These days you certainly aren’t forced to use Microsoft for all your word processing and office application needs. In fact, you don’t even have to purchase an office suite at all, as there is a number of free ones available. Some of these are based online, such as Google Docs, and Zoho’s offering falls under this category.
The centrepiece of the show is the word processor, Zoho Writer. One of the major advantages of an online word processor is that it’s possible to access your files from anywhere (with 1GB of storage provided on the Zoho servers). Cleverly, there’s also an offline mode so you can work on your documents without being connected to the Internet (Writer simply updates your docs with any changes the next time you go online).
All major formats are supported when it comes to importing files, including Word, OpenOffice and HTML files; the only thing missing is PDF (although you can export to that format). The feature list is solid too, with a spell checker, word count and auto-save, plus there’s a document history under which all versions of a file are kept. This means you can revert to a previous version with the click of a button.
There’s also a facility Google Docs users will be familiar with: Document sharing. This allows multiple Zoho users to share documents (strangely enough), so collaborative projects can be worked upon with ease. On top of all this, Zoho Writer supports tables and embedded pictures within documents. It’s a quality word processor, and the only hitch we came across was that the undo function seemed to behave erratically every now and then.
The suite’s spreadsheet arm is Zoho Sheet, and this supports Excel and OpenOffice formats. As with the word processor, it sports a well organised menu bar and a neat overall layout. However, it’s quite slow to load and convert files, and we ran into compatibility issues with some Excel spreadsheets failing to load completely.
Zoho Show is the presentation module and as you’d expect, it’s PowerPoint compatible. It isn’t as well featured as PowerPoint, but there’s certainly scope to put together a decent presentation here. Once again, however, we did hit the odd snag trying to import PowerPoint files, with the occasional refusal to work on Zoho’s part.
There’s a number of other Zoho applications available, including a wiki, notebook, database manager, personal organiser and project management software, among other bits and pieces. It’s certainly a comprehensive suite given its gratis nature.