Remote Desktop Access Using… Zoho?

We all like the companies that think of cool new tech tools for us to play with. For the most part, many of these companies still think within their respective box – even if the box is still out there and inventive. What I really like is when people that work for these inventive companies start finding inventive ways to use their inventive programs. Are you tired of me using that word? At least I didn’t use the work ‘maverick.’

I came across this blog post on the official Zoho blog describing how you could use Zoho Meeting to access a desktop remotely (and for free). Cool use of a tool, I thought – and then I came to the disclaimer at the bottom about this idea not being officially supported by Zoho – it was just a good idea someone there had.

Concepts like this are interesting, especially seeing that Zoho also works on mobile app versions of their products. Could remote access of a desktop through your iPhone or other mobile device be too far behind this? You never know. But think of the possibilities for “anytime, anywhere learning” if that does come true.

Zoho Writer Adds New Features That Educators Need

It’s no big secret that I have a lot of love for Zoho. Someday I would like to do a run down of all the tools that Zoho offers. That would be a huge post, or even a series of posts. Today I want to point out some new features of Zoho Writer that make it a great tool for educators – online and off-line.

The coolest news is that Zoho Writer now lets users edit documents off-line. This addresses the biggest draw back for people that weren’t sure about switching from Microsoft to any online document editor: how do you edit documents when you don’t have an Internet connection? Zoho Writer uses Google Gears to store copies of your documents on your local computer. The nice feature is that you can edit those documents and then sync them with your online documents once you go back online.

I tried this out today, and it works really nice. You edit the documents in your browser, even when off-line. Just click a link to switch from online to off-line. The only downside is that not all features are available off-line (like inserting web links or spell check). But a very nice start.

The great thing about this is that teachers wouldn’t have to worry about lost assignments. Work on papers off-line in class, sync with an online account, and students can work on them at home.

Zoho Writer has also taken online document editing to the next level by being the first to allow headers and footers in documents. This combined with a new “Page View” function (lets you see the print layout) now gives me just about every tool I ever used in MS Word.

But let’s not forget that this is all for free online. I am still pulling for someone to create a Moodle integration API.

Also, if you are interested, Zoho explained why they use AJAX instead of Flash for their applications. Good points.

Online Publication Competition Heats Up

Maybe Google was on to something? And not mention other front runners such as Zoho and Writely (which was purchased by Google)? Many recent articles and blogs have highlighted how Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe are entering in to the online publication world. This can be good and bad for the world of education.

First of all, if you aren’t totally familiar with what is going on, PC World has a good article that summarizes the recent happenings. Here’s the basics: Adobe purchased Buzzword, a Flash-based online Word processor. IBM released Lotus Symphony, an open-source Office-like program based on software. Some speculate that they will connect this with some online service at some point. Microsoft released Office Live Workspace, a place for Office users to store documents online, allowing users to download and share collaborative documents. Even though, to be fair, Zoho (see Zoho Projects) and others has been offering stuff like this for a while.

Now, if you are like me, the Microsoft Office Live Workspace is just, well, meh. I hate to use a cliché word like ‘meh,’ but that best describes it. Just a password protected place to store documents online? I can rent webspace for $20 a year and do the same thing. Nice try, Microsoft – but I still don’t think you get Web2.0 yet.

I really wanted to turn this post into a review of all the new options, but I sadly can’t. Buzzword is not accepting new users right now – you can sign up to be on the wait list. Still waiting. They say they are the first real Online Word Processor. That’s just arrogant. Being in Flash might give them an edge over AJAX-based stuff like Google Docs, but you guys still aren’t the first real one. Writely, Zoho, and a host of others are still technically real.

I’ve tried to try out Lotus Symphony, but it is the freakiest experience I have had so far. I had to installed a Java applet just to download it (?!?). A lot of options came up after that that I wasn’t comfortable with. Installing the whopping 140mb file that downloaded on my computer was twisted and complex – and I know some complex programming techniques and languages. If I ever get this figured out, maybe I’ll write a review. I don’t see more than a few really patient people (more patient than me) getting in to this one.

So how is this good and bad for education? Well, the heat up in competition shows that free online applications are the next big thing. Free is always good for education. The bad for education? Well, this is all online. Good if you are at a school with relaxed filtering standards. Not so good if you are at a school with a “filter Nazi” in charge of the IT department. Also – when you have so many companies re-creating the wheel – you have too many wheels to chose from, and none of them work together very well. Not to mention to many sites to track – or the fact that some sites claim rights to use (or even own) the content that you store there.

We’ll see where all of this leads. In my opinion, Zoho is still the best option for any online publishing needs.

Lotus Offers Free Office Desktop Software

IBM’s recent announcement that it’s offering a IBM Lotus Symphony, a free desktop alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite, coupled with the recent release of Google’s online presentation application, should have the folks in Redmond sweating bullets. (As Matt mentioned in his Jaiku feed, IBM also recently announced its relationship with, in which they plan to contribute resources to.)

Beginning today at, business, academic, governmental and consumer users alike can download this enterprise-grade office software, which is the same tool inside some of IBM’s most popular collaboration products, such as the recently released Lotus Notes 8.

Lotus used to be quite a powerhouse in the spreadsheet industry — Anyone remember good ol’ Lotus 1-2-3? — which makes this impressive. An old favorite coming back … for free, no less. Wouldn’t it be great if Corel released Word Perfect for free? Oh, how I miss “Reveal Codes” !

Google Sky Makes the Heavens Browsable

Google’s opened up the skies to us, as today they released the Sky View in the latest update for Google Earth. Just as you can zoom in on remote locations on Earth and see more and more details, you can zoom in on areas in space and new worlds appear. Zoom in on a perfect barred spiral galaxy, sneak a peak at the birth of a star, or get up-close and personal with the Andromeda Galaxy.

(Sorry for the extended absence, folks. Getting courses ready for the Fall semester has proven to be quite hectic. Classes have started, though, and things are settling down … knock on wood!)

New Screen Capture tool by Techsmith (the Camtasia folks)

Camtasia is awesome. It allows you to record audio and video from your computer screen and upload it to a server for others to view …but you need a server. Now Techsmith has taken a cue from YouTube and Flicker and has come up with a beta that includes hosting (you can save the files to your hard drive as well). Enter the Jing Project. For now it is free, so give it a shot. All they ask is that you give them some feedback. It has a really cool interface and seems to work pretty well. Here is a masterful demo that I put together and uploaded in about 4 seconds.

Competition for Flash?

Flash is amazing. I use it to create interactive learning objects and online lectures. The only problem is that I have to use “cheater” programs like Swish or Camtasia to get the results that I want. Yesterday I sat down and attempted to put together a simple self-graded, multiple choice quiz in Flash. I even tried using a template, but gave up after about a half hour. I ended up using Hot Potatoes, a nice free software package that allows the creation of multiple choice quizzes, crossword puzzles, etc. The program is a little bit limited (and it uses Java), but you can’t beat the price.

In my search for a better option, I came across a Microsoft product to be released in Fall 07 that has the *potential* to fill a void in my course development toolbox. The official propaganda states, “Grava is the code name for a new set of tools from Microsoft’s Education Products Group that is designed to allow the education community to create and assemble materials that will increase discovery and allow learners to go at their own pace and learning style.” It looks like the tool is an easy-to-use learning object maker. The interface looks pretty slick. A potential drawback is that a “Grava” player must be downloaded to use the stuff you make. Neat stuff.