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.
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
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.