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Ubuntu’s New Web Office Integration

Written by JamieBennett on April 8th, 2010 at 1:49 pm in Linux,Ubuntu

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Why Online?

Desktop Integration with the cloud is hot news. Ubuntu One is a great example of this. Currently Ubuntu One integrates file storage, contacts and notes sync, and now you can even buy music from the online store, delivered straight to the Rythmbox media player. But for some devices, integration with the cloud isn’t just a nice feature, it completely changes the user experience (UX). Take for instance a low powered, possibly mobile/embedded system with limited processing power and memory. A cloud based service for these devices could allow resource intensive tasks to be offloaded to an online server somewhere, greatly improving the UX. One set of tasks that are used often but can put a strain on resources are related to office document editing.

Ubuntu’s Current Offerings

The standard Ubuntu image currently contains the Open Office suite. For those that do not know, Open Office is, from the website:

“OpenOffice.org 3 is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.”

Open Office also has around 9 million lines of code spread over 30 thousand files, in short, its a large project. Running this on a device with limited resources is a recipe for disaster. Of course there are alternatives, Abiword and Gnumeric are examples of two applications that replicate functionality found in Open Office’s Writer and Calc respectively. There are also online services such as Google Docs and Zoho but neither of these are tightly integrated with the desktop, until now. Enter webservice-office-zoho.

Why Zoho?

First off, why Zoho and not, for instance, Google Docs. Both services offer great functionality and are very competitive but the ultimate decision came down to which suited our use case the most. What we wanted was for a user to double click on a document which would then seamlessly open ready for editing. From there the user would edit, read, and maybe even save it back to the local device. No fuss, no logging in, no other requirements, just open and get on with it. Similary, when a user launches the application on its own, we wanted the correct type of service to open ready for the user to concentrate on their document. The service that allowed us to do this was Zoho. Zoho allows the user to do all of this without ever registering or logging in. Of course you get online storage with Zoho if you do register, but if you choose not to you can still get a full featured experience.

Integrating Zoho with the Desktop

So what do you get with this new integration. Well as alluded to before you can:

  • Open, read, edit and save email document attachments.
  • Open, read, edit and save local documents.
  • Open, read, edit and save remote documents linked to with a url.
  • Launch the required application, Writer, Show or Sheet (Word Processor, Presentations, Spreadsheets) which will present the user with an empty document of that type ready to edit.
  • More functionality to come in Maverick Meerkat.

webservice-office-zoho shown here installed along side Open Office

The Future

This functionality is currently only available as default on Ubuntu’s ARM images, typically where limited hardware resources are more commonly found. But that’s not to say webservice-office-zoho can’t be used on any other Ubuntu install. As the package is in the main Ubuntu repository, a simple:

sudo apt-get install webservice-office-zoho

will install it on your Lucid based machine or if you are feeling brave, checkout the latest bazaar branch with:

bzr branch lp:webservice-office-zoho

There are lots of things planned for the future of webservice-office-zoho. If you have comments, idea’s or just want to rant, come along to the web integration UDS session this May, either in person or via online methods or just leave your thoughts here.

34 Responses to 'Ubuntu’s New Web Office Integration'

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  1. This sounds AWESOME!

    One suggestion that I would like is to modify the browser interface. Maybe with a specialty browser or a modified Firefox browser that removes the Back, Refresh, etc. buttons plus tabs.

    In t his way the Zoho office applications would appear to be like any other application plus eliminates the possibilities of “accidentally” having the page redirect mid-use.

    It would also save a significant amount of screen estate (a big gain for Netbooks) for functions that most people don’t need when using a program for word processing.

    Otherwise, this is great news! I look forward to seeing it expand!

    dragonbite

    8 Apr 10 at 3:16 pm

  2. Good idea. This is definitely something that I will be looking at post-UDS.

    JamieBennett

    8 Apr 10 at 3:19 pm

  3. When you go to save, you have the option of saving locally or in Zoho (if you have an account)? What about saving, like to a Zoho account, but to your UbuntuOne account instead?

    Oh the heck with it, can Canonical buy Zoho? ;)

    dragonbite

    8 Apr 10 at 4:03 pm

  4. Should I leave my suggestion as a Bug in the Launchpad account?

    dragonbite

    8 Apr 10 at 4:11 pm

  5. Yeah, please attach a bug to the project and mark it wish-list. Ubuntu One integration is definitely on my wish-list, I’ll be chatting with the team to try to make it happen.

    jamiebennett

    8 Apr 10 at 4:31 pm

  6. I didn’t find a means to mark it as a Wishlist, but I’ve posted 2 bugs; non-browser interface (#558482) and UbuntuOne file storing (#558486).

    If I can change it. let me know how.

    dragonbite

    8 Apr 10 at 4:53 pm

  7. Thanks for taking the time to report bugs, I’ve reclassified them as wishlist items and marked that I’ve acknowledged them. All suggestions will be brought up at the UDS discussion session in May, thanks again.

    Jamie Bennett

    8 Apr 10 at 5:03 pm

  8. I agree with dragonbite’s comments in the sense, that I think as long as it doesn’t look and feel like any other standard GTK+ application people will always to a certain degree be put off. Especially if it keeps the webbrowser window look. Besides that it looks like an awesome idea. And if you actually will be able to save not just to Zoho, but also locally and UbuntuOne, this could be pure win.

    bash

    8 Apr 10 at 11:17 pm

  9. You’ve done a great job explaining what we’ve done and why. Thanks for putting this together.

    Matt Zimmerman

    9 Apr 10 at 10:56 am

  10. [...] In seinem Blog stellt Canonical-Entwickler Jamie Bennett ein neues Projekt vor: Webservice Office Zoho. Damit soll das kostenlose Online-Office Zoho in das System integriert werden und somit eine Alternative zu dem “schwergewichtigen” OpenOffice.org bieten, was gerade auf mobilen Endgeräten von Nutzen sein kann. Zoho bietet eine umfangreiche Office-Suite mit Textverarbeitung (Zoho Writer), Tabellenkalkulation (Zoho Sheet), Präsentationsprogramm (Zoho Show) und einige anderen Tools, welche jedoch nicht mit Webservice Office Zoho genutzt werden können. Ziel von Webservice Office Zoho sei es, dass mit einem Doppelklick auf ein Dokument dieses online mit Zoho geöffnet und dort bearbeitet, gelesen und am Ende wieder lokal gespeichert werden könne. Und das ganz einfach und ohne Registrierung oder andere Voraussetzungen. Webservice Office Zoho im Menü [...]

  11. [...] further and further.Yesterday Jamie Bennett, an Ubuntu developer from Canonical Inc., made a blog post that explained how users can integrate Zoho Office Suite into their Ubuntu desktop. They have a [...]

  12. I just have one question: what is the revenue model from Zoho to offer its services for free? Let’s suppose that all ubuntu users adopt zoho webservice, this will create more load on their server, but no revenue.
    I suppose that they try to either kill the competitions or drive more users to their tool suite later.
    Anyway, that’s great for users, great for Linux desktop tools and great for Ubuntu.

    william el kaim

    10 Apr 10 at 9:01 pm

  13. ¿Have you thought about open source solutions like Feng Office or EyeOS?

    John Doe

    12 Apr 10 at 6:02 pm

  14. At the moment only Zoho is supported. We will be exploring the possibility of adding other solutions for the next cycle come UDS.

    Jamie Bennett

    12 Apr 10 at 9:19 pm

  15. About drangonbites selection:
    Could you not use Mozilla prism?

    Do you plan to show updates to files using notify-osd?

    Tim

    13 Apr 10 at 6:19 pm

  16. [...] Full post here! [...]

  17. Love this idea. Something you could do: use mozilla prism or Google Chrome to run Zoho in “application mode”, so it looks like its own app.

    Wiiboy

    14 Apr 10 at 2:58 am

  18. Prism looks good. I have used fluid app in mac (which is like prism) for google apps like reader and docs. Although prism is not released yet but its stable enough.

    Ali

    14 Apr 10 at 3:37 am

  19. [...] Ubuntus new web office integration [...]

  20. [...] Ubuntus new web office integration [...]

  21. [...] Ubuntus new web office integration [...]

  22. [...] Ubuntus new web office integration [...]

  23. [...] Ubuntus new web office integration [...]

  24. Prism hasn’t worked 100% for me, yet. At 10,000 foot perspective the two projects (prism and integrating Zoho) are very similar. I think the Zoho project will integrate them a little more fully. Prism, though, may provide a good starting point for interfacing with the applications.

    I still favor either hacking up Epiphany or a custom “browser” window (single-page-browser) or a seperate Firefox plugin so there is more control over it. This could provide
    * optimizing javascript,
    * stripping out unnecessary features such as Flash or Java or Ad Block/NoScript which may be installed in the main browser,
    * providing customized plug-ins depending on the application,
    * full interface control
    * provide KDE and Window Manager integration as well.

    I have to admit, though, I haven’t had much success with Prism but I may just give it another try. Don’t know anything about Chrome’s application mode.

    dragonbite

    14 Apr 10 at 1:39 pm

  25. At last with Zoho. I mentioned over a year ago that Zoho will make a good match with Ubuntu and wanted Canonical to do some sort of partnership. Also, back then I mentioned to Zoho that they should concentrate more on Linux, not just Windows.

    Zac

    15 Apr 10 at 11:31 am

  26. [...] Ubuntu’s new web office integration will have many more functions in Maverick Meerk, its still a work-in progress, but its usable. I’m loving it. Also Read OpenOffice for Kids (OOo4Kids)Desktop Webmail Integrates Gmail, Hotmail, Zoho and Yahoo! with Ubuntu 10.04PortableApps.com Platform 2.0 beta 1 Adds Automatic App Launch, Themes and Richer Right-Click MenuUbuntu-Studio 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope Screenshot TourPortable SeaMonkey 2.0 for your Portable Hard Drives [...]

  27. [...] pasado 8 de abril de 2010, Jamie Bennett, programador empleado por Canonical, presentó un pequeño proyecto con el que pretende la integración de Zoho en el menú de aplicaciones de [...]

  28. [...] Desktop integration with the cloud has been making some remarkable progress. And there are plans on the horizon for even more cloud functionality. One of my favourite projects, Ubuntu One, is one of these cloud [...]

  29. [...] Ubuntu’s New Web Office Integration Desktop Integration with the cloud is hot news. Ubuntu One is a great example of this. Currently Ubuntu One integrates file storage, contacts and notes sync, and now you can even buy music from the online store, delivered straight to the Rythmbox media player. But for some devices, integration with the cloud isn’t just a nice feature, it completely changes the user experience (UX). Take for instance a low powered, possibly mobile/embedded system with limited processing power and memory. A cloud based service for these devices could allow resource intensive tasks to be offloaded to an online server somewhere, greatly improving the UX. One set of tasks that are used often but can put a strain on resources are related to office document editing. [...]

  30. Hmm… after reading a review of Midori on OMG!Ubuntu, it may be ripe for the pickings to customize a browser for integration purposes;
    1. it isn’t a high-volume used application, so it should be more flexible
    2. It is supposed to be extremely light on its feet which may be a win-win situation if it can go to the page without a lot if in-between stuff.

    The article that made me think of this is here : http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/04/using-midori-024.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+d0od+%28Omg!+Ubuntu!%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    dragonbite

    28 Apr 10 at 2:34 pm

  31. [...] por qué el desarrollador de este proyecto escogió Zoho Docs y no Google Docs? Según sus propias palabras, la decisión fue porque si se escogía Google, el usuario primero debería ingresar con su cuenta [...]

  32. [...] Ubuntu’s New Office Web IntegrationOnline Office In Ubuntu With Zoho Webservice Catégories:Cloud Computing, Ubuntu Commentaires (0) Rétroliens (0) Laisser un commentaire Rétrolien [...]

  33. [...] Read more about the web office integration. [...]

  34. Any chance to get this amazing idea running on a deb-server to use it as a team-collab-solution? Anybody tried that yet?

    Greetings from Vienna, M.

    Martin

    2 Nov 10 at 1:05 pm

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