Today’s Zoho Writer update is not what it looks like. Yes, I get the story about:
- DocX Support
- Thesaurus (in 10 languages)
- Enhanced Endnotes/Footnotes
- Enhanced Headers/Footers
..etc, but that’s not what I find exciting. DocX support? Personally, I don’t care, MS Office 2003 was the last version I bought, people much smarter than me call it a completely insane format … but hey, the Borg is the market leader, so why not support it… Layout improvements? I’m already in a paperless world, barely ever print, so I don’t really care about these features. But Microsoft Office was created at a time when the purpose of document creation was to eventually print it, and in our legacy world the challenger is measured against the standards of the incumbent, so, yes, I can accept these are important features for Writer. Besides, the academic / student community has been dying for endnotes / footnotes, so now they can have it.
But the hidden bomb here isn’t just a Writer improvement: it’s a feature that shows Zoho’s hands regarding collaboration in the entire Zoho Business Suite. Yes, I am talking about Group Sharing. After all, one of the key drivers behind moving to web-based Office applications is to enable easier collaboration.
Most of the collaborative apps, including Zoho or mighty Google typically allow either public sharing, or inviting users individually, but until now there has been no way to share your documents with a predefined set of users, i.e. members of a group. A year and a half ago I praised Google Groups for stepping out of being just a group email mechanism, becoming a mini community/collaborative platform – but the definition of a “group”, i.e.it’s members does not exist outside the Groups application, I can’t share Google Docs or Spreadsheets with my Group. (And make no mistake it’s been the same with Zoho until now.)
With today’s update you can now create a Group in the ‘My Account‘ section of Zoho, and that Group is recognizable in any other Zoho Application, including Writer, Sheet or even Zoho Mail. Eventually there will be multiple privacy / sharing levels within the Zoho Universe:
- shared with individual email id’s
- shared with Groups (defined once, recognized in all apps)
- shared by Domain (i.e. share info within your business)
The last one will be a feature of Zoho Business, currently in private Beta, but the other two are available. Thesaurus in 10 languages, format and layout improvements are all nice, but the real news of the day is the improved cross-application collaboration.