"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Thursday, November 09, 2006

ZoHoHo and a Google of rum

I've been playing a bit lately with online tools that can be used for blogging or collaborative document creation, and am very impressed with two of the front-runners in this nascent category: Google Docs (formerly known as "Writely") and ZoHo Writer. Both are free, and allow you to use a full suite of Office-like applications with nothing more than a web browser. This post is being created with ZoHo now.

A buzzword within the computer industry these days is "Software as Service", a sales model where you "subscribe" to an application which is used over an Internet connection, as opposed to buying it outright as a CD (or download) to install on your home computer. Many people, including myself, are justifiably skeptical of this concept, believing that it's one more way for giants like Microsoft to get their hooks into you and ultimately force you to cough up more money. This is a big concern, but there are some advantages as well: you're always using the latest version of the software, and you can use it from any computer anywhere you happen to be. Files and documents are always available, and several people can contribute to a document jointly without the hassle of having to e-mail it back and forth. In certain business situations this makes a lot of sense.

But for the typical home user who uses a word processor and spreadsheet primarily for simple tasks like writing letters and keeping a budget, there may not be the same compelling reasons to use an online suite like ZoHo. For one thing, a broadband connection is mandatory; dialup will make the service so slow and unreliable as to be unusable. And while the online suites have lots of nice features, they're still outclassed by stand-alone applications like Word and Excel.

However, bloggers may find that these tools are very useful for post creation. Most of the major blogging engines such as Blogger and Wordpress have rather featureless post editors, and formatting an entry as anything other than plain-vanilla text can be tricky. Wordpress in particular has a clunky WYSIWYG interface which is fond of inserting paragraphs where you only want a line break, and lacks an easy way to format text without tweaking the html code for your entry. But both Google Docs and ZoHo have a nice selection of rich formatting tools that simplify the task of changing text attributes like size, color, and placement. You can also easily spell-check, add hyperlinks and Technorati tags, and import images. Then, once you set up the service to be able to access your blog's API (the programming interface that allows outside applications to "talk" to your blog) all you have to do is hit the "publish" button from within ZoHo or Google to create or update your post.

After experimenting extensively with both, I have to say I like ZoHo the better of the two. Google may be better integrated, allowing you to switch between spreadsheets, documents, and email service more easily, but ZoHo's word processor just blows Google away. It's intuitive and easy to use, and lets you tweak your post to a finer degree than any of the other text tools can do. Plus, I had trouble getting Google to automatically accept the title of the document as the post title, which ZoHo did seamlessly. If you're tired of your blog's spartan interface, check out ZoHo Writer and Google Docs. I think they're pretty cool.


  • At 11/09/2006 07:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for using Zoho Writer and for the nice review! We plan to keep free a personal version of Zoho Writer.

    Keep using Zoho Writer and do check out the other Zoho services available at http://zoho.com

  • At 11/09/2006 09:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ->-> Fellow NaBloPMo writer. I saw, I clicked, I read.

    Thanks for the review. I am in deep like with Google docs for managing stuff between house and office just like you mention. I'll go look at ZoHoHo, next....


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