The free browser-based Zoho office productivity suite is getting an offline mode, the company has said.
Zoho developers are working on enabling offline editing and storage of Zoho-created documents for PC and Mac users.
The company said it will first add offline capabilities to its Zoho Writer word-processing service. The offline mode will be added to other applications in the suite in the future. There's also a new "comments" feature that enables users to add notes to their Zoho-created documents.
Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna said the offline editing features will be added to Zoho Writer in three or four weeks. In the meantime, users will at least be able to view their Zoho-created documents in read-only mode while they are offline.
"This is just a first step," Vegesna said. "It's just a matter of testing the platform and making sure that everything is working fine" before offering the full offline editing capabilities.
"This was fairly straightforward," he said. "I think the next challenge will be synchronisation [of online and offline documents],” which will be ready when the new capabilities launch.
Zoho Writer users will see a "Go Offline" link at the top of their browsers where they can review their documents until the editing functions are added.
The Zoho office suite, which has been available for about two years, is a proprietary, browser-based product that works atop Google's open-source Google Gears platform.
Users only have to download and install Google Gears to access the online Zoho office suite, Vegesna said. The company uses Google Gears instead of building its own platform for the software and is a regular contributor to the Google Gears project.
"We use all the open-source components at the back end, and we build all our proprietary applications," he said. "That's pretty much what we're doing with Google Gears." Zoho has been working on the updates for about a month, he said.
Ironically, Zoho's upcoming offline editing feature comes before Google has built in a similar capability for its own Google Apps competitor. "We are small, fast and nimble," Vegesna said. "We move fast. That's how we were able to set it up. Google is a big company now."
The offline storage and editing capabilities were added in response to user requests and feedback from software reviewers, Vegesna said.
Zoho's office suite is composed of about 15 applications, including Writer, and applications for spreadsheets and presentations, all written using Java and AJAX.