Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
These days, there's increasingly little reason to use a traditional locally installed office suite. <a href="http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/software/productivity/0,1000001108,39284890,00.htm">Google Docs</a> and <a href="http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/software/productivity/0,1000001108,39284434,00.htm">Zoho</a>, for example, are both free and well-featured web-based suites — and both can be used offline, thanks to <a href="http://gears.google.com/">Google Gears</a>. Zoho is the most comprehensive suite of web-based applications for small businesses, and its flagship <a href="http://writer.zoho.com/home?serviceurl=%2Findex.do">word processor</a> recently received a major interface overhaul in its 2.0 incarnation.
Slick new interface makes Zoho Writer feel like a desktop application
A good number of new and useful features
Supports offline working
No as-you-type spelling checker
No grammar checker
These days, there's increasingly little reason to use a traditional locally installed office suite. Google Docs and Zoho, for example, are both free and well-featured web-based suites — and both can be used offline, thanks to Google Gears. Zoho is the most comprehensive suite of web-based applications for small businesses, and its flagship word processor recently received a major interface overhaul in its 2.0 incarnation.
Zoho Writer is one of a host of web-based applications offered by AdventNet to rival traditional software from competitors like Microsoft, Corel and OpenOffice.org, and web-based applications from Google. Zoho offers nearly 20 web-based applications — some free for personal use, while business applications require a fee — and continues to make improvements to its portfolio. For example, recently Zoho added single sign-on support for its CRM application, a move that sets the stage for tighter integration between the different modules.
Zoho Writer 2.0's revamped interface is based around a combination of tabs and drop-down menus that makes for a less confusing user experience.
Previously, Zoho Writer displayed all of its functionality via a three-row toolbar. However, as functionality was added the interface became crowded. The key enhancement in Zoho Writer 2.0 is the MenuTab design, which streamlines the toolbar with tabbed menus that organise commands in context-based groups. The key here is the ability to use the tabs as menus: you can access these commands either by clicking the tab, which brings up the appropriate button set on your toolbar (much like Microsoft Office 2007's ribbon) or by clicking the little arrow to the right of the tab title, which opens a drop-down menu without changing the toolbar beneath.
Zoho Writer 2.0 includes tabs for Format, Insert, Review, Share, Views and Page Setup. Commonly used features like Save, Undo/Redo, Cut/Copy/Paste and so on are grouped together to the left of the MenuTabs, so that they're always accessible.
Other interface enhancements include an enhanced sidebar, improved header/footer with auto-fill support, and more document info with a live word count displayed in the status bar. The new sidebar, which is now consistent with that of Zoho Sheet. , also now includes search functionality. Elsewhere, you can change your page layout from the default portrait to landscape mode. However, collaborative editing (in real time if necessary via Zoho Chat) is an important new feature — and a necessary one, given that Google Docs has been doing this for some time. On the downside, it's too easy to overwrite another user's edits.
Collaboration features include real-time group editing via Zoho Chat.
Zoho Writer works just like a regular word processor. You can start with a blank page, or import HTML, DOC, DOCX, SXW (Open Office), ODT, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG and text files, with a 10MB maximum file size. You can also export documents to a similarly wide range of formats, as well as publish documents to your blog, share them with the public or share via email. A useful History feature lets you revert to any previously saved versions. It also can show you the differences between the versions. The result looks similar to revisions in Word — highlighted and underlined — but it doesn't identify which user made the change.
Zoho Writer provides a link to browse some 50 templates, any of which you can import into your library. Another thing we noticed in this release is that the Insert Layer feature has been removed. This is because it tended to mess up certain complex documents by not maintaining its position. As a workaround, you have to use the Insert Table option without borders.
The problem with web-based applications like Zoho is one of constant improvement. That may not seem like a problem, but as more and more features are added without revamping the interface, things can get a little unruly. Zoho Writer's UI redesign works very well and ensures that the application doesn't overwhelm you visually, which in turn makes it easier to work with.
Although Zoho Writer 2.0 doesn't offer some of the advanced functionality of desktop applications like Microsoft Word, it does provide one of the richest feature sets of any online word processor — and, of course, it's free.