A couple of months ago I wrote about how much I hated online office applications. It seemed to me that in their haste to stick it to Microsoft, online Office vendors such as Google had created a poor imitation of the world famous productivity suite. The applications were brain damaged - lacking in basic features, visually unappealing, and without a facility for working unconnected.
At the time I lumped Zoho in with the rest. I wish I hadn't. I have spent the last month or so using Zoho Writer for basic writing tasks, especially blogging. While it is not nearly as full featured as Word or OpenOffice.org Writer, it handles most basic writing tasks well.
Zoho Writer also allows you to work offline, a critical feature to me. It downloads some number of documents to your local storage and allows you to continue to work unconnected. Afterwards, Zoho syncs up your files with the online documents. Zoho also has complete versioning (which makes syncing easy) and includes various on-line collaboration functions. It does a fair job of exporting most important file types from major competitive applications and a very good job at exporting to Blogger. It allows you to create PDFs, a feature that Word still doesn't have. One minor annoyance: Zoho Writer lacks the spellcheck-as-you-go feature found in most word processors and disables the one on Firefox. That's a bit annoying but not fatal.
One thing I find fascinating is how Zoho provides the offline capablity. It's uses Google Gears! Zoho does something that Google Docs doesn't do yet using Google technology. That's practically the definition of ironic.
I haven't spent much time with the other Office-like applications. Zoho has all the usual suspects. I am especially hesitant to say anything positive about the spreadsheet module since few are as good as Excel including the Openoffice.org one. The same is true for the PowerPoint clone. I'm not so impressed with Openoffice.orgs Impress.
I have to admit, at least for word processors, I have changed my mind about online office apps. While not perfect, Zoho Writer is a decent web-based word processor. It is a rival to Microsoft Works and a viable alternative to Word for those who need to do simple writing tasks. I wouldn't write a book using Zoho but then again, most of us rarely write a book.