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google docs featuresGoogle Docs has been by far one of the more useful offerings from Google in my life.  Sure, Gmail is a close second because I do use it every day.  However, since there are other worthy alternatives to using Gmail for my email, Google Docs will have to be my pick.

One of the major reasons why Google Docs is useful to me is because of the amazing collaborative features it has.  Being able to work together on spreadsheets and documents has been imperative in the past few years.


That being said, web-based word processing has had its downfalls (check out the debate The Word Processor: Online vs. Offline [Poll] The Word Processor: Online vs. Offline [Poll] Read More ).  One of the downfalls is Google’s ability to render documents correctly.  Let this article serve to prove that Google is working on the issues and hopefully someday online word processing can possibly replace the old school offline way of doing things.  In its newest release, Google Docs has worked on four areas that makes it even better than before.

Real Time Collaboration

Like I mentioned earlier, one of the Google Docs features I love is that I have the ability to collaborate with other editors.  Now Google has improved this to the point of real time collaboration.  This means that I can be working on a document or spreadsheet at the same time as another editor and we can actually see changes as they take place.

Notice in the screenshot how there is a block highlighted in a color and how a name pops up.This tells me that a change is taking place at that exact moment.

google docs review

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Chat With Other Collaborators

This Google Docs feature goes right along with real time collaboration.  When Google acquired EtherPad, perhaps they put them to work on Google Docs instead of Google Wave.  Either way, I see this as a great improvement to Google Docs; a move that makes a lot of sense.

Now when you have another editor working on the same document, the name shows up at the top right side of the screen.  Clicking on the name will drop down an EtherPad-type chat sidebar.  Looks familiar, right?  Very cool though.

google docs features

Higher-Quality Imports

In the past, importing documents created by offline word processors to be edited via Google Docs usually turned up some wonky formatting issues.  If it is true that they are improving the import abilities, I am all for it.  This is one area I see as holding me back from going all out using just web based word processing.  Google, never stop improving in this area.  We want to see the exact document that we uploaded, please.

Ruler

Last but not least, Google Docs has added a ruler at the top of the documents editor.  Word processors for years have had this feature.  Why it’s only now becoming available in Google Docs, I’m not sure.  However, having it finally here is a blessing.

As you can see, we can now more easily format our documents.  A quick glance at the ruler, and perhaps a few quick adjustments, and we are on our way to a more better formatted word processing life.

google docs features

Even with these new Google Docs features, online word processing has much to be desired.  What else do you think Google Docs should add?  And what is your favorite (new or not) feature of Google Docs?

  1. Joachim
    August 17, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    For offline functionality the in Ubuntu there is a great option to connect to the gdocs repository an work/synchronize with gdocs
    http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/201...

    not sure if something similar exists for Windows/Mac (time to switch ;) )

  2. timmyjohnboy
    July 22, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    They did offer offline access but as of May, according to this article, they've temporarily suspended that feature. I'm not sure what Google means by "temporarily" though:)

  3. Munkypint
    July 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    What could be awesome would be to be able to do a email merge using google only. Make a contact database spreadsheet and write your email and send personalized emails directly from google docs to numerous people. Fancy and not useful for everyone, but that is the only reason I still sometimes use a email app like thunderbird.

    I haven't used google gears, but is there any offline functionality for google docs?

  4. Munkypint
    July 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    What could be awesome would be to be able to do a email merge using google only. Make a contact database spreadsheet and write your email and send personalized emails directly from google docs to numerous people. Fancy and not useful for everyone, but that is the only reason I still sometimes use a email app like thunderbird.

    I haven't used google gears, but is there any offline functionality for google docs?

  5. Hmaccorkle
    July 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I would love to see the "Edit HTML" feature come back.

    • timmyjohnboy
      July 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Why? What did you use it for? Just askin'.

      • Orion751
        September 28, 2010 at 3:00 am

        Editing HTML and CSS was a great work-around for writing MLA-compliant documents as features such as hanging indent appear to be missing.

  6. timmyjohnboy
    July 21, 2010 at 5:18 am

    That's interesting because both features showed up on the New Features page talking about the "new version of Google Docs" http://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?an...

    Collaboration has been around and I too have been using it for quite some time. I think the real-time, etherpad-esque type of collaboration is new (check out this blog post on Google's blog: A rebuilt, more real time Google Documents)

    The chat also showed up in the "new Google Documents" announcement so I'm assuming it's not talking about Google Chat but the rebuilt chat feature built right into Google Documents for the purpose of improved collaboration.

  7. Nat Jay
    July 21, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I use Google Docs more for collaborative sharing than for actually creating documents. I do most of my work in MS Word or Open Office and upload to Google Docs so that the rest of the team can view and edit.

    • timmyjohnboy
      July 21, 2010 at 4:30 am

      Do you have any trouble with the way your documents look after being uploaded, edited and downloaded again?

      • Nat Jay
        July 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

        I used to have (and still have) some font and image rendering problems with DOC and PDF files. But the benefits of the platform far outweigh the minor bugs.

  8. Kelly Faulkner
    July 20, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    yes, word processing still is rudimentary. we chose not to install office on our new home computer because i use docs so much, but i cannot properly process my husband's invoicing on it, because docs doesn't have tabs (or what i really need: decimal tabs). i'd also like to see more fonts, and i'd especially like documents i upload to look the same, not that i'm picky :O) my biggest gripe, however, has got to be "viewing." a document that looks like 1 page will print on 2, with incredibly big margins, so i suppose being able to edit margins would be my next big ask after tabs. i'd also like to see columns!

    • timmyjohnboy
      July 21, 2010 at 3:06 am

      Google Docs does have it's faults. Yes, margins, tabs and columns would be nice. I pulled off columns once using tables but it is in no way an acceptable "band-aid."

    • timmyjohnboy
      July 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, more fonts too!

  9. DivinoAG
    July 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    "New" features? I have been using Google Docs for years now, and as far as I remember it had Real-Time collaboration and chat.

    • timmyjohnboy
      July 21, 2010 at 3:18 am

      That's interesting because both features showed up on the New Features page talking about the "new version of Google Docs" http://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?an...Collaboration has been around and I too have been using it for quite some time. I think the real-time, etherpad-esque type of collaboration is new (check out this blog post on Google's blog: A rebuilt, more real time Google Documents)The chat also showed up in the "new Google Documents" announcement so I'm assuming it's not talking about Google Chat but the rebuilt chat feature built right into Google Documents for the purpose of improved collaboration.

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