Tip: Zoho Suite is Free for Individuals

Posted on February 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Office, Office 365 with 16 Comments

This week, Zoho released major new versions of its Zoho Suite office productivity apps—Zoho Writer, Sheet, Show, and Notebook—and they’re available to individuals for free. This might be the free, high-quality alternative to Microsoft Office or Google Docs that you’ve been looking for.

“We’re delighted to be making huge strides towards our vision of the future of work as a connected system, made possible by the incredible breadth of the Zoho suite and our decade-long focus on developing a powerful office suite on the cloud,” Zoho’s Rakeeb Rafee announced.

Yes, the Zoho suite apps are web apps for Mac or Windows, but don’t be put off by that. They are full-featured and can work offline. So you can optionally use Chrome (or perhaps a Chrome-based web browser) to “install” them on your PC and use them when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Zoho Writer received a major update last year, but this year’s updates to Zoho Sheet, Show, and Notebook bring them up-to-date with that previous work, and each has been upgraded in substantial ways. For example, Zoho Writer includes a complete digital e-signature system, and Zoho Sheet now features a brand-new Custom Function engine. And each app has been improved with Zoho’s AI-based Zia intelligent assistant; Zia is used to provide real-time grammar, writing, style, and readability suggestions, among other things.

The Zoho apps feature a delightfully minimal user interface and they make much better use of the horizontal on-screen real estate that is present on most PC displays than, say, Office or Docs. (Instead of using toolbars or ribbons that eat up precious vertical space, the Zoho apps all use side-mounted command palettes that can be easily shown and hidden.)

There’s a lot more going on there, but you can check out Zoho’s separate posts for Writer, Sheet, Show, and Notebook on the Zoho Blog. The apps are available on the Zoho website, and there are mobile app versions of Zoho Notebook too.

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Tip: Zoho Suite is Free for Individuals”

  1. Avatar

    yoshi

    Paul, do you think it's hard to justify paying for Office 365 when there are alternatives like Zoho and Google Docs for free? I'm talking from a consumer perspective. Or does the OneDrive alone justify paying?

    • Avatar

      beatnixxx

      In reply to yoshi:

      I actually have Office 365 just for the OneDrive storage space. At roughly $5 a month for storage, I have my music collection there and stream music to my PC and my phone. I view it as my own personal streaming service for cheaper than I could pay for Amazon/Apple/Spotify, etc.


      I may use the office stuff at home at some point, but I don't actually have a need for that at home. My needs at home are simple enough that the web based options work 99% of the time. Most of my office use is at work and I have access to that stuff through work provided tools.

      • Avatar

        gregsedwards

        In reply to beatnixxx:

        Just curious, what app are you using to stream music from OneDrive to your phone? I previously used Groove (and I can still use it on my Windows 10 Mobile device), but it has since been retired on iOS. I can use the OneDrive app to stream individual songs, but it's not practical for playing entire albums or playlists.

        • Avatar

          beatnixxx

          In reply to gregsedwards:

          I have an Android phone and the app is called CloudPlayer. It can stream from OneDrive, GDrive, Dropbox, etc. I like this one but there are several out there. I used groove on my phone until the discontinued that ability.


          I'm not sure the state of affairs on iOS, however. I've found when searching, you're better off searching for "DropBox music player" or "Dropbox Media Player". Too many conflicting results when using OneDrive as the search term.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to yoshi:

      OneDrive alone justifies the price. As Paul says, Office 365 really is a no-brainer.

  2. Avatar

    Jaxidian

    This is good for those random relatives who need a tool like this twice a month. Probably not so good for those who need it daily.


    That said, for those who can't afford legitimate Office, it's nice that there are some options. So yay for Zoho!

  3. Avatar

    overseer

    I wonder how the stability of Zoho Mail is these days. A few years ago I tried it for a while, and while I liked the apt suite, there were so many outages and problems with mail I finally gave up and moved to FastMail as my primary email account. I also use Office365, but that subscription is more of a test bed for things I do at work, and I'm increasingly thinking it isn't worth what I pay for it. Fast mail is great, but it looks for a similar price Zoho provides the email and a whole lot more, might be worth looking into.

  4. Avatar

    AnOldAmigaUser

    Amazing that Microsoft and Google have not put the toolbars and ribbons on the side, or at least offered it as an option. As long as 16:9 monitors are in the majority, that makes much more sense.

    • Avatar

      hrlngrv

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      Zoho's controls on the side are toolbars or, more accurately, controls that display task panes. The idea comes from LibreOffice, FWIW. MSFT won't adopt it because doing so would be tantamount to admitting that the ribbon isn't the greatest UI of all time, something MSFT just won't do. As for Google, I figure it wants to keep Google Docs as basic as possible, though Google Sheets uses task panes on the right for conditional formatting and naming ranges, and those remain displayed until dismissed.

  5. Avatar

    Tony Barrett

    When you can get 'free' tools like this (and I even include Google Docs in this), Office365 doesn't seem very good value - especially with Microsoft's ongoing cloud reliability issues. How MS manages to persuade people to pay for Office365 is beyond me - there are free alternatives as-good-as or better.

    • Avatar

      LocalPCGuy

      In reply to ghostrider:

      For many consumers, I agree. For businesses there is no viable alternative to MS Office Pro or 365.

    • Avatar

      nbplopes

      In reply to ghostrider:


      Albeit I understand you stance on Word and PPT, when it comes to Excel ...


      • Avatar

        hrlngrv

        In reply to nbplopes:

        Tangent: I've never come across anyone using VBA in PowerPoint files. Has anyone here? Point being Google Slides as well as LO Impress certainly provide all the functionality most (90%) of white collar workers would ever need for presentations. That is, PPT is the grossest overkill in Office.

        For Word, I've heard of but never seen myself macro-heavy legal templates for use in law offices. I have enough familiarity with macros in LO and Google Docs to know it'd be a royal PITA to try to come up with equivalents.

        If one needs Excel, there really isn't any adequate alternative.

  6. Avatar

    hrlngrv

    In reply to YouWereWarned:

    Writer and Impress are OK for most things. Calc is OK if one needs little more than Works Spreadsheet functionality. For serious spreadsheet use/development (if I can use the term), LO Calc lacks Excel's Select Special Cells, e.g., select a range and use a single dialog to select all cells containing formulas returning error values within that range. My very low opinion of automating LO comes from trying to implement a Select Special Cells work-alike.

    Credit where due: MSFT's implementation of Excel's object model is excellent, lacking only a class for 3D references to make it as close to perfect as it could be.

  7. Avatar

    mafkart

    Good review, I have been using Zoho for my online store for a while now it has great features but I would not recommend Zoho to Clients purely based on the bugs which come and go and how some things work and get broken for no reason such as workflows.

  8. Avatar

    promotionalproductinc

    We use Zoho Suite for our business - Promotional Product Inc

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