Thursday, June 05, 2008

Is SaaS That's Pretty Better Than Pretty SaaS?

Adobe launched earlier in the week - signaling they are throwing their hat into the online Office-like, pseudo-Office-killer arena. I just had to take a look for myself.

The thing is all based in Flash, as you might expect - and it makes a very good first impression. The screen is dark grey (almost black) - and the icons are pretty (one would hope that a company like Adobe could make stuff look nice).

You can basically do 5 things - use Buzzword - their online word processor, use ConnectNow, create a PDF, share files, and view your own files. Hmmmm... the ConnectNow thing sounds cool - and it's free (for now) - but the word processor, creating a PDF and sharing files - I can do now (and DO now) on Google Docs.

So, I started with the stuff I'm used to using on Google Docs - the word processor. The first thing you notice is "loading"... and "loading"... then some more "loading". Once the thing is loaded - it looks very pretty. It has all the swooshing and wooshing you would expect in a Flash-based app. The controls are minimal, but you can set the fonts (font, size, color, bold, etc), paragraph stuff (alignment, etc), list functions (number, ordered and bullet), image control (adds an image), table control, comment control and a way for you to see your existing files.

OK - that's the good news. The bad news is - it's 15,000 clicks to do anything. You see, rather than just have a "normal" toolbar at the top where you can do a single click - these area icons swoosh to the left to activate, and they collapse whatever else it was that you were working with.

For example, if you are looking at the font stuff, and want to add a table, you click the little table icon and the whole toolbar swooshes to the left, collapsing the font stuff, and only showing the table stuff. OK. So, then you click the add table and it adds a 2 row, 2 column table. Good.

Now, you want to type something - and format the text. So, typing, typing - want to change the font color. Oops. Going to toolbar (that I would have to do anyway) - click font - SWOOSH - away go the table controls and the font stuff appears.


One thing that I absolutely LOVE about it - is the table control. FINALLY someone was smart enough to put little "+" icons on all the rows that allow you to add or remove the row visually. Plus, when you select a row or column there is an icon that turns into a menu that will allow you to insert/delete etc. right inline. KUDOS to Adobe for this innovation. I just hope EVERYONE copies it.

The other interesting thing is that there is the ability to comment on every line - and you can see comments from others - but it's not as flexible as being able to leave a "floating" comment. They've got a couple of cool features in there - the color picker is by "family" of color (basics, greys, beach, brights, earthtones, forest, hot, jewels, tones) - but you can't get your own custom color; and they have a nifty little dialog for inserting high ASCII characters that pretty cool.

It saves fairly quickly, and exports to PDF , Word, RTF, HTML (in ZIP format), and plain text. It would only import .doc or .txt files (no support for OpenOffice) and it spawned a new window to do the import. And guess what - you "get to" watch: Loading... loading... loading... again. HUH?

After playing and importing I "let it rest" and came back to it this morning - thinking that the annoyances of the slow loading and slow-ish performance would "settle" overnight.


I'm still just as annoyed as I was yesterday/last night. I'm so wary of the word processor that I'm not going to try out the online screen sharing right now (although I'm sure it's pretty as well!).

I'm writing this back in good ol' (more ugly but MUCH more functional) Google Docs. I here's the lessons that I've learned:
  • All show and no go really IS all show and no go
  • Sexy-looking apps that don't function well - won't be used. Ever.
  • Simplicity and elegance is much more than skin deep
  • Swooshing is cool only the first time
  • Try to make controls easier to use (like the table control) by asking the question "How would my mom do it?"
  • When push comes to shove - easy is better sexy

No comments:

Web Analytics