Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Handwritten webpages

Why should webpages be just text and images? Is handwriting not the most natural way to communicate?

ZCubes gives you handwriting into the ZSpace (background) or inside any ZCube - supported with amazing picture drawing capability. What is the big deal with it?

1. No font requirement.
2. Instant natural expression.
3. Editable by the end user! Let the world create!
4. Write your stuff, and doodle or draw to any level of expertise.
5. Bring out the artist in you.
6. Sign your document.
7. No additional accessories required (no need for a tablet PC).
8. Whiteboard and blackboard modes. Change the color of the background to anything you want.

Of late, some painting tools are coming to the net. But most of them are not vector based. And even the ones there are, uses the Walter Zone library, that uses DIVs as the fundamental unit of pixel drawing (which is a very inefficient technique, though reasonably portable and simple). Some convert such drawings to PNG's also, like So many of the recent Web 2.0 sites have been adopting this technique.

Some issues with Ajax Based sites are:
1. Ajax can be slow and unscalable.
2. The ability to apply gradients, 3-D rotation, image mixing with paint objects, etc. are quite limited.
3. No clear strategy to a vector-based format for continuous editing capability.

A true SVG/VML (hybrid) based editor does not exist as yet, and ZCubes is the first in-depth and the most poweful VML editor on the web. With the SVG conversion module (that is almost ready to go), ZCubes is poised to be the most comprehensive and effective drawing/handwriting/expression tool on the web.

Cartoon drawn using ZCubes.
Click on the image to see the actual experience.

This is the picture of an experience (Click to load) that you can view/edit/modify. (Experiences can be edited by clicking on the Z on the left.)

Also coming soon: Recordable Scripts for Drawing and Creative Animations!

ZCubes enables free and seamless expressiveness on the Internet to a level unparalleled by any desktop or web software out there.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Easter Egg - #1

Here is an easter-egg for you in ZCubes.

Drag-Drop any picture from Google Image Search into ZSpace (press Alt-Key while dropping the picture), and it will become the page/ZSpace background. Similarly, you can Alt+Drag-Drop pictures into a ZCube to make it its background. If you drop it into an object within a painting, the picture will go inside the drawn object.

ZCubes also has the Inlay concept (a background for a section of ZSpace). Right click on ANY ZCube, and select Inlay to Background. You can select the number of tiles and press OK. The content will be repeted on the background. This will still be moveable to your desired location on the page. You can lock these in place by Fix Background Option in ZSpace Menu. Shift+Double click will extract an inlaid object.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Inverting Portals - "Aspects of Life"

Since the birth of web-browsers in the 90's, "ideal portal" creation have been the holy-grail ofthe net-software designers. Let us ask ourselves a few questions:

(1) What makes an ideal portal? Does it exist?
(2) Why do the giants of the industry spend millions of dollars trying to create portals to be the start pages for the common web users?
(3) Will customization make portals work better?

Let us consider an internet user.

First Point: He/She is intelligent. He knows what to do. He is not a robot.
Two: The user comes to the internet with a purpose.
Three: Humans have a life, :-). His "ASPECT" changes almost everyday.
Four: Internet should not only be for RSS reading.
Five: When he is not reading news, or checking mail, there are and or could be many other things to do.
Six: The user's thread of browsing the net may needed to be persisted.

Portals make bad start points. Case in point: Yahoo Portal page. One may use no more than five links on the portal page. The rest are a waste of space.

Are customized portals like Google Homepage, Microsoft Live, My Yahoo, PageFlakes, Netvibes, Goowy, Protopage etc. a solution to this? Even if you made a nice looking portal using one of them, chances are that after the first few days they just become road blocks and distraction on the internet - in terms of actual use. Customization helps a bit, but after a few days of use, the story recurs.

Why? Many reasons.

Because, an internet user has one or many *aspects* every time he is in front of a computer. It makes no sense to tell him/her what today's time and date it is or what the weather outside is constantly (:-). Portals available today are poor attempts by companies trying to supervise how people experience the net. Portals actually lock users into ways in which the portal makers think people may be interested in.

Portals lose people quickly because they get out of it to go where they want to go! In 90% of the cases, portals become a road block for consumers to be bombarded with ad messages of complete irrelevance. Portals with customization (even with the limited concept of multiple tabs or even tabs-in-tabs) still make it unwieldy.

Consider the following arguments:

People are on the internet for add/view/update information. Their use patterns vary throughout time. Designs should accomodate the *UNCONSTRAINED* use the user expects. Without this, portals always fail - since they cannot retain the user. No portal actually can claim to keep the user's eyeballs for more than a few minutes on a consistent basis.

Portals make some sense in enterprise world, as dashboards. That is because generally enterprises need replaceable units doing their work (sounds harsh, but real). Fortunately, in the context of business integration, there is atleast some consistency to the "aspect" of the user.

In real life (outside enterprises), this is not as clear. One obviously has little interest in weather constantly. Nor the time constantly. Perhaps portal creators need to come up with better ideas on what to provide to the user.
Hence, the answers to the questions above can be given as:
(1) That ideal portals do not exist.
(2) That spending money on creating an ideal portal is like making a "perpetual machine".
(3) That customization helps only to delay the slow death of a portal as a starting point

The solution may be in looking at what a user wants from another angle. An angle in which the portals are inverted!

Yes, instead of providing the user a portal, providing a space. A space in which the user can
(a) freely move to the direction he/she wants based on the aspect that is relevant at the time
(b) view/browse/watch/express/persist whatever/whenever he/she wants
(c) share/explore/dig out/play/edit/format whatever/whenever he/she wants.

This is difficult to achieve in your everyday portals - even if it looks pretty. And especially when based on the totally unscaleable technology called AJAX! There are millions of users in the world, and scaling up with AJAX is like feeding a country. Microsoft Live is a classic example where this has been a perpetual scalability problem.

This is where the recognition of "user experience" comes in (will post more on this concept later). A thread of use of net resources in the context of a user's aspect is called a "user experience". This transcends any differences in media type or web-addresses. An example: In a user's experience there may be 15 websites, 2 movies, 20 pictures and 12 pieces of text scraped from the Internet. Such experiences eventually transform into email, documents, presentations, etc. User's experience is the core idea around which the internet organization should be moulded with. Not portals with weather and time.
An example of a captured user experience is given below. (1) One shows the research on buying a BMW, and (2) the other shows the options in decorating a room with stuff from many shops.

Such presentations hold immense value. The user could forward this to the decision maker(s) (e.g., spouse) or store for later use. The user can directly order the items from the page. Or he/she can have the phone numbers of the dealers and the latest prices negotiated upon.

User's experience is the fundamental aspect of ZCubes. ZCubes is all about allowing users to:
(1) experience the web from the user's aspect,
(2) continuously assisting the user in however/whenever he/she wants to use the net, and
(3) capturing the experience when need be - to the form he/she needs/wants (maybe print/email/file/webpage) - (with powerful formatting) .
User's experience is and should be continuous - not disconnected. A solution to engage the user on the net should be continous and flexible, with infinite entry points. Not just one. Not just another "start page".
More on this in a later post. Few notes on upcoming features in ZCubes
(To be released in the next 14 days):
(1) YubNub commands are being integrated into ZCubes ZBrowser.
(2) Scripting of Drawing - for the API wizards.
(3) Stencils you can share with others. Yes, create a snowman or a swan and share it with others!
(4) A cool GUI update.
Just to remind the Firefox/Mozilla users, now you can use the IE Tab to make ZCubes fully enabled in Mozilla. More information at
Again, thanks for all your comments!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Manipulating URL's

ZBrowser is a unique aspect of ZCubes that beats every existing browser in terms of functionality. The core idea is that of user driven URL manipulation. Apart from the Drag-Drop & Copy/Paste simplicity of ZCubes to handle internet content and your resulting experiences, ZBrowser also provides you exceptional capability to handle URL patterns. What does that mean?

For example, say, you found a picture called
You can drag and drop this to the ZSpace. You notice that the URL ends in "Mrinal%20Shah_Collection-0.jpg", indicating you may be able to find many other pictures at the same site from Mrinal%20Shah_Collection-0.jpg to Mrinal%20Shah_Collection-9.jpg. However, you may not have direct access to the site to find all the other pictures.

You can do two things at this time.

(1) Alt+Left Mouse Button Click on the image can give you something called a URL tree. This shows the different paths that lead to this resource. You can actually find tons of other information at this site, but navigating to these sub urls (this works at most sites).

For example, for this image, it gives:

Walk the URL Tree at several folder levels on the server containing this resource.
Entire URL Tree for:

Folder Traversal:(Some URL's may not be valid)

Full Path :

You can click on any level to browse that folder, and discover more media.

(2) However, you already noticed the name of the picture to end in 0.jpg, which meant there could be many more pictures you may wish to view. You can use Loop Pattern technique for this. Give the lower number and the upper number (you can do this with dates, alphabets, etc. in an upcoming version) to loop between. You can then get a display of all the pictures (as in the picture above) you wanted to view. You can even create slide shows out of these pictures for your enjoyment.

URL Tree and Loop Pattern gives the opportunity for the users to see websites from angles that the original webpage creator could not have provided, benefiting both parties in terms of in-depth web experience (with little effort from the webpage creator). Features like this makes it possible for the users to navigate sites in ways that are impossible with any other browser.

Great News on Firefox/Mozilla!

Great News! ZCubes is fully compatible (with full functionality) with Firefox using the IE Tab Add-on. Please visit for more information.

We are working on a pure Firefox version with more advanced features customized for Firefox. Thank you so much for your patience!

Enjoy the new world of "super applications" at ZCubes!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Integration is Key

Integration is key. ZCubes is the clay with which you mould your experiences. It does not matter if it is your browsing experiences, image experiences, audio experiences, video experiences, etc. When you want to express and idea, why have to choose 4 applications to achieve what you want? Just make one choice of ZCubes!

You can create complete webpages in ZCubes in
less than a minute! Drag-Drop all the way! You can play over 50 games in ZCubes. You can create a slide show or create your own documents in ZCubes (yes, and you can store it in your disk!).

Now why have to worry about a tiny choice between IE and FF? If you use the ZBrowser in ZCubes, you can navigate the web in ways you never thought possible.

1. Drag-Drop images from Google into your ZSpace. Resize and look at images in ways you could not with IE or FF.
2. Open multiple websites in one ZCube.
3. Drag-Drop Google Video/You Tube Video and see it in resolutions that you could not see before.
4. Find one image
and access to
(19 pictures) through the Loop Pattern feature.
5. Make greeting cards and creative artwork in 3D. Use line-curve combinations and bezier curves. No Tablet-PC Required.
6. Make Powerpoint like-presentations with drag-drop ease.
7. Create special effects like Neon Lights, Halo, etc.
8. Write with an *image* as your pen stroke! Imagine that!

Firefox and IE are primarily HTML renderers, and their focus is on reading. ZCubes is on reading, writing, drawing and expressing yourself.

Let us turn a simple browser into a super application that does almost everything you can imagine. You are welcome to experience ZCubes. For free!

As an example, open the experience in IE and Firefox. IE shows some of the special effects, it looks ok in Mozilla too. The cool piece here is that the experience you create is dynamic for the end user (who can edit it and change it with equal ease and send it to someone else if need be).

This creates interactive pages (not static tablular pages you are familiar with). Try to move any picture in the given experience and you will see. will have more of these samples soon.


P.S. FF full-compatibility issues are because of features that Firefox lacks at this time, and will hopefully have it in the future (Inline SVG for example). Hopefully we will have more powerful version of Firefox soon. And we will make it as compatible with it as soon as we can.

You can also create Greeting Cards now.

We invite you to use the ZCubes platform and its wide range of features and flexibility to create amazing personalized greetings for your loved ones this holiday season. Unleash your creativity to combine Pictures/Videos/Paint and much more, and impress your friends and family with rich customized cards.

The Greeting Cards feature combines the ZPaint, Drag-Drop Images & Videos, Upload Functions, etc. You can also pick up and customize the greeting cards to suit your taste. Have a nice holiday season!

ZCubes Modes

Technical Philosophy

The core ZCubes platform is intended to seamlessly switch through modes that will enable the user to function in a specific aspect. ZGreetingCards is a new mode that enables you to create custom greetings, etc. In about a month, we will have more advanced ZAlbum, ZSlidePresentation, and ZGreetings functionality.

Simplicity of ZCubes

"Simplicity is the key."

Browser is the simplest interface. Click/Drag-Drop/Copy-Paste. Even kids understand the browser interface.

There is only one model in ZCubes. ZCube is your Document Creator. Your Slide Presenter. Your Drawing. Your Games Arcade. Your News reader. Your browser.
Store and be done. Open it and View.
Just like a paper and pencil. As simple and flexible.

ZCubes is far simpler than having to think of learning multiple applications, launching them when need be, saving them in multiple formats, and spending hours converting and presenting through multiple viewers and applications.

Most important aspect is the high flexibility that the seamless integration gives you. The consumers of your information can also view the information in the way they want (for example to zoom into and resize pictures on your document - try to use Word or Powerpoint to do that!). This lets the creator of the information focus on content creation rather than trying to get to ONE presentation option that EVERYONE will need to accept.

Even if you were only doing one thing, ZCubes gives you more power than conventional applications. Just look at ZPaint, that can function as a whiteboard or a blackboard too! How many paint applications out there can even allow you to write with a pen with image stroke? How many browser applications can give you the function to open ten websites at once?
ZCubes is about "Integrating your Digital Life" - not scattering it.

Continuous Experiences

ZCubes is not about or Internet OS's. It is about continuous experiences.

In today's world, when a user wants to present information, he/she currently need to make a series of choices.
1. For Browsing: Choose IE/Firefox. Start one or the other. Then worry about the incompatibilities.
2. For Editing: User needs to choose Word/ Powerpoint/ Visio/etc. depending on the audience, and style of writing.
3. For Presentation: Copy from Word, trim it down, make a slide show.
4. For Albums: Go to album creator and start to put pictures in, and then organize and publish.
5. For Drawings: For the common man, there are no vector drawing capable software. Use Paint or the very complicated Adobe software.
6. And, learn all these pieces of software, which the layman finds confusing and intimidating. Also catch up with the different versions and installs.

Most people are currently used to this segmented thinking (which actually causes a lot of wasted time!). With same information in several formats and several applications - most of the time is spent on transforming one to the other. Not to talk about the cost of buying loads of packaged software that is specialized in one aspect. Or the complex process of downloading plug-ins or book-marking several sites that do pieces of things. To top this, 90% of the people do not use the full functionalities of a packaged software or deeply specialized software. These are massive amounts of wasted time and money.

ZCubes integrates your information into one place (all in the standard HTML format), accessible from everywhere and shareable with your groups of your choice, and working using the minimum of framework (of that of a simple browser). ZCubes gives you one universal model to manipulate information. And there is nothing to buy or install.

IE has been the choice of first implementation since its DHTML model is exceptional, its DirectX capabilities and vector compatible framework are unparalleled by any other browser. SVG implementation is still not great in Firefox, and we need firefox to have a greater market share (or for IE to switch to SVG) to justify loads of investment into it to make it *fully* compatible.

However, Firefox compatibility (for the full version) has been a prority (we expect to reach 85% compatibility in a few months), but the documentation on Mozilla/FF are so poorly done and simply not helpful (compare MSDN vs. Mozilla Developer Resources). It would have been so much nicer if MDC had examples [instead of theory] on implementation! Just to get drag-drop from *another* application working in Mozilla, it takes forever - since the model is so different between IE and Mozilla/FireFox. Also, things like rotation of div's cannot be done in Mozilla/Firefox at this time due to the limitations on Firefox.

Our thinking has been to provide the best features into ZCubes, than limit it to the least-common-denominator. Once we have the best features, we can achieve a high degree of compatibility with less functional platforms. The reverse approach may make it easily beaten in the market place.

We are working on the UI aspect, and that should be ironed out soon. ZCubes is still very much a work in progress. However, let us look below the toolbar. You will see the flexibility that you would not get with any other framework.
1. Drag and drop a picture from Google Image search, drop it into the ZSpace. Make it big or small or rotate it as you wish. If you drop an image link to the ZSpace/ZCube with alt-Key pressed it will become the background of your experience/ZCube.
2. Just drag and drop a color or a special effect into an element on ZSpace and the element gets that format.
3. Group ZCubes and make a slideshow.
4. One click animation.
5. ZPaint, where for the first time you can create 3D Objects on the web, and with gradients.
6. Make text-snakes or handwrite to express yourself in creative ways.
7. Drag-Drop from Google Video/You Tube and watch it in any resolution you like.
8. Write in ANY language. Imagine what this does to the font-infested Internet waters!

And so much more. Let us look at URL manipulation features
(Not provided by any of the conventional browsers):
1. You can manipulate URL's to open 50 (or more) websites at once in ZCubes.
2. You can loop through URL patterns and access 100's of images using one URL to start with. Yes, you can do it!
3. Drag-Drop websites, and make an experience that contains open websites. (At the moment, we can only store URL's in a Word Document, not websites!)
4. Traverse through the URL tree (Alt+Click on any image) for you to dig deep into websites.

ZCubes is a new paradigm. It is not an office replicate like AjaxWrite or Zoho. Looking for exact parallels in the applications world many not be appropriate.

ZCubes has been made by a team of programmers from all over the world. Thanks to all of you so much for your ongoing comments - your comments make ZCubes a better platform. Please let us know your feedback as we continue to release newer and better features and software. Thanks for being a part of the ZCubes vision.

P.S. ZCubes experiences are compatible with most browsers (including Mozilla/FireFox), except for the VML part (which will be compatible after we have the SVG/VML Layer done (another month or two away).


Friday, December 01, 2006

ZCubes gets a facelift

The recent release of the ZCubes platform (still in Beta) has new icons for the main toolbar at the top as well as the Paint toolbar. The idea is to make the icons more fun and attractive for users.