Productivity and productivity applications were the name of the game this week in document management releases. 

One release likely to grab attention is an upgrade to Google Drive that allows users to choose files for offline access.

"So what?" you may think — many consumer-targeted apps allow users to do that already.

Google enabled offline access for Sheets, Slides and Docs back in 2013. But what it actually enabled was pretty limited. In fact, the only files that users could access offline were the most recently accessed files that were most recently accessed.

In other words, if you had a sales presentation from a year ago that used Google’s Docs, Spreadsheets or Slides (Google’s answer to PowerPoint), chances are that you couldn't access them unless you were online. And while wifi may seem pervasive, if you can’t get to your notes when you need them, it's annoying, to say the least.

With the new update, Google is following through on the earlier promise of the access. To enable a file to be viewed offline, users just go to the landing page for Slides, Docs or Sheets in Google Drive and choose their files.

Sound familiar? It should. Microsoft started its storage service OneDrive as an offline service, but quickly added online access and file syncing as well.

It’s taken Google a while to catch up on this, Google Drive has been playing a game of catch-up with Microsoft since the start. That said, Google has been adding functionality rapidly and is now widely used in small-to-medium enterprises.

Gmail Inbox Updates

Google also gave Gmail some love this week with the addition of three new features to its inbox email client for web and mobile.

The new features include streamlined events, glanceable newsletters and saved links, which according to a blog post by Google software engineer, Pras Sarkar, will help users better manage and track the inbox content that they really want to keep on top of.

One of the most interesting — and useful — capabilities introduced is the calendaring option that keeps track of events and the exchange of emails between people about those events. Again, another small step forward for Google, another welcome addition for users.

Is Zoho Back To Challenge Google?

Remember enterprise software provider Zoho? While it hasn't been in the headlines recently, it has been working to build up its productivity offerings and provide enterprises with a cheap, effective alternative to both Microsoft and Google.

Pleasonton, Calif.-based Zoho provides a web-based productivity suite. A large amount of its launch and promotional activity is carried out in Chennai, India which explains why the launch of new products for Zoho took place in India earlier this week. Like its previous releases, the new products are available as professional offerings as well as for home use.

For productivity it launched Notebook, Zoho Writer and Gamescope, which will be pushed into Zoho Projects.

Zoho Notebook is a note taking app for mobile device users which will initially be launched in India, but will (presumably) be launched further afield later. With it, users can write notes, capture photos and record audio all in a single note card. Each of these cards can be staked together and flipped through in much the same way you would a physical notebook.

Zoho Writer has been revamped and now comes with a cleaner user interface, making collaboration much easier than previously. With this in mind it now offers three different modes including Compose (for writing and formatting), Review (for collaboration) and Distribute.

Gamescope aims to turn work into a more interesting experience and enables users to collaborate, or "play" with each other.

For our money the most interesting release is the new AppCreator, a web-based software offering that allows anyone to create mobile apps — without no iOS or Android
coding knowledge required. AppCreator works with a single database and simple instructions that enables users turn their data into a cloud-based mobile apps.

Zoho claims to have around 18 million users globally, with a large percentage of them in India and the Americas. While the market size may seem small in comparison with Google or Microsoft, it is growing.

Learning Opportunities

While not posing a direct challenge to Microsoft, its ease-of-use and economical prices could give Google Docs a run for its money.

End is Near for Exchange 2007

In all of the talk about the end of support for Windows 7, it's often forgotten that Exchange Server 2007 is also on the same time frame and will reach the end of its support lifecycle in a year from this week.

Microsoft issued a notice during the week advising people to start planning their moves to other, more recent offerings like Exchange Server 2016 or Office 365.

Cynical types might dismiss this as Microsoft trying to plug its newer offerings and in particular Office 365. 

And while there might be some truth in this, there’s no avoiding the expiration date on Exchange 2007. Enterprises need to start planning their next moves. 

Needless to say, a lot has changed in technology since the release of Exchange 2007.

“Modern Exchange Server versions incorporate major changes in the technologies that enable high availability and communication between Outlook and Exchange Server; greatly simplify the creation of hybrid connectivity between on-premises Exchange infrastructure and Office 365; and support collaboration scenarios such as modern attachments,” the Microsoft notice reads.

While it may have fallen under the radar previously, expect to hear more about this as the year progresses.

Secure Document Access from Polaris Office Business

Finally, this week Seoul, Korea-based Polaris Office, the provider of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) productivity suite has announced the release of Polaris Office Business.

It also recently partnered with the business social network platform IBM Connections and launched in the US, where it continues its strategy of selling into the small-to-medium business space.

This release is about providing workers with access to their documents stored in company repositories without compromising the security of the company.

Polaris Office Business combines the features of the Polaris Office productivity platform with advanced business management capabilities for a cross-functional, collaborative cloud office solution.

It is also available in IBM Connections editor, a mobile editor in IBM Connections. This integration allows users to create, open and edit all compatible document formats, including doc, .xls, .ppt to .pdf, and .odf, from the IBM platform.