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Zoho review: Zoho

The Zoho Office Suite beta has strong potential, but it's not yet a final product, and its spreadsheets and presentations apps need more work before you can rely on them.

Elsa Wenzel

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4 min read

The apps within the Zoho Office Suite beta include the Zoho Writer word processor; Sheet for spreadsheets; Show, which is similar to PowerPoint; and the Virtual Office dashboard to tie everything together. Setup takes a few moments. Just visit zoho.com and establish a sign-in name and a password. Zoho also lets users sign on to the Suite's various services with a single ID.



The Good

Zoho Office Suite beta is free; offers a single login identity for its services; enables you to tag files by subject and collaborate with other users online; its apps have a clean interface; Writer is useful; Sheet lets you make charts; Writer and Sheet offer Microsoft Office plugins.

The Bad

Zoho Sheet had problems importing Excel data, and Show had trouble with images.

The Bottom Line

The Zoho Office Suite beta has strong potential, but it's not yet a final product.
Do you really need to plunk down hundreds of dollars to install a productivity suite such as or Corel WordPerfect on your hard drive? Zoho Office Suite beta offers a complete line of Web-based office software for free. The company adds new features regularly, such as an offline component that lets you access files without an Internet connection. And now Zoho has better tied together the suite by displaying all documents in one place.

Zoho Show lets you make no-frills, PowerPoint-like presentations, but its beta quirks made it too frustrating to use in our tests.

Similarly, Zoho is the only company so far that has provided a plugin for the new Microsoft Office 2007 software. This free tool took us a minute or two to download and set up. With that done, we were able to press a button within Microsoft Word and Excel 2007 and instantly save our work to Zoho's servers. Although you'll have to save stuff in Office 2007 as backward-compatible files first for Zoho's purposes (only ThinkFree Office, Corel WordPerfect X3 and Apple iWork can read OOXML so far), this allows you to take word processing and spreadsheet work on the road and access it from a Web browser. Zoho has also partnered with Desktopize so you can access Zoho files from your Windows desktop without opening a browser.

We like the look and feel of Zoho's services, which arrange major functions along the top of the page; just hover over an icon to read what it does. A right-click of the mouse will display common editing functions, but sometimes we couldn't get keyboard shortcuts, such as Ctrl-Z for undo, to work. Zoho makes it a snap to share your files with a public URL, or feed, or to invite individual users to collaborate on edits. Among Zoho's services, we had the least number of problems testing Zoho Writer word processor (which we reviewed on its own), with which you can import, export, share documents, and even make blog posts.

Although we had problems importing data from Excel, Zoho Sheet beta did enable us to create useful spreadsheets and charts from scratch.

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.



Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 6Performance 0Support 7
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