Online Document Creation and Sharing

There are many programs such as

Google docs
MS Office Live
ZOHO writer
or for that matter even wiki programs such as Wetpaint

those allow one to use browser accessible editor programs to create documents that can be saved in many popular document formats or they can be shared online for collaboration in completing projects. These programs do not have all the features that one will find in a full blown word processor such MS Word but they provide easy interfaces to facilitate group collaboration and instant sharing of information with fine grained access control. The old Word processor do not have this. With the 20/80 rule where 20 percent features in a program are used 80 percent of the time these programs provide enough formatting capabilities to create web based documents that can be saved in many different popular formats.

Some of you probably are wondering why I included wiki in the same mix as the others because wikis markup to create documents is different than the html markup that other programs are using. That is true but most of the user will use the rich text editor and they will never actually code in plain html or in wiki markup. For them it is not important how the data is internally stored. They just want to use the features of automatic versioning of the documents with sharing and collaboration capabilities. On a side note the computer programmers are incredibly creative people. If there are five ways to mark up an entry they will make sure that they use all of them just to distinguish themselves from others. Otherwise how else you would explain the existence of so many document formats such as rtf, html, pdf, wiki mark up and latex. I know there are historical reasons why they are here and each one of them offers some unique capability but the html and wiki markup are really not that much different. For example html markup fo a paragraph <p>xxx</p> or .p xxx wiki markup only differs in the amount of typing one does otherwise on the screen they are both rendered the same. The wiki markup creator must have hated typing brackets “<>” so he used “.” instead.

Now the graphic designers who have background in printing and want precise location of elements on a page is a different story. Most of their techniques are waste of time for documents that will be viewed on the screen because computer monitor screens do not have enough resolution to be pixel perfect. Compare 90-130 dpi (dot per inch) resolution to the minimum printed page resolution of 1400dpi. There is no comparison and the poor typographers and graphics designers who come from the print background cry when their dot perfect design is horribly mangled on the computer screen or the color fiends who use color maps to display precise colors for his/her design finds out that computer display monitors display the same image differently for variety of the reasons. So what is it that makes us give up our beautifully color printed books to the electronic documents that are of poor quality when compared with the original print media books? It is the ease of creation, use, sharing and collaboration. The original intent of creating printed books was to share information but it was one way street that information flow was between author to its passive readers a hierarchical network between author and the readers where the author sat at the top of the hierarchy pyramid. The electronic documents facilitate creation of flat network where every body can contribute if they desire to do so.

As always MS has its tiered strategy to compete in this space. They have MS Office live a free offering then they their enterprise office suite that does include one of my favorite program formerly known as Groove, a peer-to-peer based group collaboration tool that came from the same people who gave us Lotus notes. The program uses p2p so no need to maintain a large server every node is a client and a server. It uses a advance replication and presence so that the user can work off line and when they come online every other users workspace gets the copy. No need to notify every group member for the new changes the program automatically kees track of all this and keeps all the users in the loop. It was/is a program that was/is way ahead of other programs in this category with an extensible framework. Being part of the University I have access to the entire suite for free but what about the people I teach and I collaborate with. It was bad enough that I have to force them to download and install Groove client and pay some modest amount of $0-$50-$160 depending upon what capability we needed for the group but now they have to buy the whole office suite to get the same capability. Thanks to Ray Ozzie for selling us out who supported Groove when it was an unknown obscure slow and a buggy program in its version 1.0

That is why I am extremely cynical of the startups who when they need you will go out of the way to do things for you but once they made it at the back of their beta testers they quickly forget how they get there. Watch out facebook they will probably be bought out at some point by Microsoft or IBM. My take on this is that never support a company 100 percent and support only the product and companies that support you.

Talking of startup here is this company that claims to be the future of web. I was excited because they CEO was using the right words like “Semantic Web” etc so I made a blog entry and asked them if I can test their software. Guess what no reply. I guess they really have nothing to show except a sweet story for the venture capitalist.

This is the second entry I wrote using ZOHO write. As I said before it has better capabilities than Google docs but definitely needs some improvement. It needs auto sensing of url. It needs automatic spell check believe or not I post the article on wordpress and then use the auto sensing feature for spell check within rich text editor provided by wordpress. SOHO writer that claims to be an authoring tool does not have this most basic feature that helps an author but has gazillion icons to format the text. Also sometimes when I want to hyper link some text it has bizarre behavior of losing the text. Other then that It looks good.

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5 Responses to “Online Document Creation and Sharing”

  1. Chris Allen Says:

    After reviewing the demo for Zoho presentation capabilities, it reminds me of MS PowerPoint; but like a more stripped down version (as you mentioned in your blog). I think they incorporated just about everything I use in PowerPoint. I currently use WebEx for giving presentations to co-workers at different locations; it is very cumbersome to setup and effectively use. For my next meeting, I am going to give Zoho a try and see how things go. As for WetPaint, I think this could be slightly better than Google Apps because we would not have to sign in through our YSU student account all the time to access our group’s website. Just my first thought without giving it a test drive.

  2. jalam1001 Says:

    Chris

    The ZOHO can run as a facebook application.

    http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=2380274266

    Also

    They run forums for customer support here

    http://forums.zoho.com/

    I am not endorsing them but they do have all the right tools and support.

  3. jaguidosh Says:

    I have to agree with you, support the product and not the company. If you get too attached to any specific company’s version of a product you’ll just end up blinding yourself to advances that the competition make, not to mention you open yourself up to be taken advantage of. Nothing a company likes more than the brand loyalty of a consumer zombie. Sometimes a good company will offer a good quality product at the right price and actually deserve the loyalty they crave, but more often than not they seem to achieve that goal by forcing all the little fish out of the water.

    Enough ranting. I guess what I’m saying is trying out new things is good , it encourages innovation and which encourages new companies and higher quality of products and services. Just my two bits.

  4. Dolly Bhasin Says:

    Amongst all ZOHO seems to be the most promising. The best part is the blogs about each product in the suite and an online screencast of each product. Gives you a complete overview of the product and how to go about finding your way to use the product.

  5. Why Google Doc? « Jalam’s Weblog Says:

    […] is showing its age. Here is an article I wrote on the comparison that outlines my opinion about word processors. My main point is that […]

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