There is very little reason to depend on a hard drive-based application for your word processing needs these days. Google Docs provides everything most users will ever need; you already have it if you have a Gmail account, and it works offline, thanks to Google Gears. Another solution, Zoho Writer, which also works offline thanks to Gears, just got a major interface overhaul in its 2.0 incarnation, and now is more poised than ever to provide a complete alternative to Office and other similar programs.
The problem with Zoho, until now, has been one of constant improvement. That may not seem like a problem at all, but when that improvement involves adding more and more features, but keeping the interface the same, it can get a little unruly. The new redesign tries to make sure Zoho doesn’t overwhelm you visually, which in turn makes it easier to work with.
While some liked the old UI, I found it too cluttered, because I normally like to edit in full screen, and like as little chrome as possible in my browsers. The changes to the top menu give you a bit more room, but more importantly, they group and hide a lot of commands so you aren’t left feeling crowded. The new “MenuTab” feature groups similar commands under general headings. You can access these commands either by clicking the tab, which changes the button set available on your toolbar (much like Microsoft’s “Ribbon” UI for Office) or by clicking the little arrow next to them, which opens a drop-down menu without changing your toolbar.
It makes sense, and it suits multiple tastes. You’ll be comfortable if you’re used to working with Office, or if you’re used to working with drop-down menus like you’ll find in a lot of web apps. Zoho plans to use MenuTab in all of its other applications in the future, too, so even if you don’t like it, plan on getting used to it!
I won’t go into detail about Zoho Writer, since we’ve covered it before. It’s not new, but I still love Zoho’s tabbed management of open documents. I much prefer it to Google’s opening of new browser tabs for each document, although that makes much more sense when you take into account Google Chrome’s handling of each tab as a separate process. And I still miss Google’s full-screen edit mode too much to make a permanent switch.
Still, if you’re a Zoho user, or if you tried it out before but didn’t like it because of the interface, Zoho Writer 2.0 gives you ample reason to take it out for a second spin.
Do you use Zoho Writer? What do you think of the new UI?