If you already have a word processor installed in each of your computers and are happy with your present choice, you probably will want to skip this article. However, if you do not have a good word processor, or if you want to look at other possibilities, this may be the article for you. If you are presently using Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online or some other cloud-based word processor and are frustrated by your program’s lack of some features you want, this is the article for you. If you need a better word processor for sharing documents with co-workers or with family or even with genealogy society members, this is the article for you. If you want a good word processor for an iPad or Android tablet computer, this is the article for you.
Oh, by the way, this article describes a word processor that is FREE for personal use.
Zoho is an online Web service that lets you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer, from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions. Zoho also duplicates many applications that Google offers with sophisticated calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, email and chat. In some cases, Zoho’s products may be more powerful than Google’s; but, in other cases, the opposite may be true. For this article, I will focus on one product called Zoho Writer.
Zoho Writer is an online word processor that is very easy to use. Yet it has most of the bells and whistles of an expensive, traditional word processor. I also find it to be much more powerful and useful than the word processor available with Google Docs.
When compared to more powerful (and more expensive) word processors, a few features may be missing in Zoho Writer. However, I suspect those are mostly features that most people don’t use. I have been using Zoho Writer for several years to write some of the articles in this newsletter and, so far, have not found anything missing that I needed. However, if you have some sophisticated requirements, it certainly is possible this free word processor will not do everything for you. I suggest you try it for yourself to see if it fits your needs. After all, it is free and requires no software installation; so, why not try it out? If you find it doesn’t meet your needs, simply stop using it.
I still have LibreOffice installed in my desktop and laptop computers and use that more often than the cloud-based Zoho Writer. However, I travel frequently and also use a variety of computers. Not all of them have LibreOffice or Microsoft Office installed. I typically use Zoho Writer also when using a borrowed computer while traveling, such as at a library or at FedEx Kinko or in a hotel’s business center.
I find it easy to open a web browser on most any computer to access Zoho. You can either go to https://www.zoho.com/ and follow the menus or, for a more direct route to the word processing app, go to https://www.zoho.com/docs/writer.html, and start writing. Documents I have previously saved in Zoho Writer are always available immediately, and it requires only a few keystrokes and mouseclicks to retrieve any of my earlier documents from DropBox, Google Drive, and other cloud-based storage services.
NOTE: I keep all of my more than 20,000 older documents in a safe and secure cloud-based file storage service; so, having easy access to any of these past documents is a major benefit of using Zoho Writer. I have immediate access, whether I am at home or on a commuter train or in an Internet café in Singapore.
You’ll be able to create and edit documents with this free online word processor with ease. Spell checking is included, documents are auto-saved, and you can see past revisions that were made to the document. You can also use Microsoft Word files as well as documents in several other formats. You can save Zoho Writer documents up to 10 megabytes in size to your computer and/or to the cloud in many popular formats, including DOCX, DOC, DOCM, DOT, DOTM, DOTX, ODT, RTF, HTML, HTM, TXT, and TEX. You also can create PDF files, a great option if your present computer does not have the capability to do so. In addition, anyone who owns a WordPress blog may appreciate Zoho Writer’s capability to directly save documents to a WordPress blog.
A unique feature of this online word processor is the ability to chat within Zoho Writer as you collaborate with someone else on a document. If you and a co-worker or a co-author or an editor are both working on the same document, you can live chat back and forth, and both of you can make simultaneous changes to the same document. Try doing that with Microsoft Word or with most any other word processor!
Logging on to Zoho Writer is super simple if you already have a Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, or Twitter account. However, those accounts are not required. Instead, I created a unique account directly on the Zoho.com web site, and I use that to log in to Zoho Writer or any of Zoho’s many other services.
The tab-based toolbar in Zoho Writer is attractive and easy to use. It combines traditional drop-down menus with contextual tool ribbons, similar to Microsoft Word’s (but simpler). Like any new word processor, it will feel a bit strange to you when you start using it. After all, the required icons and menu items are not in the same place as the word processor(s) you are accustomed to. However, the learning curve is short, and I suspect you will quickly become accustomed to the Zoho Writer user interface.
I was surprised to find Zoho Writer has design templates for your entire document as well as Paragraph styles, something usually not found in the simpler cloud-based word processors. It also can create number lists, legal numbering, headings, outlines, chapters, headers, and other formatting tricks. Of course, it also includes an array of fonts that you can change to bold, italic, cross-out text, change case, sentence case, and small caps.
Zoho allows you to show and print a text or graphic watermark on all the pages (such as “Draft” or “Printed on 10-15-2014” or whatever you want, at any size).
The Version History feature makes collaborating with others a smooth process. I especially like this when working with Pam, the editor of this newsletter. If I need to look back at an earlier version of a document before it was edited, Zoho Writer makes the process easy.
While it is a cloud-based application, an Internet connection is not absolutely required when using Zoho Writer. You can edit a document offline and then easily sync it up the next time you go online. You will have to first connect to the Internet and use Zoho Writer to create the beginnings of the document in question. You then save it to your local hard drive. Once saved, you can disconnect from the Internet and still continue to work with your document as you wish. When not connected online, a few functions will not be available, such as the spell checker. You then easily sync the document to the cloud the next time you go online.
Zoho Writer works well on any Internet-connected Windows, Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, UNIX, or other full-sized computer.
NOTE: There is a version of Zoho Writer for iPad and for Android tablets. Zoho Writer on the iPad only offers a small subset of the features of the online version, but you can write and edit in the app and create new files, even without an Internet connection.
Zoho has lots of other useful tools for writers, including spreadsheets, a notebook application, an invoicing tool, and an email system that is simpler than Gmail, yet makes it easier to attach both Zoho and Google documents to emails, with email templates to boot. If you need templates or use custom watermark text or images, you will like Zoho’s many applications.
Again, with Zoho Writer, there is no software to install in your computer. All the software is in the cloud, not on your computer’s hard drive
Of course, Zoho Writer is not a perfect solution for all situations. The major drawbacks that I see are:
Zoho Writer doesn’t have all the features found in classic, desktop word processors.
Zoho Writer has a different user interface from whatever word processor you are using now, requiring some adjustment and a bit of re-learning.
While it is an excellent word processor, Zoho Writer was never intended to be a complete desktop publishing product. For instance, it will import images and video files stored in your computer or in an online file storage service as well as from Flickr, Google Photos, and YouTube. However, it does not have nearly as many layout and formatting options as a true desktop publishing program such as Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign.
Zoho Writer will be slow if your Internet connection is slow. I find it to be lightning fast when I am at home, enjoying a high-speed fiber optic connection. However, when tethering my cell phone as a wireless modem from a rest area along the Interstate highway or from a campground in the woods, connection speeds are much slower, and there can be significant delay at times when using Zoho Writer or any other cloud-based word processor.
Zoho Writer is part of a suite of office productivity programs that includes Zoho Sheet (a spreadsheet program) and Zoho Show (somewhat similar to Microsoft PowerPoint). All three of these programs are available FREE OF CHARGE for personal use.
For small business and other organizations, the programs are available free of charge for up to 25 users with 5 gigabytes of storage space for each user. For $5 per month per user, 50 gigabytes of storage space is available for each user, and a few more features are added. For $8 per user per month, 100 gigabytes storage space per user is available and even more features are added.
Zoho Writer (and Sheet and Show) are excellent tools for use in the workplace or at school. There are many collaboration tools built into the products to simplify group collaboration and updates as well as for use by editors and others.
The “extra features” may appeal to larger groups in corporate environments, but I don’t think they are particularly useful for private individuals using the software at home or when traveling. While the increased storage space is attractive for paid users, don’t forget that even the free users have full access to file storage services they may already have available, such as DropBox and Google Docs. Again, I doubt if individuals will need any of the extra services available to paid users of Zoho Writer, Sheet, or Show.
Full pricing information may be found at https://www.zoho.com/docs/zoho-docs-pricing.html.
There’s a lot to like about Zoho Writer. I don’t use it as my primary word processor simply because it is never as fast or as full-featured as the word processor that is installed in my desktop and laptop computers. However, I find that Zoho Writer is an excellent second choice, useful when using the Chromebook or when using any computer that is not my own and where I cannot install software myself.
Zoho Writer is useful when traveling, when lounging on the couch in the den, when using an employer’s computer, or when using a computer at school.
I keep all my documents in a safe and secure online file storage service so that I can access them when I’m on the road. Every document I have ever created or updated in the past ten years or so is easily available whenever I am connected online. Each document is available in Zoho Writer as well as in any other word processor I care to use.
Convenience. That is what makes life easier. Zoho Writer certainly adds convenience.
This article was written with Zoho Writer.