Best of the Best: Zoho Writer

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ZohoWriter is like a display of fireworks. Some is good, but more is a whole lot better. ZohoWriter is pretty good, but it is hard to look at just that App when Zoho boasts over twenty productivity apps to help you get your work done. The Zoho suite is pretty awesome and I was able to crank out over 1200 words about mainly ZohoWriter, but to get to the good stuff you’re going to have to read on past the break. Take my word for it, the time will be well spent.

First Impressions
They tote that it only takes 30 seconds to sign up, but if that is just too long, you can even access Zoho writer without signing up. A plus, definitely for people who want a word processing app in a pinch. Yet signing up (or in) is just as easy as the promise; they give you a number of ways to do that: Google account, Facebook, Yahoo, and some more of your common logins will work. Already, I’m smiling at this point of just how easy it is to get productive. To get to ZohoWriter on the Zoho homepage just click on Productivity then click on Writer.

When I get into the program itself, I am again welcomed with some familiar buttons that need little or no explanation. At first I thought, yeah, it’s pretty basic but it will do, then I took a closer look and the smile got a little wider.

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There are more than just the basics of changing the font, alignment, spacing, etc. There are a ton of options that are cleverly laid out a drop down menu (which many don’t care for), or you can click the menu option and the toolbar changes like the Ribbon in Word 2007/2010. Check out the pics below for a better idea of what I’m talking about, and man there are a lot of options in here. I can feel Windows Live shrinking with envy as I type.

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The layout is easy on the eyes and it is easy to find most features, you don’t need to dig too deep. The ruler on the top is a nice feature, especially coming from Windows Live where there was no real sense of your place on a page. You can import a huge variety of formats into Zoho, all Word formats, OpenOffice formats, WordPerfect (wpd), html, text files, PDF files and even pictures. You can also export your documents in many of those formats as well which is a big help (especially making PDFs). Not so in Windows Live. Many of the feature you have know from other Word processing programs are found right here making you feel warm and cozy.

Share menu
Some of Zoho’s greatest strengths can be found right here. Just like Windows Live you can share your document with anyone you like, but this is just the beginning. You have to option to post to your blog (many of the favorites blog sites are compatible) which is good for me. If I am away from my MacBook and I want to post something I’d rather use Zoho instead of the standard WordPress.com option. It is just easier to work with you know. You can also create groups with Zoho to quickly and easily share a document with many others. Also you can e-mail or make the document public for anyone to see/edit.

You might be thinking, well-that’s cool and all but why is this so much better than Windows Live? Well check out the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

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These icons allow you to go beyond just sharing. You can send messages to people in your group, individuals, even live chat! This is pretty cool huh? The coolness ain’t over yet folks. You can simultaneously edit the document at the same time. This is cool. While a small document may make this feature seem useless, on a larger document with many defined sections, this can be very invaluable. Also, it eliminates unnecessary copies floating around. There is one document online, the end. Whether students are working collaboratively or you are working on a shared document in a committee, this feature is cool and the ability to chat online to discuss the document and its contents. In order for this to work you and your cohort need to have a Zoho account. Once there, just share the document with the other person (people) in order to start this process.

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Information at the bottom
If you look at the bottom of the ZohoWriter document, you will see some helpful information, but one that I find particularly helpful is where it says Versions.

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When you click that a fly out menu from the right hand side will appear. Here you can view and compare older versions of the document to see what changes have been made, when, and how they compare with the current version. It is a nice little something, that helps give you some reflection and and perhaps older ideas can still be salvaged and worked on.

Other niceties

  • Ruler and Page Layour view – As I mentioned about the ruler (me likey), you can also change the view to see what it would look like on a page. That is very nice to see what it will look like.
  • Comments – You can add comments to the document that is also important. If you and your students are rocking Zoho, they can share their documents with you to grade (tell me that’s not eco friendly folks). Instead of printing it out you can leave comments and make notes directly to the document itself.
  • Equation Editor – If you’re a math guru at your school, then this is a must. The equation editor is a lot more than plus and minus too. You can add radicals, fractions, functions, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t remember from math class. It is pretty nice and there is even a pop up editor for more complex equations.
  • Storage – 1 GB of space to store your documents. I know, you are probably saying that Windows Live blows it out of the water with its 25 GB SkyDrive and you’re right, but SkyDrive has more uses, and we’re talking about documents here people. Do you know how many ZohoWriter documents you can store in 1 GB? Depending on the size of the document, I’d say over 10,000 and those are largerish documents with some images too. Impressive eh?
  • The ZohoDocs window – This is kind of your central hub that shows you all your documents, who they are shared with, what type of document it is, how large it is and other important information.
  • Plug in for Microsoft Office – You can download and install a plugin that will automatically send your documents to Zoho for online storage and sharing!
  • No account needed – To use Zoho, you don’t need an account. You can just go and work! Once a document is saved you can even share some documents without logging in too.
  • Loads of Options – Zoho offers a lot more than just ZohoWriter. They have over twenty applications that you can use for free to help you get your work done.

Some downsides
Despite hoe many features, options, and overall choices you have with ZohoWriter, I did encounter some problems within my time working on it. There were some drop down menus that refused to close. They stayed open no matter what I did-even creating a new document! Also, sometimes when there was a pop up menu (like the equation editor) and nothing happened. It just hung there. It looked like a grey film was covering the screen. I could type and interact with Zoho, but I could not get rid of it either.

Wrapping it up
ZohoWriter is a full featured (I mean really full featured) word processing program. It’s ease of use and integration with its other apps and other stand alone apps (Word, Open Office, WordPerfect) make it ideal to use on the road. I know that Google Docs offers some of these features, so we will just have to see how it stacks up. Right now, this is pretty good and I find it to be easier to use than OpenOffice; however there are some bugs that I encountered a little too often. That being said I’d still recommend Zoho for your class and school. We’ll see if it is truly the Best of the Best!

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Opinion, Review, Tech Integration and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Best of the Best: Zoho Writer

  1. Pingback: Zoho Challenge: The picture says it all | IT Babble

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