Monday, June 16, 2008

'Doc'ing and 'Zoho'ing

This morning I spent a considerable amount of time in solving a seemingly simple problem. We had a meeting with a client to whom we had to make a presentation. The logistics was challenging. The client was located in another continent, my colleague in another city and me here. I set thinking about an online presentation tool. Google Docs was the first obvious choice.

I've been using Google Docs for quite sometime now. Initially it was mostly for personal work - sharing travel plans, check lists and some other random stuff. These days I use it a lot more at work. We are a three member team working on this other assignment and we are located at different locations and worse still, we travel a lot. What do you do? How do you collaborate? How do you exchange notes? How do you keep track of email? Switching to Google Docs provided an instant solution. I had no doubts that this would be simple till I realized that Google Presentations did not have the option of making remote presentation without having to login with your Google account. Now, expecting a client to have a gmail ID and use it to login and access a simple presentation seemed a bit too much to ask for.

My second choice - Zoho. I’ve been dabbling with Zoho Apps on and off. I found their spread of applications interesting, I like their usability and moreover Sridhar’s blog is one of the most interesting ones in Silicon Valley. That was the “on” part; the “off” part comes from the fact that though I can use a Google account to sign in, when I try going offline (yes! the darn airports and the wait times) and logging in to synchronize, it requires a Zoho account only. By now I have too many IDs and passwords; I decided I couldn’t be bothered with another one.

Zoho Show thankfully had the option of remote presenting without having to login. The entire functionality is really cool; you must try it sometime. Apart from the few glitches (which gobbled up a couple of hours this morning) where Zoho Show wouldn’t properly import the formatting from my actual presentation, everything went off smooth and glitch-free (crossing fingers and toes - I have another one coming up next week).

Zoho and Google Docs launched in 2005-2006. Since then they have been pitched as Microsoft Office’s competitors and seen as applications set to replace the office suite. There are even articles that speculate how office will see its end soon and how people and businesses will start using online apps for all practical purposes. After today’s experience with Zoho and my past experience with Google Docs, I don’t see this happening very soon. Unless one of these companies does something drastic to improve the product performance, I don’t see this happening at least for another decade.

Apart from the fact that the applications require a decent internet connection, the functionality of both, in my opinion is still shaky. While use of the word processor generally goes off glitch free, the problem starts while using the spreadsheets and the presentations. A little too many rows and the application starts losing control - shaky screens, brief hanging, slow responses. My experience with Zoho-Show was far worse. My presentation was already there in powerpoint and all Zoho had to do was import it. Spacing and bullets went awry, the paste function stopped working, the way the slides normally looked on the slides was different from the way it looked on the slide show. I spent quite a few hours fixing it, something that would have normally taken me just a few minutes on powerpoint.

All said and done, the fact that they exist makes life a lot easier. But replacing Office, they have a long long way to go!

No comments: