Free, cloud-based word processor Zoho writer shows promise

Zoho Writer offers a surprisingly comfortable online writing environment, with some issues.

By Ian Harac, PC World |  Cloud Computing, Zoho, zoho writer

Zoho Writer is an online (with offline and syncing functionality) word processing application that offers a nice amount of functionality, especially given the limitations of the Web as a platform for productivity tools. After creating a free account with Zoho, you can access Zoho Writer. It looks a lot like most word processors, so if you've used any major program in this category, it will take no more than a few minutes of poking around to learn how to do things. This is good, because the "Help" is in the form of a FAQ, not a tutorial or index of functions.

The interface for Zoho Writer is well designed. Each button serves as both a tab which reveals a toolbar, and as a drop down menu. This is really, really, nice--you can have the Format toolbar showing, then click the "Insert" dropdown and choose a command, without the current toolbar being replace. There is no need to click back to your preferred "main" toolbar. On the other hand, if you prefer switching toolbars, just single-click the appropriate button, and there you go.

Overall, using Zoho Writer was simple and pleasant. I experienced a very slight mushiness or lag when typing, in terms of the time it took between hitting a key and seeing the screen update, as compared to using a non-Web application. The font selection is limited to the usual assortment of Web fonts. The most advanced and complex features of programs like Word, which border on layout/desktop publishing software, are not available, but a number of features that add real utility to document creation, such as the generation of a table of contents, are. Other features are available which would be useful if they worked.

Zoho Writer is listed as a beta, which means it can be forgiven some sins, but the last entry in the blog for Zoho Writer is almost a year old, as compared to other Zoho Apps with newer entries. This is unfortunate, as some useful features are currently broken. For example, footnotes are malformed (appearing with %20 instead of spaces). The ability to set multiple columns for your document is nice, but there are some oddities--you must save or print to see the columns, instead of working with them in the direct editing mode. This isn't too much of a problem, but during my initial tests, the columns did not appear in my saved document. Subsequent tests to confirm what I thought was a bug, though, did produce correctly saved documents. Zoho Writer exports in a variety of formats, including .doc, .docx, LaTeX, and HTML.

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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