programs, please leave a comment.  It would be great to have a discussion on this!

Related Posts:
Online Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Online Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Online tools are relatively new and still have some kinks to work out, but for the most part work well for everyday use.  They generally do not have all of the features as Microsoft Office, but still do a reasonably good job.

Three very good online tools are Google Docs, Zoho, and ThinkFree.  The nice thing with each of these is that your files are kept on the company’s server, so as long as you have internet access, you can access your files.

Google Docs is a nice alternative to Office, but don’t expect to be writing long reports or crunching lots of data in spreadsheets with it.   At this point, I feel that it is more suitable for small spreadsheets or documents that don’t require a lot of formatting.

Zoho is actually a large suite of office productivity tools that extend far beyond spreadsheet, word processors, and presentation software.   The spreadsheet and word processors are a notch above Google’s in my opinion, but they lack the web infrastructure and ability to easily connect that Google has.

ThinkFree also offers an online spreadsheet, word processor, and presentation software.  From my tests, I think that ThinkFree does the best job at converting Microsoft Office documents and also offers the most robust of the three online office programs.

There are actually several other online spreadsheet/office productivity suites on the market, but I have not played around with them very much.  We will have to wait to see how Products like SkyDrive, Smartsheet, Sheetster, Feng Office, and Contact Office fare.

Overall, I feel that online office suites are still in their infancy, but are getting better and more robust everyday.  For light spreadsheet and writing medium sized memos or reports, they work pretty well.

One of the things I hope to do with this blog is to provide additional information on the details of online office suites – so stay tuned!

-TW