Microsoft Word has been the undisputed king of word processing programs for many years. No one could begin to challenge its superiority until the Internet became more interactive and robust. Now there are plenty of alternatives to Word and the best part is, they are all free. But with free comes another price you must pay, and that is functionality. Installed desktop applications will continue to give you more features because programmers can pack more into the code. Online word processors will not completely replace your desktop applications, but they will handle the most basic tasks like tables, picture inserts, web links, comments, etc. I have been using Zoho Writer for about 3 years now and I can truly say that Microsoft should be worried. The good folks at Zoho keep updating the software with new rich content and features that now rival its desktop counter parts.
The layout is simple and straightforward. There are tabs at the top of the interface that allow you to format, insert, review, share, view, print and email your documents. You have folders to organize your documents and a file navigation bar on the left side of interface. Importing existing documents is easy. Zoho will let you import html, doc, docx, sxw and odt (Open Office), rtf, jpg, gif, png and text files. You can also export the same flavor of formats. Zoho writer has allowed me to save $300 on word processing applications. Online applications like Zoho are not for everyone. You must be willing to adjust your expectations of what this software can do and understand its limitations.
It's free! When you consider the fact that Zoho writer can do 80% of what Microsoft Word can do for free, thats gotta make you want to at least try it. Another advantage is portability. As long as you have a broadband connection, you can access any data created on Zoho servers. Documents started at work can be finished at home. Documents can also be shared with other Zoho users for collaboration and non Zoho users for viewing only.
There are two main disadvantages. First, copy and paste text from other applications doesn't allow you to change the formatting of that text. Second, your files are being created and stored online. Therefore, security and privacy are an issue. Although companies like Zoho stake their name and reputation on data privacy, we as consumers have no way of knowing what they do with our data. The safe bet is to not upload or create private or sensitive data.
As the Internet grows, so will the comfort level of its users. Then, you will see more challenges to traditional desktop applications like Microsoft Word. Users will demand more and expect more from browsers and software developers will begin to test the limits. So, if you are ready for a change and just need a quick and easy way to create and format documents, then give Zoho and others like Adobe's Buzzword a try.