I’ve been using Zoho’s online word processor for a long time, but recently I switched over to Google Docs and Spreadsheets, even though Zoho Writer is the superior product. Why? A number of reasons. Firstly, Zoho Writer is slow, much slower than Google’s product and lately something far more irritating has crept up: a significant time lag between the time I hit a key and the letter appears on the screen. For someone like me, who still has to use backspace fairly often, something like that can be very irritating, to the point that I’ve had to say goodbye to Zoho.
But there’s something bigger than speed that made me move on: integration. Zoho recently announced a partnership with online storage providers Omnidrive and Box.net. If you store documents on either of them, you can easily open them in Zoho Writer, edit them and then save them back. I think this is a big step in the right direction, but unfortunately, this feature too seems poorly implemented. Most of my documents are in the Open Document format, however, it seems that only documents in Microsoft’s .doc format can be used in Writer. Secondly the feature simply doesn’t work. I tried numerous to create a new document in Omnidrive and open it using Zoho. However when I made any changes, saved, closed and opened again, all I got was a blank document. Combine that with the fact that this service is only one way (you can’t save documents you already have to Omnidrive) and this feature becomes effectively useless for me.
At this point, enter Google. As I’ve already said, I consider Zoho Writer a superior product to Google’s word processor, however, as my needs are modest, I decided to give it a shot. Firstly, it’s faster and there’s no irritating key lag. On the downside, the list of documents is on a separate page, while Zoho’s list is neatly tucked into a sidebar. It can get irritating if you’re working on numerous documents at the same time. Personally I found the Google Docs interface to be better than Zoho’s one. But the reason I’ve decided to stick with Google (for the time being) is integration. I don’t like having to switch between half a dozen services and keep the little quirks of each one mind (not to mention remembering passwords and user names). I wanted something that integrated storage and editably and so I was interested in the Zoho-Omnidrive partnership. If that had worked, I could have ignored Zoho’s speed problems. But it looks like Google is taking steps in the right direction. A Google Account gives you access to all of Google’s expanding array of services, but more importantly, Google is taking steps to bring its apps closer together. If you receive attachments in Gmail, you now have an option to open them in Google Docs and Spreadsheets. The Google Personalized Homepage also acts as a front end to all of your other services.
Of course, this integration is still superficial and only time will tell if Google can bring it’s services together into something cohesive. Google still lags behind Zoho’s software and Google has no online storage service (though there have been rumours of one in the works for quite some time and you can use a number of third-party tools to use Gmail’s almost 3GB storage space for things other than email). However Zoho’s little quirks make it unusable for me, but since no one else seems to be reporting the problem, it might be an issue on my side. If that’s true, then Zoho is one-up on Google. It would be great if Zoho teamed up with a mail provider to do what Gmail now does. But the playing field is still open, and I’m willing to switch sides if anyone comes up with a product that is hands-down superior. See the next post on integrating Google’s services into a seamless user experience.