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.


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!

Spreadsheets for Kids

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We announced the “Insert buttons” functionality few months back. With the power of Buttons and VBA Macros in Zoho Sheet, you can do a whole lot of things that weren’t possible earlier. Here are some sample spreadsheets:

1. Kids Zone

This spreadsheet, titled “Kids Zone”, was created by one of our team members, Senthil. It has a lot of interactive lessons for kids. Kids can learn the letters of the alphabet, and a section for identifying pictures. There are separate chapters for rhymes and stories as well.

Click on
the image below to access the public spreadsheet. You can then navigate to
the various sections by clicking on the buttons in the “HOME” tab.

This Zoho spreadsheet makes extensive use of Images and Buttons. There are around 350 images and 1125 buttons in this spreadsheet. VBA Macros are assigned to the Buttons and they are used to navigate between the various sheets. In chapters like “Identify Picture”, buttons are used to get input from the user and display the answer based on the user’s input. In “Arrange Alphabet” chapter, macros and functions are used to indicate whether the user is arranging the letters of the alphabet in the right way. Go ahead and explore the spreadsheet.

2. Word Puzzle

Here is a word puzzle on Zoho Sheet. This is a variation of the Hangman game. A random 5-letter word is displayed with only the vowels filled in. You are allowed to guess up to 4 letters which you think might be part of the word. If you key in a letter that is part of the word, then all the occurrences of that letter will be filled in. After 4 chances, you have to guess the full word. Click on the image below to open the spreadsheet.

We would like to know how you have used Buttons and VBA Macros in your Zoho spreadsheets. If you have anything interesting to share, go ahead and post it as a comment to this post.

Central Desktop Integrates Zoho Sheet

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Online Project Collaboration application vendor Central Desktop
integrated Zoho Sheet into their application using our Remote APIs.
Zoho Sheet is integrated contextually within their application letting
users view/edit spreadsheets and save them back to Central Desktop’s

This integration brings in all the goodies from Zoho Sheet into
Central Desktop’s application. This integration went live this weekend
replacing EditGrid’s spreadsheet application. Additional details about
this integration are available here.

Zoho‘s unique APIs makes it easy for applications to integrate our
office apps contextually to enhance their functionality and provide
seamless experience. Central Desktop’s integration is another such
example. We’d like to thank our friends at Central Desktop for
integrating our app. We are looking forward to a productive partnership.

Related Link

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

We have seen collaboration vendors like, 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

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

Elementool Integrates Zoho

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At Zoho, we provide APIs for a good many of our products and they have all been well received. A sample list of our API partners here. The latest one to join the list is Elementool.

Elementool provides web based project management tools for help desk, bug and defect tracking and time tracking tools. Elementool has implemented Zoho’s API in their Docs module. All uploaded documents, spreadsheets and presentations to the Elementool’s Docs module can now be viewed using Zoho. Not just viewing, you can edit the file too and when you save the file again, all changes get reflected in your uploaded file in the Elementool account.

Such a functionality is useful if you are uploading a lot of your project/work-related documents, spreadsheets & presentations online and want them viewed or edited then and there in the browser itself (instead of downloading each of them and editing them using a desktop application). Try Elementool out and see if it fits your needs.

We have a couple of other API collaborations happening too which we will blog about in the days to come. Stay tuned.