Zoho office suite adds offline editing functions

Features to be phased into all 15 applications

The free Web browser-based Zoho office productivity suite is about to become more useful and flexible. Zoho developers are adding capabilities that enable offline editing and storage of Zoho-created documents for PC and Mac users.

In an announcement on its blog Tuesday, the California-based company, a division of AdventNet, said it will first add the new capabilities to its Zoho Writer word-processing application. The offline capabilities will be added to other applications in the office suite in the future. There's also a new "comments" feature that enables users to add notes to their Zoho-created documents.

Vegesna said the offline editing features will be integrated into Zoho Writer in three or four weeks. In the meantime, users will at least be able to view their Zoho-created documents in read-only mode while they are offline.

"This is just a first step," Vegesna said. "It's just a matter of testing the platform and making sure that everything is working fine" before offering the full offline editing capabilities.

"This was fairly straightforward," he said. "I think the next challenge will be synchronization of online and offline documents, which will be ready when the new capabilities launch.

Zoho Writer users will see a "Go Offline" link at the top of their Web browsers where they can review their documents until the editing functions are added.

The Zoho office suite, which has been available for about two years, is a proprietary, Web browser-based product that works atop Google's open-source Google Gears platform.

Users only have to download and install Google Gears to access the online Zoho office suite, Vegesna said. The company uses Google Gears instead of building its own platform for the software and is a regular contributor to the Google Gears project.

"We use all the open-source components at the back end, and we build all our proprietary applications," he said. "That's pretty much what we're doing with Google Gears." Zoho has been working on the updates for about a month, he said.

Ironically, Zoho's upcoming additions of offline editing for its Writer application come before Google has built in a similar capability for its own Google Apps online productivity suite. "We are small, fast and nimble," Vegesna said. "We move fast. That's how we were able to set it up. Google is a big company now."

The offline storage and editing capabilities were added in response to user requests and feedback from software reviewers, Vegesna said.

Zoho's office suite is composed of about 15 applications, including Writer, and applications for spreadsheets and presentations, all written using Java and AJAX.

The other Zoho office applications will be equipped with offline editing and storage features every one to two months until they are all completed.

Vegesna said there are about 300,000 users of the products so far.

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