All posts tagged ‘docs’

File Under: Software & Tools

New Google Spreadsheets Gets Desktopier

Google Spreadsheets before and after redesign

The new look for Google Spreadsheets is now live. As the Docs team announced, there’s a completely new interface. And it’s looking a lot more like its desktop step-brother, Excel.

Most notably, Spreadsheets now has a full menu across the top: File, Edit, Format, and so on. The team ditched the strange tabbed method where each section had its own toolbar. Instead, the toolbar is reserved for the most common commands, mostly formatting-related.

The interface reshuffling also makes Spreadsheets look a lot more like its Docs siblings. The Word-like app gave the tabs the heave-ho in March.

Though there’s something to be said for web and desktop interfaces not needing to be the same, in this case organizing the options within pull-down menus makes sense. Everything feels like its within the same frame of reference. The entire toolbar changing always threw me off.

Google Spreadsheets form editingPlus, it’s now easier for Google to add new features. For example, the interface for manipulating a form is so easy now, because it can be another pull-down. You can even see the number of responses right in the menu.

Spreadsheets was already a part of my daily routine, replacing Excel for all except the largest, most complicated documents. These changes bring Microsoft’s offering even closer to my trash bin.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Zoho Docs Unites Writer, Sheet and Show

We’ve covered every iterative web application to fall under Zoho’s office suite thus far — namely its writer, spreadsheet and presentation software. However, besides a single sign on, each application was an entity of its own. So it should come as no surprise that the latest release binds these apps together under the same roof.

Zoho Docs centralizes the online AJAX office suite and adds a file manager to help organize your online docs.

Create folders, subfolders, tag, copy, delete — all the typical file managing features are included. It even has drag and drop (thanks AJAX). Among the support of most (if not all) popular document file types is a way to bulk upload them all via .zip archives. Cool.

Check out Zoho’s video walk-through of features from Zoho’s announcement for more information.

While Zoho’s individual applications pack more powerful menu options than Google Docs, Google Docs has had this kind of file manager from its inception. With relative feature parity, there is little reason not to check out Zoho’s powerful online suite and see if you can ditch any desktop alternatives.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Fluid and Gears Closes in on Web App Freedom

I’ve been dreaming of the day I can finally press the delete button on Microsoft Word for good. Nothing against Word, per se. It has served me well enough throughout the years. I think it is the challenge and change of view I’m looking for. My quest for a replacement started when I realized most everything I do on Word could also be done in Google Docs or Zoho …for free. However, the major hurdle of any web application is its reliance on an internet connection.

Now, with Gears recent beta release on Webkit-powered browsers, and webkit-powered Fluid for Mac which allows you to download local copies of websites to your desktop, have my dreams of keeping a desktop copy of a web app come true?

Almost.

We’re so close, I can taste it. As it stands, I have a local copy of Google Docs which allows me to unplug from the internet and open, search, edit, tag, organize and save all of my documents.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Download and install Fluid
  2. Download and install Gears for Webkit
  3. Launch Fluid and insert “http://docs.google.com” in the URL field. Name it whatever you want. Submit and wait for Fluid to perform its magic. When it asks, launch the new Site Specific Browser (SSB).
  4. You’ll see a warning page telling you “Sorry, but this browser does not support web word-processing.” It’s wrong. Click on the Docs logo on the top left of the page.
  5. There, you’ll see Google Docs in all its glory. It should start synchronizing automatically. If it doesn’t, click on the green arrow at the top right of the screen to synchronize your files.

Once synchronized, unplug the internet. You now have an offline version of Google Docs. Here is where it comes short: now is when you’ll notice the New, Upload and Share buttons are grayed out. Same thing if you dive into presentations, spreadsheets and web forms. Also affects Zoho’s Gears-enabled office suite. Apparently, these document creation functions are unsupported on Gears. Tough luck for us, kids.

There is a workaround for creating new docs. Before you unplug the internet, create a bunch of untitled blank documents and put them all in a folder labeled “New.” Now, when you’re live-blogging a conference, you don’t have to depend on the shoddy, overloaded network to create a new Google Doc. Just click into your New folder, and grab an already generated blank doc. However, it’s just a workaround and you can run out of blank templates pretty easily and have to resort to another word processor. There is no workaround for importing your Word, PDF or other docs either. Sigh.

We’re off to download OpenOffice for now. This isn’t to say this method will only work for Docs. In fact, it is a pretty cool way to offline every Gears-enabled web app.

I recommend creating a Google Reader client. The one drawback of Reader was the lack of a downloadable client. Using Fluid and Gears, that is no longer an issue. Follow the steps above, but use http://www.google.com/reader as the URL instead of the Docs URL.

For Windows users, Mozilla’s Gecko-powered, multi-platform Prism application does the same thing as Fluid, but doesn’t currently support Gears.

The next version of Safari built in Fluid’s SSB-creating functionality.

All of these technologies are open source. In fact, developers on Fluid’s FriendFeed room are buzzing with the inherent opportunities surrounding the two technologies. If you’re a web developer and share my same dream of freeing web apps from the web, get involved and have at it.

We’ve also moved a copy of this page to the Webmonkey wiki. If you have any other methods you want to contribute, hop over to the article and write it up.

Authors Note: This article was updated on Friday to include more detail on SSB’s and a new document workaround

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File Under: operating systems

Microsoft Frees Interoperability Docs Library

Microsoft released an entire library of documents aimed at helping developers create programs around the company’s file formats.

Included in the library is a wealth of information on how to develop for Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint binary file formats (.doc, .xls, .xlsb and .ppt). Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 documents are also included. The technical documents are aimed at encouraging data portability, or the ability to transfer information from Microsoft products to other applications.

“Microsoft’s cumulative posting of approximately 50,000 pages of technical documentation on MSDN provides consistent, open access for all developers,” said Craig Shank, general manager of Interoperability at Microsoft, “which enhances the ease and opportunities for working with Microsoft’s high-volume products.”

The press announcement, under the headline “Microsoft Takes Additional Steps in Implementing Interoperability Principles,” suggests Microsoft’s aim is to adapt to today’s playing field by opening their software and systems to the marketplace. The strategy rivals Google, Yahoo and the open-source community by being more open and relying on the development community outside the company walls for driving the industry’s technology. Previously, Microsoft played a pretty heavy hand by forcing the industry to rely on their proprietary formats with little or no support. Developers were left with no choice as Microsoft faced very little competition.

These days, as technology moves more online and competing companies begin opening their technology for community involvement, the tables have shifted slightly as Microsoft is forced to adapt or fall behind. Microsoft still owns the dominant method of data file formats. However, developers have shown the power to influence data formats and are most often attracted to where the technology is available.

Lately, that data format of choice has been XML, an open data format particularly popular within web applications. As the the format gains steam through adoption, it has posed a threat to Microsoft’s file formats. In fact, Microsoft’s latest iterations of its file formats, a technology named OpenXML, is based on XML technology.

The new release, coincidentally announced on the first business day after founder and CEO Bill Gates left the company, shows a new interest in working with the developer community in propagating these data formats.

Head to MSDN to access the library and for a lot more information on it and its proprietary licenses.

File Under: Software & Tools

Microsoft Delivers Long-Awaited Mac Open XML Converters

Microsoft released a set of Open XML converters for Mac users Tuesday. The tool and update to Mac Office 2004 allows users to convert files created by the 2007 and 2008 versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

The strength of Microsoft file formats is its dominance in the market. If you want your file to be opened by anyone, sending it in .doc, .xls or .ppt is a safe bet. When the company released Office 2007 for Windows and Office 2008 for Mac using its newly developed Open XML format by default, older versions of Office were left incompatible. The incompatibility was fixed late last year for 2003 Windows versions, but Mac Office users were left out in the cold.

Today’s update offers Mac Office 2004 users the ability to finally convert Open XML Word (.docx), Excel (.xlsx) and Powerpoint (.pptx) files. The update is available by download or by Microsoft Office’s built-in AutoUpdate feature. The converters are also available as a stand-alone application for those who use other Office suites like NeoOffice.

With Microsoft’s converters and its recent ratification as an ISO standard, .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files are on their way to becoming the dominant transferable file format.

The converters also follow an announcement by MacBU’s Craig Eisler announcing Microsoft’s largest hiring spree to their Mac unit in history. It looks like the updates and the announcement herald Microsoft’s impending strategy to keep from losing customers to applications like OpenOffice, Google Docs and Zoho office suites which already have tools for converting Microsoft formats.

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