The All New Google Presentations

Google Docs, the cloud suite of productivity tools offered by Google for free, has always been a favorite of mine. I have used Presentations, the slide deck creation tool, to make visuals and collaborate with others. I have always found Presentations to be more than serviceable, and definitely useful.

Google has just made Presentations even more useful with a dramatic feature roll out. The changes focus on improving collaboration by including presence markers to show where collaborators are working, allowing simultaneous editing by team members, showing a use revision history to see who made changes or to revert to an earlier version, and a building in a chat feature to permit dialogue between collaborators while working on the document. There are more than 50 other new features , including better transitions and “spicier” (their word, not mine) 3D effects, new animations, new themes, drawings within presentations, and rich tables.

The new stuff is rolling out slowly but you can help it along – just click on the gear in the document list, select Document Settings, hit the editing tab, check the box to “create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor” and voila!, you’re in. But don’t bother if you are running an older browser: the new Presentations is optimized to work with the latest browser editions, so update one of those first before trying this at home, kids. Check this link for what works.

I love shiny new playthings from Google!


Go Zoho

Heading to the clouds? Zoho (link here), a cloud-based suite of tools, brings word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note-taking, wikis, CRM, project management, invoicing and a lot of other applications to your local web browser. Zoho is free to use at the entry level, but offers apps for business and enterprise at various price points. If you ever wondered about the acronym SaaS (software as a service) and what it all means, then by all means check out Zoho. There is a lot to like.

While its most obvious competitors are among Google’s array of cloud-based applications, Zoho offers more with an easy user-interface. Listed below are some of the available tools and simple descriptions:

Zoho Writer: a word processor that supports simultaneous collaboration. Supports all the common formats. You can embed media from other web locales, such as Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo. It even affords some direct blog publishing capability.

Zoho Sheet: a spreadsheet app that can process external data feeds via RSS / Atom. It also can send out, to publish to blogs and websites. Integrates with Facebook and With a plug-in, can integrate with Excel. Also permits real-time collaboration.

Zoho Reports: a database and reporting tool, with easy drag and drop interface. Make charts, pivots, summaries and types of reports with the data.

Zoho Show: a presentation tool that integrates with most other presentation formats, including PowerPoint. Allows sharing and collaboration and remote presentations to off site clients.

Zoho Docs: an online document storage tool. 1GB of free space, and paid for additional. Secure storage, with chat and collaboration features. Integrates with Writer, Sheet and Show. Create folders and tags and share folders with others. Offers full text search.

Zoho Projects: a project management tool with calendaring, task creation and assignment, deadlines and milestone charting, and more. Free version allows single project management.

Zoho CRM: a customer relations management tool, including procurement, inventory and some accounting features.

Zoho Invoice: an invoicing tool. Create, send and manage invoices, track expenses, receive online payments and generate reports.

Zoho Business: an affordable (starting at free) email and document management tool. Host email, create your own portal, message collaboratively and manage documents. Includes a calendar functions. Integrates with other tools.

Zoho Assist: an on-demand, remote support tool. Allows remote connections via internet access, with full firewall and security integrity. Includes diagnostic tools, and built-in file transfer.

Zoho Recruit: an applicant tracking tool. Useful for  staffing agencies and recruiting departments to track job openings, resumes, candidates and contacts.

Zoho Creator: an online database, online form and custom app development tool. Drag and drop limits the need for coding knowledge. Can import MS Access and exports in a variety of formats.

Zoho Wiki: an online group collaboration and communication tool. Allows for construction of knowledge spaces and online classrooms. Content is organized into fully customizable workspaces.

Zoho Discussions: a community forum development tool.

Zoho Share: an online, centralized public repository. Includes presentations, documents, PDFs and spreadsheets. Content is tagged and searchable. Filter by doc types and other criteria.

Zoho Planner: a calendar and task list tool. Email reminders and collaboration tools.

Zoho Notebook: a notebook tool. Great support for multi-media content. Share whole notebooks or individual pages. Include documents, applications or stream content via RSS.  Pull scraps from the web to include in your notebooks via a Firefox plug-in.

Zoho Chat: a chat application. Can be embedded into a website or blog. Also supports instant messaging and integrates with all major messaging formats.

Zoho Mail: an email tool. Online, with an integrated instant messaging feature. Has both folders and labels.

Zoho Meeting: a web conferencing tool. Allows participants to see presenter’s screen using either ActiveXFlash, or Java. Show and Chat components are integrated. Participants can control the desktop of the presenter.  Viewer can be embedded in a separate webpage or in a Show slide. Currently free in public beta, with live support.

Zoho People: an HRIS tool, free for ten employees. Create organizational charts. Offer an employee portal with the ability to collect key employee info. Simple drag and drop customization.

Zoho Calendar: a calendar tool  for individuals or groups. Send and receive invitations. Share and embed calendars. Reminders for events. Subscribe to public calendars and import calendars from elsewhere. Associate with other applications.

There is a Marketplace (link here), with even more business applications broken down by different business categories, ranging from fee to paid. Best of all, Zoho apps are all free for personal use, discounted for non-profit and very,very reasonably priced for business use. Zoho clearly has set out to cover a lot of ground with their broad-ranging set of apps. If you are considering setting out across the cloud and digging into web apps, Zoho might be an excellent place to start, with no money down!