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Escaping from Desktop: Online Document Editing Tools for Bloggers

This guest post is by Nina Gorbunova of TeamLab.

I first faced the problem of document immobility a couple of years ago, when I was far away from my PC. I lost my flash stick and realized that I didn’t have my documents stored anywhere in the cloud. That’s what we call epic fail. Of course, “it’s not the end of the world,” you may say. But being a freelancer, sooner or later you realize the importance of round-the-clock access to your files.

Another problem I faced was appropriate document management—in terms of document creating, storing, editing and sharing. Being an active blogger, I deal with document editing almost 24/7 and have strict requirements for the software I’m using. I need it to have an intuitive interface, rich toolset, and flexible sharing features.

Microsoft Word and Pages were pretty much enough for me formerly, but since I decided to step into the world of SaaS, I needed something different.

It took me half an hour to find more than a dozen services that promised to help me with remote working in the cloud. However it took me several days to figure out that most of them were not what I was searching for.

Google Docs

The most popular online document editor deserves to be covered first. Google Docs‘ interface tends to be minimal. As for the toolset, although in comparison with desktop editors it is not that rich, I believe it can suffice for an average user.

Google docs

Your Google Docs document can be downloaded as ODT, PDF, RTF, text, Word and HTML formats. Despite its popularity I had quite a few troubles when it came to inserting an image and huge problems with editing tables.

The Sharing feature is simple enough: as well as the options shown below, you can share the document with anybody and set up access rights to let them edit, comment, or just view the document. The only hindrance that might bother your collaborator is that they’ll need to be logged into your Google account to access the document (unless you use private sharing, which is preferable).

Google sharing

As a positive, the Comments feature is amazing and appears to be a huge advantage. However, I had troubles uploading and editing large docs and docs that contained several images.

Zoho Documents

Zoho is another well-known giant in the world of collaboration software. From the first glance I was impressed by its colorful and bright interface. On the other hand, it appeared to be a little bit tangled and confusing.

Zoho docs

It has a custom dictionary, word count and Thesaurus—though I’m not sure how many people would use these features. Zoho developers did their best to put some fun into tables and even included Table Themes. Unfortunately, though, even those didn’t let me make the table look the way I wanted.

Zoho tables

Working with images went smoothly. One thing that was difficult me was pagination, because when I downloaded the document (you can see available formats in the screenshot), the number of pages was different from what I expected it to be.

Sharing was another feature that left me confused. The terms of sharing are standard, but the document didn’t look the same on my screen and that of my colleague; moreover, he couldn’t edit it even though I gave him “read and write” access. That’s a serious problem that might be a stumbling block for many users.

Zoho sharing

On the plus side, the toolset is extremely impressive. However, an average user would find many of the tools superfluous, besides, some of them, like tables and headers, seemed to have serious bugs.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 hasn’t gained as much popularity as Google Docs yet, but the service definitely looks promising. Its interface is close to what most of us are accustomed to, and the basic toolset reminds us of a desktop application.

Office 365

The number of fonts and styles significantly exceeds that available in other online editors. Furthermore, users have the ability to switch to the desktop version of the software using the Open in Word button.

What confused me most of all—and it can be seen on the screenshot—was working with images and tables—there was no drag’n’drop functionality at all. For me, this is on the “must have” list, but its implementation is probably only a question of time since Office 365 is still quite a young solution.

The application does not provide sharing capabilities, though SkyDrive by MS enables users not only to share the document with a others, but even post it directly to social networks. I’m sure this software has a bright future, being a part of such a strong suit, but for me currently it’s not functional enough—I would prefer to use SkyDrive or some alternative app.

Office 365 share

Central Desktop

The tendency of software engineers to include document management capabilities in collaboration and project management platforms has become widespread these days, and Central Desktop is an example of such a tool. A user-friendly interface and basic features, however, don’t make the service unique.

Central desktop

Document editing is inseparably linked to the other parts of the platform—Project Management, Calendar, and People, which is a benefit if you are planning to collaborate with your colleagues using this tool. If not, it may be a serious obstacle, since the sharing feature is available for system members only.

That said, the Central Desktop Document Editor can’t help but produce a good impression. The drag’n’drop deature works great, and editing tables is convenient. There does seem to be a poor number of fonts and font sizes, though.

Although I haven’t tried to collaborate with this platform, it seems to me that the opportunity of inserting Calendar and blocks of Group Activity might comes in handy especially when it comes to reporting—as you might do within a blogging team.

Central desktop 2

There’s no opportunity to use Central Desktop for free, so it’ll be a closed book for many bloggers. Prices start at $99 per month for 20 users—again reflecting its team focus. Initially you get a 15-day trial for free.

Teamlab Document Editor

This is another tool that includes an editor as a part of an online collaboration service. But I intentionally put this one to the very end of the list because—cards on the table—I work for TeamLab. Now you might say that every cook praises his own broth, so I’ll do my best to stay as impartial as possible!

Among various online document editors this one looks the most like your favorite desktop application—Office 365 is probably the only alternative that would compete with TeamLab in this realm. The toolset is also impressive—Teamlab Documents provide you with a large number of styles and fonts, using those already uploaded to your computer.

Teamlab view

Image editing is good. Images stay exactly where you put them and can be shifted easily. Tables offer the same flexibility and nice designs. The editor has its drawbacks, of course. The lack of a spell checker and drag’n'drop text pasting are the biggest issues I’ve found so far.

One of the most noticeable advantages of the application is the “document identity,” which became possible with the usage of HTML5 canvas technology. Technically, this means there are no more formatting losses when you convert your doc into another format (which is the most irritating thing about most online editing tools). You can download your document as PDF, text, DOCX, DOC, ODT, RTF, HTML, or EPUB, and it won’t change a bit.

Sharing is available for those who are registered to use the platform as well as for third parties, which means groups of collaborators aren’t dependent on the platform.

Teamlab sharing

This option also offers Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box.com integration. However, right now, Teamlab can process text documents only, as it is still in beta. Spreadsheets, PDF files and presentations are on the way, according to the developers.

Jacks of all trades, masters of none?

Though we can find a dozen services for online document editing, many users still have to admit that most solutions lack functionality and remain far behind the best offline editors, such as MS Word and Pages.

If you’re working with all document types—spreadsheets, texts and PDF files—neither Google Docs nor Central Desktop can be called a full-featured editor, though they reach the furthest of the options we’ve looked at here.

Do they offer additional tools for file processing? Yes. Are they desktop editor replacments? No. Nevertheless the younger generation of editing apps already gets closer to perfection.

Do you use online document editing tools in your blogging? Why, or why not? And if you do, which ones? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Nina is an active blogger, a marketing manager at TeamLab and CeBIT 2012 participant. She is interested in technology advance and believes HTML5 is the future technology.

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Comments

  1. Linda Souza says:

    Thanks for including Central Desktop in your article! Actually, we do have a free plan for small teams with 5 users, 2 workspaces, and 1GB file storage. (The difference is that the limits are a bit lower than our SocialBridge Professional plan and some of the more advanced features like workflow automation aren’t there.) Here’s the direct link to the free plan: https://app.centraldesktop.com/signup?free

    There’s no expiration on this plan. Enjoy!

    • Nina says:

      Linda, thanks for attention and for the input!
      Sorry for not noticing it before.

    • Nina says:

      Linda, thank you very much for your attention and the input!
      Sorry for not noticing it before)
      Best,
      Nina

  2. muazfaris says:

    yes i use Google Doc to store all my draft post blog.. its useful and i recommend all to use it as online document editing tools

    • Nina says:

      Muazfaris, thank you for the opinion! Google Docs is definitely an appropriate editor for draft posts. Here I tried to provide an objective comparison of more powerful alternative tools.
      Hope, useful for someone)

  3. Rob Person says:

    You mentioned SkyDrive in the Office 365 section, but didn’t give it its own section. Why not? I think it’s more relevant to this discussion than O365 since it’s free and gives you easy access to all of the Office Web Apps.

    • Nina says:

      Rob, thanks for the comment.
      I mentioned SkyDrive as a product of the same company, not as a part of Office365 )
      I really find it more convenient for docs editing due to more functional opportunities. Although can’t but agree with you – Office365 is more relevant for freelancers since it’s free and provides access to additional tools. I was interested in the document editing section only though.

  4. Drewry says:

    Just a few months ago, I too lost my USB flash card. And, though I have a rough idea where I think I last left it, it has suddenly disappeared. On our behalf’s, I don’t think it’s an “epic fail.” Being a freelancer is definitely a good thing. However, the only downside to be in a freelancer is that being that we work for ourselves and have much time on our hands to do as we please, we have a tendency to put things down and potentially get where we left it at, feeling lenient mentally to not keep an accurate memory of where we put certain things. I’m curious about the document sharing service online. Does that boost “search engine optimization” in any kind of way, being that you are openly sharing your documents online with the general public?

    • Nina says:

      Drewry, not sure it can boost SEO, since the content can’t be indexed by searching machines.
      Although I’m not a seo professional, so can’t be 100% right.

  5. I only use Google Docs for spreadsheets that I and my VA use to keep things in order. Iuse dropbox for file sharing especially if it’s loads of files. There’s still nothing compared to when you’re on your own laptop or desktop.

    • Nina says:

      Trent, true. Most people are used to Google Docs and their spreadsheets. However, can’t but admit sometimes it faces some technical problems with content and formatting.

  6. Sai Krishna says:

    Very good article, Normally I will use MS word for offline, if come to online, I’ll use google docs, its very comfortable for me. I didn;t tried other mentioned tools in this post. Will give it a try soon :)

    • Nina says:

      Sai, thanks for understanding my point!
      Would be great to hear your feedback on the other tools.

  7. Reed Nixon says:

    Too bad you lost your USB flash. The online service sharing free plan sounds like a great idea. The fact that you may have access to all office Apps makes it even better. How do we get detailed info on this? I am of the opinion it might be of great help.

    • Nina says:

      Reed, definitely! Using an all-in-one solution is seems to be trend today.
      what kind of information would you like to get in details? not sure, I got you.

  8. Freelance writing comes with great obligation, though we never notice it since we happen to be our own bosses. I guess that’s why we are prone to losing stuff like our USB flash cards. I am glad you put up this post. It is so obvious it educated us more on the online storage and sharing services.

    • Nina says:

      Tabetha, I’m so glad you find the article useful!
      You’re right, being our own bosses makes us loose ground sometimes, though it also depends on the personality, I think)

  9. Shelby Roth says:

    Great information! Google Doc is an enormous and deceptively complicated application but is actually a very useful online editing tool that implements pretty much everything from scratch, including text selection and text measurement and also positioning and does easily the best job for your online project and I do recommend it.

  10. I love the Google Doc it is the best and it’s services aren’t that bad, it has multiple uses and to me l prefer it to any other device.

    • Nina says:

      Carla, I’m not saying google docs service is bad))
      I’m talking about the toolset and technical aspect of this and alternative solutions, which could be quite significant for some users.

  11. I love the Teamlab Document Editor it’s components and the work it does real good and urge all of you to try it and you will never regret using it.

    • Nina says:

      Wow, Carmen! Thanks for such an emotional comment)
      I’m really happy to hear you enjoy using Teamlab!

  12. Rabin says:

    My friend has recommended this online tool to me before I started my blog. Again I find it here. I will certainly give it a try..

  13. Glynis Jolly says:

    Although the managing tools are probably good on those last two, I think I will stick with my Open Office writer, which is on my desktop. I just don’t like sharing all that much, I guess. As for management tools, Google has what I want, plus it does have Google Docs for those special things.

  14. infoinbulk says:

    it is nice…there is a situation where i couldnt download the documents and i didnt installed adobe ..so i started using docs for editing.thank you google for google docs product release..

  15. KingJohn says:

    Brilliant post.These things which you have mentioned can really make better impression on your readers and you always try to get something out of box with better quality for your readers, thanks for sharing and I share as much as I can.

    • Nina says:

      Thank you very much for your words, KingJohn!
      I really appreciate them and glad that you find the post useful!
      Thanks again)