Zoho is a web app suite targeted at small businesses. One of the apps is Zoho Show, a presentation design suite. Yesterday, I gave it a test ride.

A cutting-edge presentation design tool is not the key selling point of Zoho, it is just one of the components of a broader offering of business software with different benefits: attractive pricing when compared to Microsoft Office, access to your files from any location with an Internet connection, and easy collaboration on documents with colleagues.

You do not notice that the Zoho slide design interface is run in a web browser. Interactions are smooth and fast. The application is designed to resemble Microsoft PowerPoint, menu colors look similar, and menu options are stored in familiar places. Unlike Google Docs, Zoho does allow you to crop images (a very important feature).

The basic PowerPoint user will have no problem working in Zoho Show, with one big exception: the ability to create data charts. In Zoho, you need to create them in the spreadsheet application and port them across using an image. This is an issue for people that live and breath bar and column charts day in, day out. (Google Docs has the same issue, it is probably complicated to include a full spreadsheet chart engine inside a presentation app).

For more advanced presentation designers, there are certain things missing. Template management is poor (same as with Google), and you miss the ability to align objects, snap them together on the screen. Font selections are limited, and as with all web apps it is hard to configure a tool bar for fast access to functions you often need (aligning objects, etc.).

Presentation mode also has lower functionality. Zoho requires a live internet connection to present your slides (not as big an issue anymore as it was a few years ago), and even in full screen mode there is a white browser bar on top of the slides. But presenters will miss the presenter screen most: a small window that shows the next slide that is coming up, plus speaker notes and a clock to keep track of time.

I now have tried out Google Docs, SlideRocket, and the Zoho presentation apps. SlideRocket is the only credible alternative to PowerPoint/Keynote in terms of features but it lacks the file ecosystem of Zoho and Google. The fact that Google does not allow you to crop images (a corner stone feature) puts Zoho ahead of it (for the moment, deep-pocketed Google can fix things fast).

But then again, the presentation app will not be the deciding factor when enterprises make a decision between Google Docs and Zoho.

I tested Zoho only briefly, if something I wrote in this mini review is incorrect, please let me know and I will update the post as soon as possible.

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