Office Online

Lately I played around with online office suites. They come in handy after adding a new computer at home and sharing documents across without installing any office suite software. Also writing and publishing documents online to blogs becomes more of a „pressing issue“. So I looked into several online office application suites and tried to decide on one, which is „best“. The final shootout was between Google and Zoho.

Functionality

After Google acquired and rebranded Writely and also added an online spreadsheet they got a good basis for an online office suite. Various additional applications like GTalk and Notebook add to a rich online experience.

Zoho seems to be longer in the business, they offer a wide additional variety of appliations, including presentations, a workgroup system, project management, customer relationship management, online database applications, todo/notebook manager and a chat application. Zoho’s applications are targeted towards productivity.

Writing documents online and then being able to post it to my LiveJournal blog is a nice feature. Google docs also allows to post to various blogs, but not to LiveJournal.

In comprehensiveness of functionality, Zoho clearly wins.

Maturity

Both Google and Zoho suites appear to be in beta status, which doesn’t meen anything today. Both suites work as they should, with occasional unexplainable glitches.

Both suites are quite usable, overall.

Look and feel

Google shows a consistent layout and clear branding, though a bit cold and technocratic to my eyes and fingers.

Zoho looks more „solid“, tries to mimic well-known office programs more. Layout and design varies wildly between applications, though. I like the right-click context menue of Zoho, which works as one is accustomed to with desktop applications.

I’d give Zoho a slight edge in usability.

Integration

All Google applications are well integrated and work hassle-free without having to relogin to each. Switching between GoogleMail accounts on one computer is virtualy impossible.

Zoho applications all require to be logged in with their single-sign-on mechanism, which, unfortunately for me, doesn’t work. Even worse, the login dialogue can’t even remember my login data, nor does the „remember me“ check box have any noticable effect.

Google is the better integrated product and easier to navigate between applications.

Collaboration

A real plus in Google is the ability to start a text chat right away with members currently working on the same document. That chat is local to the document. Very good!

Zoho doesn’t offer such a contextual chat mechanism.

A disadvantage of Google is the requirement for collaboration on a document that all co-workers have a Google-account, too. This is a drawback in my personal environment. Zoho, in contrast, allows to collaborate with anyone having an email address, it also doesn’t have to be a Zoho account. That reduces the resistance level significantly.

Hence, regarding collaboration, both products differ, but shine in their respective aspect. I’d call it a draw, or rather not applicable, as each is better suited for a specific requirement.

Conclusion

Zoho is the better product for me, it gives me more confidence of having a reliable, usable, and value-added solution.

In the long run, I feel Google will be winning due to it’s geekness and euphoria within the online community.

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