Dr Christopher Jobling

Senior Lecturer

Engineering

c.p.jobling@swansea.ac.uk

Yesterday I blogged about using Google Docs Spreadsheets and its new form feature to create a really simple survey system for your students. Today I thought I’d check out the offerings from the other major player in the non-aligned world of on-line office applications, Zoho Office, had to offer.

First the bad news, although Zoho offers a shared spreadsheet tool (Zoho Sheet), it doesn’t have the form data entry that Google Docs provides. The good news its that it has something even better in a tool called Zoho Creator. Zoho Creator is essentially a database-backed web application creation tool that works completely in the browser. It prvides the form building and database creation features of a Microsoft Access on the web!

It’s a little more complex than Google Docs offering, but it’s way more powerful. It comes with a richer set of input types,  data validation, and email confirmation. Results are stored in a database, so issues such as multiple form submission can be eliminated. And it even comes with its own simple scripting language (called deluge) so you can have some logic along with your data.

I created an application for project selection in around an hour.  Once the application is live, Zoho gives you the HTML that you need to embed your form in Blackboard and students can enter data without having accounts on the system. Acadmics and admin staff get their own private view of the data and they can collaborate behind the scenes. Captured data can be exported to Excel and presumably also to Zoho Sheet (though I’ve not tried that).

Zoho provides a nice easy to follow demonstration of the system in action, so I won’t bother, but if I have time, I may reimplement my Demo Module Assessment as a public application to give you a flavour of the tool.

The downside: Zoho Creator is free for up to 2 users (by which I assume they mean application administrators), but paid for if you have more. Prices are currently under review, but I’d have thought that for most applications that you’d use it for, the free option will be sufficient! There seems to be no limit of the number of applications that you can develop.

P.S. Zoho provides a wide range of on-line office applications. In addition to a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool, Zoho has a notebook, wiki, chat, webmail, and planner. Business apps include a project manager (free for one project), CRM (free for 3 users), invoicing (5 invoices free), web meetings, and database and reports.   Vist Zoho.com for the full story!

May 22nd, 2008

Posted In: e-learning, on-line office, tips

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