Zoho has released a small but welcome update that allows you to import Google documents into Zoho Writer. Zoho Writer also now supports LaTeX exports and features a new equation editor.
The new Google Docs to Zoho Writer import features means that you can bulk export files from Google Docs and then upload the same .zip file into Writer and all your documents will be automatically added.
The other new options are aimed squarely at the students and scholars among us. The new Equation Editor supports LaTeX markup (a document markup language widely used by mathematicians, scientists, engineers and academics) and automatically generates an image of the equation. If you’re not familar with LaTeX, fear not, you can create equations using the more GUI-oriented symbol selection dialog.
The LaTeX support also extends to a new export option that allows you to save your Writer documents as TeX files.
Quick, grab your tin foil hats and prepare to speculate because Microsoft has agreed to support the Open Document Format (ODF) in Microsoft Office. The move represents a huge shift from the company’s hard-fought battle to convince the world that its own OOXML format was superior to ODF.
But Microsoft seems to have had a change of heart and says that Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will support the ODF, the default file format of OpenOffice, Sun’s StarOffice and more. More impressive than just support, the next revision of Office will allow users to set ODF as their default format for new documents.
The company also plans to support other universal formats like PDF 1.5 and PDF/A. Both the ODF formats and PDF are direct competitors to Microsoft’s own OOXML and XPS file formats, currently the primary options in Office 2007.
The upgrade, which rather disappointingly won’t be available until 2009, will let users both open and create files in ODF formats without needing a plug-in or an outside conversion utility.
Perhaps Microsoft has finally recognized that much of Office’s value lies in its user interface, workflow options and tools, and that the existing file format lock-in is increasingly a hindrance to companies that would otherwise prefer Microsoft Office to the alternatives.
In other words, many companies and government offices like Microsoft’s software, but are nervous (or legally prevented) from using proprietary document formats. This announcement means that such customers can have their cake and eat it too, since they will be able to use Microsoft Office, but save files in open formats that anyone can open.
It’s worth noting that OpenOffice 3.0, currently a beta release, will offer similar support for Microsoft’s OOXML format. Together the two announcements could mean cross-platform, application-independent Nirvana for office documents.
Of course many will greet the news with suspicion since it is after all Microsoft — a convicted monopolist. The most likely explanation for opening up to ODF is the $1.4 billion fine the European Commission recently handed down for Microsoft’s alleged failure to give adequate access to its file formats.
Whatever the case, while there’s reasons to be cautious — given Microsoft’s track record — the additional file format support looks like a win for users.
Zoho has rolled out some new login options for its online office suite — you can now login to your Zoho account using your Google or Yahoo credentials.
The new features make it much easier to share your Zoho documents with people who don’t use Zoho.
Now when you share a document with someone who doesn’t have a Zoho account they can simply login using an existing Yahoo or Google account, eliminating any sign up hassles.
For Zoho users the new features mean one less username/password combo to keep track of. If you already have a Gmail or Yahoo e-mail address tied to your Zoho account the new features should work automatically. If not, just click the links at the bottom of the Zoho login screen. Once you okay Zoho to access either your Google or Yahoo account, you’ll have to opportunity to connect your new login info to your existing Zoho account.
OpenOffice.org, the free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office has released a beta preview of version 3.0. Among the changes in the new version are support for the Open Document Format v1.2, Microsoft Office 2007 import filters and native support for Mac OS X users.
The new OS X version eliminates the need to run OpenOffice through the X11 environment. Sun, which oversees OpenOffice, announced some time ago that native OS X support was high on its priority list and Mac users should be happy to hear the company is delivering on that promise.
Unfortunately the new OS X version was noticeably slower than NeoOffice, a Mac-specific OpenOffice offshoot, and most of the extensions I tried to install wouldn’t work. OpenOffice still has a way to go before it’s ready for everyday use on a Mac. For the time being NeoOffice remains the better choice for Mac OS X users, but at least OpenOffice is available now.
One of the main complaints leveled at web-based alternatives to Microsoft Office is that they generally lack some of the more powerful features found in Office. While online office apps have the general use cases covered, they often lack the specialized tools. But Zoho is quickly changing that. The company recently announced an overhaul to Zoho Sheets with support for power user features like pivot tables and Visual Basic Scripting.
The new macro supports means that the macros you’ve written for Excel can now be used in Zoho Sheet. Aside from Microsoft Excel, Zoho is one of the only other Office suites that offers support for VBA macros, which are often used for complex calculations that can’t be done with spreadsheet formulas alone.
The other main new feature in Zoho Sheets is support for Pivot tables, which are complex tables that can automatically sort, count, and manipulate the data stored in one table and display it in another table, making it easier to analyze.
While neither of these features are sort of sexy new release that draws in casual users, they’re both key for pulling in the business power user — the people who actually use Excel’s more advanced offerings.