Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Docs and Zoho Are Untapped Resources: Thing #18

It's not really a secret by this point that there are quite a few of these web 2.0 tools that I'm a bit ... obsessed with. (Flickr, RSS feeds, del.icio.us, I'm looking at you...) Well, along those same lines, I'm a bit of a Google junkie, too. I've been using Gmail and Gchat for years, and a few months ago, I started using Google Calendar to keep track of being at the reference desk, teaching computer classes, going to meetings, all of that stuff. (And I probably spend too much time trying to get the colors perfect, because having each item be color-coded is one of my favorite parts.) And Google Reader is my go-to RSS feed reader. One of the reasons I like the Google suite is that I just log in once and I can get to each of the tools from the navigation bar at the top, no matter which one I'm logged into. (I'm lazy, what can I say?)

I didn't really start using Google Docs until I worked for OCL, though, but like a lot of these other web-based tools, it's just simply convenient to be able to get at my documents from any computer I'm using. I'm constantly moving around from the reference desk to the office and back again, and while I do have a flash drive that I use constantly, sometimes it's just nice to have it right there online already. And then I joined the Committee for this very OCL Web Things Challenge, and my Google Docs use went through the ROOF. We have been using Google Docs to share our meeting notes, edit our blog posts before they go live, and even to keep track of players' progress. We can all get at the files when we need to, and the ability to collaborate from anywhere at any time is simply awesome. But even just back at the reference department, I think Google Docs could really help us plan computer classes. If we shared the handouts and lesson plans for the classes several instructors teach, we'd ensure that we are all working off of the same material. Hmm.....

I also looked into Zoho, which honestly I hadn't explored before because Google Docs works fine for me. I was especially happy to see that I could log in with my existing Google (or Yahoo) account, so signing up was quick. It looks like Zoho's slideshow, spreadsheet, and word processing apps can do just a bit more than Google Docs, so if you are really looking for a Microsoft Office replacement (ie if you were going to buy a new computer and avoid buying Office), Zoho might actually be a better bet. What I didn't know, though, is that there are so many OTHER Zoho apps... Wiki, Notebook, Planner, and a few others. I couldn't really tell what makes Notebook all that different than a straight up wiki, other than the ability to move objects around the page in an interesting way, almost like designing a website in Dreamweaver. I did like Planner, though, although the interface isn't the prettiest. Because so much of my life is online (email, calendar, RSS, you get the drill), I've been wishing there was one magical program that could combine a to do list, notes, and a calendar all in one place. (I think I am way too picky, though, because I've looked at Tadalist and Remember the Milk and Google Notebook, and ruled those out for various superficial reasons. Backpack looks cool, though.) Zoho Planner does a pretty neat job of it - allowing you to add appointments, organize to do lists, add notes, email notes to the page, and even attach files. Once it's all there, it looks a bit messy, and although it's probably silly, I'm not too likely to keep using it if it is so cluttered. Clutter doesn't exactly make me feel more organized. ;)

So I didn't quite know I had that much to say about Web Apps, but there you go. I like them. I am definitely going to continue to use them, and I will try to spend some more time looking at Zoho, just to see what it's all about.

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