Gone are the days of needing software to open up e-mail attachments. Between Gmail and a handful of online office tools, the reliance on Microsoft Office isn't nearly as much of a stranglehold as it was in the 90s. This morning Zoho is expanding its format-free nature with a new tool called Viewer that will open up 15 different types of common file formats from Microsoft, Open Office, Open Document, and others such as PDFs, CSVs, and HTML files. There's also a form to submit file types you want supported in future updates.
Once uploaded, files show up in a simple viewer that loads quickly. Along the top is a list of options to share the file with others (via a URL), embed it on a blog or Web site, print, export, or--the killer app--edit. Clicking the edit button will shoot the document over to one of Zoho's comparable applications. For instance, if you attempt to edit an Microsoft Word document, it will open up in Zoho Writer. Likewise, if you open up a spreadsheet file, it will open up in Zoho Sheet. I didn't manage to get this functionality to work with PowerPoint documents, but you can still import these files manually into Zoho's presentation application as a workaround.
Zoho Viewer lets you upload files one at a time or in bulk. The only snag is a 5MB limit per file, so if you've got a big PDF floating around, you're out of luck.
Zoho Viewer's functionality is a lot like Scribd, which has been doing quite well. The main thing Scribd has that Zoho's viewer doesn't is a sense of community. The feeling of discovery and exploration is lost without some sort of hub for other people's shared documents. As it stands, this is a great tool for people who don't want to install software to view some of the more "off-brand" file types.
I've embedded below an example of the Zoho Viewer in action, with a PDF of the manual for the iPhone Bluetooth headset.