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Why Zoho is Best Online Office Suites ?

Online office suites have been around for quite a while, but for a long time they were looked at in wonderment, not because they did what they’re supposed to do well, but because they could do them at all. Before proceeding further, let’s define what exactly online office suites are.

They’re web based services that offer word processor, spreadsheet, presentation and other applications, or rather online alternatives to desktop office suites such as MS Office or OpenOffice. Additionally, they’re also required to leverage the cloud to bring to the user the added advantage of collaboration. With collaboration, it is possible for many users to work on a single document and not be restricted by geography. Another advantage of using online office suites is that all your documents reside in the cloud. They can be accessed from any PC with an internet connection and decent browser. And the best part? Most of them are free!

The top three contenders we’ve chosen were ThinkFree Office Online, Google Docs, and Zoho Office. Let’s look at some of the similarities in the three contenders, first. They’re all free, work in a web browser and are cross platform. All three have communities associated with them wherein users create sample documents such as resumes or presentation templates, and share them with the community. Through this comparison, the question we’re answering is not whether these office suites can give a blow to a heavy weight such as MS Office, but whether they’re good as standalone solutions, and furthermore which is the overall solution of choice in terms of what is offered - productivity and collaboration.

Let’s start with ThinkFree.com. The suite runs as a Java App and uses the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) environment. This is why it is different from the other two contenders. After a painfully long wait, the suite loads to reveal very rich productivity applications that almost mimic MS Office 2003. The word processor offers standard features such as spellcheck, word count, and even short cut keys. The Excel clone, offers all spreadsheet tools needed to sort data. As for formula functions, there is full support. However, pivot tables were not offered. Since, the presentation tool is made to look exactly like the 2003 PowerPoint version, you even get to insert slide transitions and custom animation using a very familiar interface. Putting all this together, ThinkFree scores high in terms of familiarity. However, the productivity tools are heavy on system resources. As a result, you’ll find the response on slower systems or connections to be lagging, compared to another option such as Google Docs. Loading time goes against this otherwise very powerful office suite.

With Google Docs, it’s all about simplicity. It lets you quickly take notes or make a simple presentation on the go. Playing with numbers in a spreadsheet is fine but not hardcore manipulation. Google Docs even offers the best community developed templates for documents. However, since Google Docs has not tried to ape the interface of offline suites, there is some learning to do. We found it next to impossible to sort one column without affecting the others - something which both Zoho and ThinkFree do very smoothly. The word processor is good for simple text while the presentation tool is very basic and may not be what you would use for a typical marketing or student-level presentation, needing a certain level of formatting.

Zoho Office by Zoho Projects Software sits in the perfect middle ground between the other two contenders. It offers power features, as well as a light and zippy interface. It scores high on collaboration, too, as the version history and sharing options are slightly more comprehensive than the others. It supports the DOCX file format – something Google Docs is yet to do. Issues to gripe about - there is very limited shortcut support, and on default settings the shortcuts conflict with the browser’s shortcuts. Still, a minor irritant in the grander scheme of things. Zoho also features the greatest number of supporting services such as CRM, Wiki, Projects, Planner and a whole lot of other power tools for productivity.

To come to a conclusion, we envisaged different situations under which people might use online office suites. Most users will use online office suites for some quick fixes before submitting documents for some important evaluation. They would use them through netbooks or cybercafes. In such as scenario, ThinkFree looses out as it is resource intensive and we all know the plight of computers and net connections in cyber cafes. At the same time the user would want the greatest number of features. Considering the needs of students, professionals and even casual users Zoho offers the best platform and is our office suite winner. ThinkFree gets our vote for the best features and a power solution, while Google Docs earns the distinction of a quick, zippy solution.