Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year's with Writely and Zoho Writer!

Today I comparison tested two web-based beta-version word processors: Writely and Zoho Writer. Both make it deliciously easy to post to blogger. Both are free and are painless to start into. Both can import and save documents in HTML, MSOffice and OOo formats (I'm partial to OOo, which is free, and allows me to export as a pdf). Of the two, I like Zoho Writer's interface, feel, pace and task flow better, but I have to stick with Writely because of some critical features.

Both Writely and Zoho Writer allow the use of tags, which like gmail, allows you multiple labels to help organize files, in my mind a superior feature to a directory tree structure assuming you have a decent file content search function. Which neither does as of yet. (Note: It would be handy if these tags translated to technorati tags in the document.)

Writely has two critical advantages over Zoho Writer. First, Writely has an html editor, essential for inserting and finessing special bits like technorati tags, etc. Zoho Writer has some minimal html editing capabilities which you see when you right-click on selected text.

Second critical difference is that Writely I can replace my blog entry with an updated version using an "update post" option. Not so with Zoho Writer - every time I uploaded this article, it had to be a new entry, forcing me to delete the old one. Also, with Writely, you can use special character's in the title (', !, ?) and it is possible to edit the article title at the point it will be uploaded to the blog, even when you update the post. In Zoho Writer my workaround is to Save As Template, and reopen as a new document.

Indications are that ZohoWriter has got more work to get out of beta than Writely does. Cut-and-paste between documents requires going into a Mozilla file and hacking it to allow an unauthorized script. Editing styles and character fonts is a little dicey. The date-time stamp when I post to my blog is straight up UTC - not what I want.

Unlike Zoho Writer, Writely has the ability to insert bookmarks and internal links, although I haven't been able to get that feature to work so well for me yet in the blog. Neither program has the image file import interface I want. If I want to import a lofi thumbnail that links externally to a the original version (ala blogger's editor) it is going to have to be done the old fashioned way. I can't even resize the image to be inserted. Zoho Writer has an "anchor" button that may support image insertion and placement but I haven't figured it out yet. Again, an html editor would be nice.

Zoho Writer's advantage over Writely are that it is significantly faster, doesn't open the document in a separate window, and in my personal opinion, has a cleaner touch to the interface. For example, you don't close (or "done" button) a document - just save (or not and lose changes) and cleanly move on to the next task. The login procedure is faster. I find Zoho Writer more pleasant to use than Writely and thought I would like it better until I got into it deeper. I am compelled to stick with Writely for now.

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Mani said...

Dear Philip,

Thanks a lot for the detailed comparison. We are very happy to hear your positive feedback on the Zoho Writer interface & usability.

These kind of reviews will surely help us make our service better. We will make sure all the missing features you have mentioned in your post are covered in Zoho Writer.


Kevin said...

Thanks for the review - I had not heard of Zoho previously, although I have started using Writely. I mention it in my recent list of WEB2.0 applications: