CRN has come up with a review of Ajax-based sites in six categories – calendars, e-mail, information managers, spreadsheets, webtops and word processors. Zoho Writer is the Winner in the word processor category. And Zoho Sheet is runner-up in the spreadsheets category. From the review article :

Word Processors
The Winner: Zoho Writer
Ajax-based word processors may be good for collaboration, and they can offer solid basic functionality. But for power features, I fully expected that I’d have to turn to their desktop-based counterparts.

Wrong, at least as far as Zoho Writer is concerned. This site gives you all the collaboration tools you’d expect in an Ajax application, along with a suite of features that any power user would love. In fact, for some purposes, such as creating graphics-heavy documents or documents for which you want an HTML version, it beats Microsoft Word.

For a start, it includes very good text-handling, the ability to change font color and size, a spell-checker, undo, and more — pretty much all the solid basics of a word processor. It’s all accessible via an intuitive toolbar whose icons look much like Word’s.

It excels in creation of HTML pages, because it automatically creates an HTML version of any file as you type. You can toggle between normal and HTML views, and you can easily add your own HTML tags. It also includes dialog boxes for coding links, anchors, and graphics. In addition, Zoho Writer’s insert-image feature outstrips Word’s, because it lets you customize spacing and alignment — and it then automatically converts all that to the proper HTML code.

Zoho Writer can also export files to many formats, including Word .DOC files, Rich Text Format (.RTF), text files, PDF, HTML, the Open Office .SXW extension, and OpenDocument’s .ODT format.

As for collaboration, it’s got what you need as well. It’s simple to invite others to view or get read/write access to the document. Bloggers will appreciate its ability to link directly into accounts for Blogger, LiveJournal, WordPress, and TypePad, and to upload your current document as a post.

There is one downside to this site: I found it to be slow to load, and the initial load often took a few minutes. But that’s a small price to pay for such a power-packed word processor. The only hard thing to believe about Zoho Writer is that it’s actually free.

Spreadsheets
The Runner-Up: Zoho Sheet

Zoho Sheet is a close runner-up to Google Spreadsheets, and in fact bests it in several ways. It lets you create charts, for example, and you can export to more formats than Google Spreadsheets, including Excel, OpenOffice, .CSV, HTML, and PDF.

Where it falls down is collaboration. You can invite people to share your spreadsheets, and you can give them read-only or read-write access. But despite multiple efforts, I couldn’t get it to work properly; edits made by one person didn’t show up to the other person working on the same sheet and vice versa. In time, this bug may be worked out, and Zoho Sheet could end up the winner.

Thanks to the CRN reviewers Preston Gralla & Barbara Krasnoff! We sure will be addressing the issues pointed out. And congrats to the other winners.