The Next Phase in the Evolution of Office Suites

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This week, Microsoft is launching the latest version of its Office suite. These 3 year release cycles seem alien to us given that our apps are typically updated at least once a month. In case you are considering upgrading to Office 2010, you might want to give online alternatives a try. Our friends at Google listed several reasons not to upgrade to Office 2010 .

As Microsoft evolves its Office suite and moves online (finally), we see a new phase in the evolution of Office suites – Componentization. For the past five years, we have seen Office suites evolve from desktop application suites to online application suites, and Zoho has been at the forefront of this transformation. Now, we are leading the way again in taking the office suites to the next phase of its evolution.

Desktop to Portable Music Players

An analogy best makes this point. Not so long ago, we saw the evolution of music players from desktop models to portable models. We see these music players now becoming components of our mobile phones and several other devices. I’d compare MS Office to that old desktop music player. Web Apps like Zoho and Google add portability plus a lot more which can be compared to portable music players. The next step: Office apps becoming components within other apps.

Office suites traditionally have been standalone applications that are independent from other business applications. While there is clearly value in this, we think their usage and their impact on users’ productivity will be significantly higher when they are contextually integrated within other business applications and workflow.

Avoiding Context Switch

For example, if you are working on a project and want to create/edit documents related to the project, you currently have to quit the ‘Project Context’ and move to the ‘Office Context’ to create/edit documents. This context switching is expensive. When an Office suite is contextually integrated into a project management application, you’ll be able to work on your documents within your project management system without leaving the ‘Project Context’. This significantly improves productivity, especially when you consider numerous times we context switch every day. For something like this to happen, Office Apps can no longer be standalone as they are today. They have to be componentized and have to be part of user’s workflow.

We previously talked about contextual integration and avoiding context switch. This componentization of Office apps enables such contextual integration. In fact, a report from Forrester (subscription required) lists ‘tools not integrated into processes’ as the biggest challenge for MS Office – pointing to the lack of contextual integration in MS Office.

Interesting thing is, most of the challenges mentioned above are addressed by online apps. Even the componentization I have been talking about is an inherent benefit of online apps.

Contextual Integration of Office Apps

We not only preach this concept, but we are integrating our Office apps into our own business apps (check out Projects integration, CRM integration, Recruit integration, etc). We opened the same APIs we use internally to our partners, allowing them to integrate our powerful Office applications within their apps, and many partners did take advantage of these APIs.

Let me illustrate this concept of componentization and contextual integration of Office apps with the work of one of our partners – CentralDesktop. Our friends at CentralDesktop did a tight integration of our spreadsheet application into their collaboration app, contextually providing a spreadsheet app, offering a seamless experience to the user.

In the CentralDesktop screenshot above, the spreadsheet section is served by Zoho, but the data is coming from CentralDesktop’s servers. Multiple users can collaborate on a spreadsheet within CentralDesktop’s collaboration application, and when they save the spreadsheet, it is saved back to CentralDesktop’s servers (and not Zoho’s servers). In fact, users need not even have a Zoho account to do all of this. This is a great example of how a partner can contextually integrate our productivity apps, making them part of the workflow. We have several other partners integrate our apps in interesting ways.

At Zoho, we believe this approach will deliver productivity gains and the path Office apps will follow. Our team has been at work for months now componentizing our Office apps and making them easy to integrate. As Microsoft begins its journey into the online office space, we pave the way to the next phase of Office apps evolution.

Raju

Zoho, Google Gears, HTML5

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Today, Google announced that they will no longer support Google Gears . You may be aware that we have been using Google Gears to offer offline support in Zoho Applications .

Google team is gracious to inform us about this decision in advance and the intentions behind this move, which we very much respect. At Zoho, we see HTML5 as the future of the web, and we plan to move our apps in this direction.

As far as Offline support for existing Zoho Apps (Zoho Writer & Zoho Mail, primarily) are concerned, they will continue to work for now as we migrate towards HTML5. We internally are experimenting with HTML5 and we are excited to see the possibilities.

It was a great experience working with the Google Gears team and we now look forward to working closely with HTML5 team.

New: Page View Option in Zoho Writer Editor

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Zoho Writer now has a new Page View option. Previously, Zoho Writer’s editor displayed your document as a single HTML page – the Normal View option as shown below.


You can now make the Zoho Writer editor display your document page-wise. By choosing the new Page View (under the Views
menu-tab), you get to see how the text appears in the actual page
layout. Dotted lines show the page boundaries. What’s
best about the new option is that you can continue to write (edit) in
the Page View mode.


You can make the Page View as the default View option by clicking on the Settings link at the top and choosing the appropriate Choose View option.


In our next update, we will be making this Page View more like the Print Preview option available now. This will make the editor lay out exactly like on paper. Stay tuned!

Insert Watermarks in your Zoho Writer Documents

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The importance and usefulness of embedded watermarks in business documents can’t be stressed enough. From drafts to confidential documents to having organization logos, watermarks perform an important role in document management. Now, you can insert watermarks in your Zoho Writer documents. The Watermark option is present under Zoho Writer’s Insert menu-tab.

You can include both text and picture watermarks.


Screenshot of a document with watermarked text in the background.

Other than when being shared online, the document’s pages will contain the watermark when printed. Try the new watermark feature in Zoho Writer.

Zoho Recruit Integrates With Zoho Writer, Sheet, Show and Viewer

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No more file downloads to view and edit the documents in Zoho Recruit. Viewing and editing the documents has now been made easy in Zoho Recruit. Its integration with Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show and Zoho Viewer gives you an option to View and Edit the attachments and save them directly to Zoho Recruit. Thus it helps you save time in viewing and editing the documents.

Zoho Recruit identifies the file format and opens in appropriate Zoho Application. You still have the option to download the file if you need a copy of it.


Stay tuned for more features from Zoho Recruit!

Zoho API integration in FilesAnywhere

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FilesAnywhere is a secure online file storage service. For documents, spreadsheets and presentation files, FilesAnywhere makes it easy for its users to edit and save files, directly online. Right clicking on a file brings the below menu.


Choosing Service Plugins -> ZOHO Editor opens the file (document, spreadsheet or presentation) in a new tab.

You can edit the file and save it back to your FilesAnywhere account. Give FilesAnywhere a try.

Related Link

Glasscubes integrates Zoho

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Online applications are ideal for collaboration, especially for
collaborating with users from multiple locations. These browser based
applications offer convenience, mobility among many other advantages.
But when you have to depend on a locally installed application, to open
a document for example, breaks the flow. Integrating document editing capability
within in the browser can offer seamless experience and can make users
productive as well as remove the hurdle to have an installed
application.



We have seen collaboration vendors like Box.net, Huddle, Knowledge Tree etc offer
seamless online document editing experience using Zoho editors. Today,
another online collaboration & project management vendor,
Glasscubes integrated Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet into their application.



If you upload documents or spreadsheets into GlassCubes documents
section, you’ll notice an additional option to edit the document.





Choosing the ‘Edit Document’ option opens the document (including 2007
formats) in the appropriate Zoho Editors. You can make changes to the
document and save it back to the Glasscubes application. Thanks to our
Remote APIs, Glasscubes users need not have a Zoho account to use this
functionality.







Rob Hallums explains this integration on their blog. We’d like to thank GlassCubes for integrating Zoho.