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July 5, 2007

Zoho vs Google Docs



While Google still works on completing its online office suite by adding a presentation app and integrating JotSpot, an Indian company called AdventNet already has one and it includes everything from word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, notebooks to wikis, online databases, project management. It's called Zoho and it keeps getting better every day.


Zoho opted for a more familiar look, so most of their products are inspired from Microsoft Office. Unlike Google Docs & Spreadsheets that has a start page which lists all your files, Zoho uses a sidebar that shows the files created using the active application. Zoho's word processor has a tabbed interface, so you never have to leave the current page to switch to a new document. While many options work like in Google Docs, Zoho pushes the boundaries and lets you save templates and even share them in a public template library. It's also able to import bigger files than Google Docs: I managed to upload a 2.8 MB document and I couldn't find a precise number for the maximum size of a document. Unfortunately, the application is barely responsive when you edit a big document.

Zoho Writer lets you publicize a document, post it to a blog or collaborate with your contacts. But collaboration is Zoho Writer's weakest point because it doesn't happen in real-time and you don't see the changes made by your collaborators unless you refresh the page and that's not very cool.


The integration between Zoho's apps is not very visible, so if you want to switch from Zoho Writer to Zoho Sheet, you'll have to type the URL in the address bar or use your bookmarks. Zoho Sheet doesn't have tabs, but it's much buggier than Zoho Writer. A simple spreadsheet that loaded just fine in Google Spreadsheets managed to make my browser completely unresponsive for minutes. I particularly like the way they handled formulas and how easy is to add new functions from the list. In Zoho Sheet, the collaboration is in real-time, but Zoho has a strange of handling conflicts that manages to produce different spreadsheets for each collaborator. And some of the copies are really broken.

The funny thing about Zoho Show, the presentation app from Zoho's suite, is that when you import a presentation, it recommends to make it read-only. In this case, this would be just a PPT viewer, like the one available in Gmail. Once you import your presentation, there's a magical link at the top of the window that lets you actually view, but you'll have to guess it. The application is very simple and doesn't go beyond inserting some text, shapes and arrows. The rendering of the presentation is worse than Gmail's and the slide show looks even worse.


Zoho Creator is something that Google doesn't have and it actually works great. It's the online version of Microsoft Access and it lets you create and manage database applications. The nice thing about the app is that you can easily build forms that can be embedded in your site and populate your database. You can create contact forms or more complex things like a CRM application. There's a big list of templates, a simple way to build scripts for your forms, you have email notifications. The application only needs better reports, some SQL support and an API.

Speaking of which, Zoho has some APIs that enable other services to list your files hosted at Zoso, to import/export files and also to edit remote documents. There's nothing like Google Spreadsheets API that lets you interact with a spreadsheet more granularly, but Zoho's purpose was probably to make it easy to integrate with storage services that lack document editing features.

While Google Docs lacks many features already available in Zoho's office suite (and even entire apps) and the existing features are more limited, Google's applications are much more stable and work better if you share your files with other people. Zoho offers a lot of tools, including a plugin for Microsoft Office that lets you work on your files online and saves them to Zoho from Microsoft Word and Excel. Their integration with Microsoft products and the impressive size of the portfolio certainly makes Zoho a candidate for a Microsoft acquisition.

Zoho's future plans are to integrate their products and to provide a proper replacement for Microsoft Outlook: email, calendar, contacts and task management. Zoho Mail is not yet ready for prime time, but you can see a demo here.

30 comments:

  1. I used Zoho and ThinkFree before and ever since I was expecting Google will add more applications to their Suite. I think if Google still can't make their PowerPoint yet, it is time for them to consider buying Zoho (they have already bought a few others).

    Apart from Docs, Google should do ToDo or Task and integrate with Gmail and Calendar. Also, they should integrate Notebook with Docs and again Gmail since Gmail is the primary interface to Google's services.

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  2. finally someone starts talking about their amazing work. google just should round file all their web apps and buy Zoho (or not actually...happy their are on their own)!

    i use Zoho Projects for a group of 20, and we all
    use their various other apps.

    will take google 10 years, at their pace, to reach half of Zoho's sophistication.

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  3. Microsoft has already Office Live, with monthly subscription fee. Not likely MS want to acquire Zoho. Business users would be more suspicious about this kind of standalone company.

    Google Office has other directions to go, and closer tie with MS Office is not.

    I used Google Docs sometimes to collaborate editing documents.

    Any online solution has better provide good backup solutions in case network down/traffic.

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  4. take a look at Zoho's CRM application... the degree of sophistication, flexibility and power built into that app, makes me WANT to do hard core SALES just to use it ! The Zoho team behind that must have been on Dexidrine !

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  5. Congratulations, Alex, on your article. This is the first time that someone has actually bothered to talk about the PERFORMANCE as opposed to the FEATURES of Zoho et al.
    Google Docs may not be the last word in sophistication but it works virtually without a hitch. Can anyone honestly say that about Zoho?

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  6. FYI, LimitNone (www.limitnone.com) provides integration between Google and Microsoft. There is also a white paper called "Google and Microsoft: Living together in harmony" that will be of interest to anyone working with both MS Office and Google Apps.

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  7. I have tried Zoho in the past and went and looked again after reading this. While Zoho is more sophisticated on the UI Google Docs just flat out works. Zoho, not so much as you pointed out.

    Zoho has a wide offering of applications, but that isn't Google's intent and I don't think it should be. There are those that need some of the things that Zoho offers and then there are the rest of us.

    I don't need CRM, database, projects or conferencing. I don't even really NEED presentations. What I need is a fast, reliable and stable version of docs and spreadsheets which Google does very well. I doubt that Goog would buy Zoho because to me it is much more than they are after. Then again, who knows for sure.

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  8. I also attempted to use Zoho, but now use Google because it integrates better with everything else I do online. They both need some work, and hopefully this rivalry will be a primary motivator for improvement.

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  9. Oh lots of Zoho fans out here :)
    Well, Zoho is far better than Google docs and I think your comment section shows that too!

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  10. Thanks, I hadn't heard about Zoho yet and I had been using Google Docs for about a year now because of its collaboration features. I also like that it is integrated with my G-Mail and all of my other Google services, but I like that Zoho offers so many applications. It doesn't have the big name that Google does though, so will it catch on?

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  11. I just wonder how people can manage projects with help of Zoho. I think Zoho as well as Google apps suit for real-time editing documents. And when people need to manage projects, they should consider something like Wrike.com and etc.

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  12. Thanks for pointing at Wrike.com, Mark! I’ve been looking for something like this. Now, I guess, my search is over :)

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  13. I just discovered zoho and i'm very happy that it support a TODO system. I use it to manage a team (http://www.alldeny.com) of 10 engineers working for a web project.

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  14. I decided to try Zoho because just about every Google app has formatting issues. I specifically wanted to use Zoho as a WYSIWYG editor for my Blogger blog, but unfortunately, that hasn't been working - Zoho gives me an error every time I try to publish a document to my blog.

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  15. I have done extensive test and have written detailed comparision.. here

    www.techtola.com/2008/03/zoho-vs-google-docs-comparision.html

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  16. Google: Essential, not fancy.
    Zoho: Fancy, not essential.

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  17. I don't need CRM, database, projects or conferencing. I don't even really NEED presentations. What I need is a fast, reliable and stable version of docs and spreadsheets which Google does very well. I doubt that Goog would buy Zoho because to me it is much more than they are after. Then again, who knows for sure.

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  18. Zoho is a damn perfect application,I have been using zoho for about 4 months and Zoho really rocks, Its not a matter of performance or fancy . Guys the way it helps the user to handle means alot and Zoho is doing this perfectly,

    Right from the application loading style and the working way, zoho had created a perfect bench mark and really awesome interface... Good Going Zoho...

    Must improve Google!!!!!!!

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  19. Zoho couldn't even import a simple .doc file. Instafail.

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  20. Google Apps and Zoho are both wonderful. I personally preferred Google Apps but would love to see Google improve their form builder to more Zoho Creator provides.

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  21. Being Indian and a software engineer all I can say that zoho can also offer better integration with mailbox but all is the copy right issues and this is where zoho lags against docs because docs belongs to google which holds gmail, used by many of us and zoho integrate their own mail box with various applications.
    But this is the time when one should start encouraging small firms like zoho and with various free applications to suit your all online services, along with a decent mail box feature, where against many apps google lags behind or may be business reason not to launch all apps as a single pack.
    Most of working professionals are familiar with Microsoft Office Outlook interface and prefer to work like so, so here we do have zoho, what one need is just standing out of google application's charm and familiarity and spare some time with zoho products then one would be able to appreciate such nice and all online products.
    For example if one is having all 24X7 sure internet connectivity than who is asking him to even install outlook or Microsoft office products which not only consumes considerable part of your cheap memory but consumes most important CPU clocks.
    Please come against me if i am wrong somewhere as forums are made to find best solution, not to decide who is right or wrong.
    :-)

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  22. Time to redo the comparison. This comparison is 3 years old. A lot has changed. There are plugins for Google Apps too that need investigating like manymoon for project management. Zoho got an early start, but I think google will give them a run for their money in the long term.

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  23. To date ... it looks like for project managment it's Zoho hands down ... it even does gannt charts.

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  24. Google Apps is that it costs $50 per user. For a cash conservative company, it's high.

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  25. Google docs is very limited, but it would work good for a casual time-to-time user. For offline office, there's openoffice and ibm-lotus symphony

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  26. Zoho all new feature has been coping from google's products

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  27. I don't need CRM, database, projects or conferencing. I don't even really NEED presentations. What I need is a fast, reliable and stable version of docs and spreadsheets which Google does very well. I doubt that Goog would buy Zoho because to me it is much more than they are after. Then again, who knows for sure.

    ReplyDelete