Probably the most interesting thing about this release is that Zoho is using the Google Gears beta (which I wrote about in the post "Google Gears up for Offline") to add offline support to the word processor in their hosted office suite.
I took a quick test drive of the newly updated Zoho Writer and, while the concept is interesting, the delivery of offline capabilities is far from seamless. One of the first hurdles is that the browser must have Google Gears installed.
Within Zoho Writer a "Go Offline" link has been added, which includes basic settings for the number of documents that should be downloaded when a user goes offline.
If you decide that you'll need offline access to your Zoho Writer documents, you simply click this link and the documents will be downloaded for offline use.
When I reconnected after disconnecting and restarting my system (to simulate something like getting on a plane) in order to get offline access I went to http://writer.zoho.com/offline rather than the standard URL of http://writer.zoho.com/.
From here I had read only access to my Zoho Writer documents without any editing (or any other Zoho Writer capabilities) enabled. The offline capability works on Windows and Mac systems.
For the most part, I can't see too much value in read-only access to these documents. If it was a personal laptop situation, you would be better off downloading the actual document files before traveling.
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So right now, other than its curiosity factor, the offline capabilities in Zoho Writer don't deliver much. However, if Zoho can get the application to be a fully functional word processor both offline and online, then it will be taking a strong first step toward competing with traditional desktop-based word processors.