ThinkFree CEO TJ Kang will be giving a presentation later today at Ajax World, talking about Ajax applications and the future of ThinkFree’s online document, spreadsheet, and presentation quick editors. In April, ThinkFree will be releasing new version of their Ajax architecture that will more accurately and efficiently handle uploaded documents, particularly Microsoft’s.
ThinkFree’s new architecture picks up where other Ajax editors break, large file sizes and preserving the uploaded file formatting. As an example for the document editors, files like this one on ThinkFree currently break Google Doc and Zoho Writer. Google chokes on the 1MB file size, and Zoho Writer jumbles the formatting (see here).
Google tries to keep the file size small (512 KB) to keep accessibility wide, because Ajax editors have to accommodate browser memory limitations. Zoho doesn’t have as low a file size cap, but if you edit a large document in it’s editor, you can watch your browser’s memory usage jump as you add more content (particularly images). To get around these issues ThinkFree will be using four tiers of storage when the new version is fully implemented. On the client side, ThinkFree will just store the data that the user is most likely to need in the browsers memory and cache, with the rest waiting in their server memory and hard disks.
To better handle presentation issues, ThinkFree tracks formatting made to uploaded Microsoft files, which can’t be reliably emulated in Ajax editors. CSS turns out to be really good at doing layout, but a beast when it comes editing tricky formatting such as text spilling over into multiple columns or images anchored to text. To work around this problem, ThinkFree keeps track of the documents formatting when uploaded, warns you if an edit will break the document, and reapplies the MS formatting upon download. You can see more technical details within their presentation.
While the changes will be most noticeable when their document editor switches over, ThinkFree will also be revamping their lagging online presentation product, adding a WYSIWYG Flex editor.
ThinkFree currently has over 250,000 registered users with 10% of those using their application at least once per week. Although they also have a more powerful online JVM file editors, the Ajax versions are more frequently used. In the near future, power users will be able to use a lighter version of their desktop editors to manage and sync their ThinkFree documents online.
ThinkFree is also almost a year into a three year deal with Korea’s largest search engine, Naver, (which according to Kang accounts for 67% of Korea’s search traffic) to handle their user’s email attachments within their browser.