Zoho.com is one of the most innovative Microsoft Office competitors I’ve seen. The only difference is, the entire suite of tools is FREE, and completely Web based.
Zoho offers a full compliment of software that is perfect for any small business including:
- Zoho Show, the PowerPoint equivalent presentation software.
- Zoho Writer, the Word equivalent word processor.
- Zoho Sheet, the Excel equivalent spreadsheet application.
- Zoho Virtual Office, a pseudo combination Outlook and Web collaboration product wrapped into one.
- Document Sharing
- Group Discussions
- Zoho CRM, a SalesForce.com competitive Sales Automation and Customer Management program.
As I mentioned previously, all of these applications are free, although a couple of them do have limitations. For example, the Zoho CRM application is free for up to 3 users and the Virtual Office is free up to 10 users. The others do not have limitations.
Now, I was very impressed with these applications and all worked as advertised. I could only find a few drawbacks that would prevent me from using these as a direct replacement for my Microsoft Office suite.
- Printing support is basically the same as whatever your Web browser is capable of. This means that if you were to do a business document online and needed to print copies of it, you would need to go into your Web browser’s print settings and strip away all of the header and footer information from the page.
- While this isn’t that big of a deal, it is inconvenient because when you later wish to print other Web documents you’ll probably want the page number, URL, date, etc. back on the page and it’s just a pain to have to reset it.
- On the other hand, you can export a document to a PDF file and then print if from the PDF program without this issue. It’s just an extra step and I think they’re going to need to solve the printing issue before it’s really successful
- You can only work while connected to the Internet. Mobility is a sword that cuts both ways. The good news is, you can leave the laptop at home. As long as you can find an Internet connected machine you can do your work. The bad news is, if you can’t connect to the Internet, you can’t work.
- This is where Microsoft’s Office is going to have a future advantage. When MS gets Live working and you are able to work on documents from your stand alone computer, and then sync them with an online service so you can leave the laptop behind, that will be truly handy.
- If Zoho could partner up with one of the free standalone Office Suites like OpenOffice.org, they might have a MS killer.
One of my favorite things about this service is that you can easily create a PowerPoint presentation and import it into ZoHo Show. Then, if you need to do a presentation at someone else’s office they just need to have an internet connected machine in order for you to give the preso.
This means you can have several of your most important presentations always ready to “pitch” and never miss an opportunity to sell your services again.