Google Docs Are Improving: iWork & Windows Get a friend

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).

Head in the Cloud: Google Docs

cloud_streetsby Christian Brucculeri

Recently,  I’ve encountered more and more situations in my personal, professional, and student life where cloud computing has made a seemingly complicated situation much simpler.

Working in groups with traditional email can be extremely complicated.  The idea that we email one another, with parties in “to” and “cc”  fields seems so antiquated.  How does that communication system reflect real life?  It used to make sense because we were doing the best with the technology that we were given-  but cloud computing allows for greater touch points and better interaction.  The most compelling reasons to move to the cloud, in my mind, are data/file storage and communication among parties.

The Beauty of Google Docs

Google Docs has changed the way I think about work collaboration.  Writing a white paper, creating a presentation or doing shared research can be a cumbersome task on a traditional server;  there are so many needless complications:

If I open an excel document and start doing some research that I need other people to contribute to,  I have to email a draft  (with a date or draft ID) or I have to store it on a shared internal server for others to access it.  Okay, fine– done.  But what if two or more of us are working on the same document at the same time (as is often the case)?  Not possible.  One person gets the master document and everyone else opens read-only copies, has to res-ave, then someone needs to compile the various drafts into a new master.

With Google Spreadsheets I can create a file and share it with collaborators (or viewers who cannot edit).  Every time anyone wants to view or edit the document, they just log in and start working.  As a collaborator,  I can see in real-time who is viewing and working on the document.  I can see updates occur in real time.  We can all work on the same file simultaneously and even chat about the work in a chat function.

The real beauty in working this way is that,  when collaborating on a Google Document,  the Document is the center of the conversation.  Emailing back and forth to multiple parties about a document that’s attached or on a server is counter-intuitive to the process.  If the document is the product, it should be the place where everyone meets.

If you haven’t yet, give Google Docs a try.