Prior to this week's Learning 2.0 exercise I had already had some experience making documents using online applications and tools. I have used Google Docs to collaboratively work on class assignments both in my Information Technology class as well as many others classes. This is a great tool for people working together on some form of group project that find that they do not live in close proximity to one another. Case in point, I am using Google Docs to compose a term paper for another class this semester. The members of our group live on average approximately an hour and a half away from each other. For us to drive that far in order to meet consumes massive amounts of time and energy. I am happy to say that this is the old way and that the new way is much easier and will avoid you racking up the miles on your odometer. I can also predict that I will be using these same web applications (as well as some new ones) for many years to come. I suspect that there will be many more group projects to complete before my time here at Rutgers has concluded so I will be keeping these sites on my toolbar and in my list of favorites (as well on my Delicious account.)
As I said, I have dabbled around with Google Docs in the past but I had never heard of Zoho.com before this week. I thought that Google Docs provided a lot of opportunities for collaborative document creation but Zoho goes above and beyond offering a plethora of online tools including an online presentation tool, word processor, web application creator, web conferencing application, an online invoice manager, a spreadsheet tool, instant messaging, and many others. Using Zoho.com
I found a lot of web videos giving tutorials on how to use the various web applications found on Zoho.com. There is clearly a need for this as there are so many web tools available on the site and while each is user-friendly it requires the same multitude of skills required to create using the offline versions of the same tools (i.e. PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, OneNote, or Publisher.) I did find a video describing the general usefulness of the web applications found on Zoho.com. Enjoy.
These online applications sound great! Free to use, saves space on your external memory devices, allows you to work collaboratively with people on all types of projects... but one major question remains. What happens to a user who suddenly finds him or herself unable to access the internet. Throughout my time as a Comcast customer I have found myself unable to access the internet quite regularly. When this happens I am at least able to work on my various projects offline. I can edit the animation timing on my PowerPoint Slide show, recalculate our household budget on Excel, and add a new chapter to my novel (if I were working on one) on Word. Now if all these files existed only on the web, then my inability to get online would also be an inability to do any of my projects. I understand that this is where saving your files in multiple places comes in handy, but I still felt that this could be a major chink in Zoho.com's armor as well as the armor of the other similar online tools and applications. The last thing I have to share is the CEO and a developer for Zoho.com talking about the launch of their Zoho Offline application Package. Apparently other users like the applications they offer but are not ready to compose and maintain their documents strictly online. This one is a little long but it does shed some more light on how Zoho and other online web tools plan to function and adapt their services to meet the needs of their clients. They discuss the benefit of open source programing and mention the platform, Google Gears. Google Gears is software offered by Google that enables more powerful web applications, by adding new features to your web browser. Google Gears is free and open source software.