Zoho review: Zoho

Zoho Show beta lets you make basic presentations, either plain or from 8 templates. We like that you can embed HTML snippets to insert charts and so on. Even cooler would be the ability to insert a chart from Zoho Sheet, but we couldn't find such integration during our beta tests. We sometimes found it easy to lose our place while switching among Zoho's various online apps, each which opens a separate browser window or tab.

When it's time to play your slide show, you can set the timing between each slide, although without fancy fades or other transitions. You can e-mail people to join your remote presentation too.

In Zoho Sheet beta, you can easily select rows or columns, sort them, and apply fonts and numeric styles. Sheet let us work with multiple worksheets within one document, arranged along the bottom of the screen within tabs similar to Excel's. Still, we'd like a quick-reference key for commonly used formulas, which Google Docs & Spreadsheets offers. Yet Zoho let us make graphs, such as a pie chart of our expenses, then a bar chart with the same figures within a matter of moments--useful for adding up some numbers quickly, then creating a chart to see a pattern.

In both Firefox 2 and IE 7, Zoho Sheet beta wouldn't let us paste or import a 300-row Excel spreadsheet.

Some of the basic functions in Zoho Sheet beta were clumsier than in Google's Docs & Spreadsheets beta, which offers fewer features. The first time we attempted to paste 300 text rows from Microsoft Excel, Zoho Sheet froze. Importing the same Excel file to Zoho Sheet as CSV didn't work, either. Once that failed, we couldn't even get the Import button to work. And when trying to use Zoho Show beta, we had to tell IE 7 to allow ActiveX controls over and over again.

Luckily, Zoho's support offerings include generous toll-free, free, 24/7 tech support by telephone and e-mail. We received nearly instant, helpful e-mail replies from Zoho about our problems. User forums are well trafficked.

Any beta service is bound to have some kinks. Nevertheless, in contrast to Zoho's woes, we ran into fewer troubles with the rival Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Zoho's services look promising, but we hope that its makers will iron out the wrinkles soon so that we can use more than its Writer word processor without headaches.

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