The Zoho Writer beta online word processor lets you take work on the road by providing an always-on interface in which you can type, edit, and share text documents. As with any Web-based software, you'll need stable Internet access to use Zoho Writer.
Zoho Writer remains in beta testing, but you can use it immediately after setting up a free account and logging in. The default white-and-pale-blue interface is simple, with sortable links to templates and documents along a left-hand column and a large, central pane for typing. You can pick from among nine color themes. A search field near the top of the window lets you look within documents or sift through features. Zoho packs most of the functions along the top of the document pane, with familiar graphical icons, such as a disk that you click to save a file. We like the bottom icons that display the document's tags and sharing status. You can also keep multiple Zoho files open at the same time, which ThinkFree doesn't allow. By default, Zoho Writer organizes your open documents within tabs, which we prefer over the way Google Writely beta pops up a new browser window for each document.
With a selection of 15 fonts in addition to icons for special characters and emoticons, the Zoho formatting palette offers a decent array of choices, although as with Writely and ThinkFree, not enough to get creative with wacky fonts. You can insert an image, a table, a hyperlink, or numbered or bulleted points with one click. Zoho displays the word count each time you save a file. Zoho Writer lets you import HTML, Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, ODT, RTF, JPG, and PNG files. You can export Zoho files as Word, SXW, PDF, ODT, RTF, HTML, or text documents. Unfortunately, as with Google Writely beta, Zoho lacks compatibility with Corel WordPerfect.
Within Zoho Writer beta, you can upload your document as a blog post if you keep an account with Blogger , LiveJournal, WordPress, or TypePad. Another boon for bloggers or researchers who frequently save snippets of Web pages is Zoho Writer's bookmarklet, found under the Options link. Just drag the Zoho bookmarklet to your browser bookmark toolbar. The next time you highlight text on a Web page, clicking the Zoho bookmark link on your toolbar will open that text into a new Zoho Writer document. Unfortunately, however, Zoho did not automatically save the source URL, which Google Notebook does.
Ready to share your work with other people? Zoho Writer beta walks you through sending an e-mail invitation to another user and offering read or read/write access to your file. You can see the other user's presence and view the edits, or cancel sharing if you change your mind. You can also make your file public for anyone in the world to view and save it in RSS format.
Getting acquainted with Zoho Writer beta was easy enough that we found our way around the program before we read about its features. However, we encountered some aggravation during our tests. For example, the bold and italics buttons sometimes failed to work. And when we accidentally pressed the Toggle HTML Source icon, our words vanished from the page--not cool. Luckily, Zoho's History link listed earlier versions of our document, which had been saved every few minutes. We were able to revert to an older version of our file and retrieve what we had written, but only after canceling Sharing first. We endured some moments of panic before resolving this problem.