Just last week I had my project management final (which went well). Leading up to this, me and a few colleagues worked together in Google Docs on the project assignment.
Google Docs is part of a free mini-office suite that contains a word processor and a spreadsheet. It’s all web-based and collaborative, meaning several people can edit the same document at the same time. Documents are stored on Googles servers.
This is what I learned from working with a 40+ page document:
- Google’s collaborative way of writing, works fantastically
There’s never any lost text or data, and conflicts are easily resolved.
- The document sharing is fantastic
Just add emails to the sharing list and automatic invites are sent.
- The UI is nice and clean
So why only a 3 heart rating? Here’s a list of problems with the current version of Google Docs:
- The UI is intensely slow, especially with longer documents
Scrolling pages, finding the page you need, opening or closing documents. It’s just slow.
- It’s hard to get an overview of your pages
Being web-based, Google docs doesn’t have access to your printer. That means it doesn’t know the format of your paper, your margins or anything really, so there isn’t any indication where pages are separated. It’s like the “Normal” view in Word, only worse. It can only give you an estimate of the total number of pages.
- The formatting options are limited
Possibly for the same reasons as #2, Google Docs just doesn’t have many options for formatting your text. It has the basic ones, paragraphs, headings and the likes, but it feels slow and very buggy.
- It’s all but impossible to “just print” the final document from Google Docs without first making a round-trip to Word. Perhaps this process is fine and dandy for people who do have Word (collaboratively write in Docs, then format in Word), but it’s certainly a problem if Google wants to compete with Word.
- Where’s the neat “discuss”-tab as seen on Google Spreadsheets?
- If several people are working on the same multi-page document, and one of them inserts a picture or a table, all the others are scrolled to the top of the document.
The bottomline is, Google Docs is a fantastic piece of software—make no mistake about that. Since I most often write shorter documents, the collaborative features are top notch and I don’t care much about the formatting. Even so, Google Docs do have problems, big ones as mentioned here. Imagine if Google Docs were rewritten, in—say AIR, and those problems were resolved? The result, I’m sure, wouldn’t be half a piece of great software, but rather a whole one (meaning 6 hearts).