Google recently announced new features and improvements to their Google Docs suite. Some of the new features look great (I have not tried them all), but their biggest improvement for me is the ability to upload and store documents in any format.
As an enthusiastic Gmail user, I’m thrilled to have some storage space integrated with my email client in the Docs section. Having my email client and document storage together in the cloud improves my mobility. On a side note, I’m curious to what this will do for smaller collaboration tools like Box.net. Until now, Box was the easiest solution for sharing Microsoft Office documents (far better than Windows Live). Now that I can store and share MS Office documents through Google, I’m going to be less likely to use an isolated system like Box.
In terms of actually moving from Microsoft Windows to Google Docs, I don’t think I’m there yet. I still don’t like the process of converting my Office files to Google Docs files for two reasons. The first is that it doesn’t really work– at least not seamlessly. I have attempted to convert a number of Office files into Google Docs and they don’t look right when they’re up. Yes, I can probably do some re-formatting and get them to convert more seamlessly, but I don’t want to– I’d prefer to just keep them as office docs. With further improvements, I believe this can be circumvented.
The second problem is a big one (and a repeated challenge): user base. First, online collaboration is only as good as the number of people who you can get to collaborate on any given project. While it’s wonderful in theory, it’s not done in practice very much and I do not see this trend changing anytime soon.
As an MBA student, I send Document files around to a lot of people in different work environments. The only consistently shared applications suite in Microsoft Office. Half of the students in any given group will be running on a Mac (myself included), but no one would ever share a Pages file. And es a lot of people use Gmail, almost everyone I work with has a Gmail account, but the standard remains Microsoft Office files.
I recently bought Microsoft Office 2007 for Mac after trying to work with Google Docs, then the iWork suite. The fact is, none of it worked the way I needed it to, so I’m back to MS Office (and I’m pretty happy there).