Web word processor adds PDF conversion

Web-based word processor Writely can now convert documents to the Rich Text Format (RTF) and Adobe PDF standards, adding to recent new features like OpenDocument support. Writely was launched by privately held United States-based company Upstartle in August as a Web site to store, edit and share word processing documents.

Web-based word processor Writely can now convert documents to the Rich Text Format (RTF) and Adobe PDF standards, adding to recent new features like OpenDocument support.

Writely was launched by privately held United States-based company Upstartle in August as a Web site to store, edit and share word processing documents. The site allows people to upload Microsoft Word documents, which are then converted to HTML.

PDF conversion with Writely
Click to enlarge

"Look for 'Save as PDF' on the action menu in the editor," wrote co-founder of Upstartle, Claudia Carpenter, on the software's official blog last week. Carpenter is one of three software engineers who left the maker of Quicken financial planning software, Intuit, to to found Upstartle.

However Carpenter said the feature would eventually cost money.

"Note: this is our first to-be-premium feature, meaning it will be part of a paid subscription service once we come out of beta," she said.

"I know -- I'm the most boring blog poster ever. No fun stories or pretty pictures; just the facts," the programmer added, as she outlined a raft of minor changes to Writely, including multiple bugfixes. A post several days earlier dealt with RTF format support.

While Sam Schillace, another of Writely's founders, said several weeks ago Writely currently has "several tens of thousands of users", the company is thinking bigger.

"We're almost done with scaling the site past 100,000 users. We should be able to support a million users by the end of the month!" wrote Carpenter.

In late November, Schillace announced that Writely supported the OpenDocument format, a publicly available open standard for word processing which has recently been gathering steam from vendors like IBM and Sun Microsystems.

OpenDocument is currently a hot topic of debate after the United States State of Massachusetts said in September it would adopt the format and dump Microsoft Office because it wanted to move away from proprietary formats.

Writely saves documents in an XHTML-based format.

Upstartle is just one of a number of software startups who are looking to move applications onto the Web in an effort to compete with existing solutions like Microsoft Office.

Many of the solutions use innovative programming techniques like AJAX -- or Asynchronous Javascript and XML -- to give the services an interactivity and fresh feel not found in the previous generation of Web services.

Microsoft's Web version of Outlook and Google's Maps product are examples of Web services that use AJAX.

A local example is Sydney-based Remember the Milk, created by two programmers with the aim of replicating collaborative calendaring functions typically found in suites like Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange e-mail solution.

Such companies are speedily being snapped up by giants like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Popular Web service Del.icio.us, which allows browsers to keep and share their bookmarks online, was snapped up over the weekend by Yahoo for an undisclosed sum.

Earlier this month Upstartle announced it would look for investor to pump cash into the company.

"We will get some outside investment in order to stay ahead of our fast user growth and kick butt on meeting our users' needs in the years to come," wrote the company's marketing chief Jennifer Mazzon on the official blog.

"In a perfect world, we would continue to bootstrap Writely until we earn profit through a wildly successful premium service offering (for example), and so we would never need outside investment," she wrote.

"But that's just not realistic given the growth and the enthusiastic response from users that we're seeing. So instead we'll be drumming up investment in 2006 -- to fuel our growth and make sure that we keep our users happy for the long term!"

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.

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