Google have available a series of Web Apps that allow you to easily create, and instantly have access to, productivity files across all your devices.
Google’s main word process application, Google Docs, is a strong competitor to the king of the market, Microsoft Word, but although Docs it is limited in some respects, it excels in areas that Word falls short.
As with any word processor, the most important thing is to be able to easily and efficiently put together pieces of writing. The text input section is large and clean, giving a wide field to write and edit in.
The menu bars at the top of the app are similar to that of other word processors, such as Microsoft Word. The fairly familiar layout and icons are intuitive to use, and are easy to navigate, and versatile enough so as to not make you feel limited.
Bold, italic, and underlined text is easy to create, and there is a huge range of fonts to choose from.
Google Docs has its own spell check, which helps keep your grammar accurate. However, I have found the spell check to be more of a hit and miss than other word processors.
Bullet points, text alignment and indents are easy to use. The interface for adding images is simple enough to use, however, has gotten stuck and has had some lag when I have tried to use it, at times.
When using Google web apps, Google Chrome is the obvious browser to use, and it makes swapping accounts very easy. However, you can still use Docs when using another browser, and can still sign in with your account.
That brings us to the one major drawback of Google Docs. You will need a Google Account to access it. However, with the recent change they made that means you can use any email address to set up a Google Account alongside the very welcome fact that it is free, there isn’t much reason not to.
One really nice addition that I like is that you can log into and edit documents on the same account from different devices. You can even edit the same document on the same account. In a lot of cases with different manufacturers, this might confuse the devices or cause you to be logged out of one. This isn’t the case with Google Docs and you can seamlessly switch between the two.
Online editing, sharing and storing
Unlike Microsoft Word, or other programs which have to be installed on your computer, Google Docs has the benefit of fully embracing the fact it is online.
For each Google Account, you can store a massive amount of data online for free. This is normally done through Google Drive, but with Docs, everything is stored automatically in the cloud.
Every time you make a change to the document, it is synchronised and saved, so that there is no chance of your data being lost. Furthermore, this constant saving means that, through a Google Account, each and every document is available on any Android device or computer with a browser.
The main area that Google really beats Microsoft Word and is set apart, is when it comes to working online collaboratively. Microsoft have made the move to make online collaboration work. However, it is clunky, and has some unnecessarily complicated steps, and involves straddling an online app and the native program.
Google Docs is just online. This means it is easy to immediately share with people, and is as easy as sending them a link. You can then edit who has full editing access, or read only access.
Microsoft Word, in its online collaboration, requires the document being saved and refreshed before you can see a colleague’s changes. Google Docs, on the other hand, updates constantly, meaning you can see the letter by letter changes they make (with an understandable lag of a second or two, based on the speed of internet connections).
You can suggest edits, without affecting the actual text, which can easily be either accepted or ignored, or attach comments to specific sections of text.
Downloading files and working offline
Google Docs creates files that can be downloaded in a variety of different formats, one of which is the correct format for Microsoft Word to use. This works perfectly for me, as I like to do my collaborative work online in Google Docs, but for editing natively, I do prefer using Word.
This does mean that it is possible to edit documents offline, but only with a bit of forethought and preparation. This does mean though that if you cannot connect to the internet, you cannot access your files, which can be a major problem.
If you don’t have Microsoft Word, but still want to edit offline, you can download your files in a number of different formats, including .pdf and .txt.
A nice little extra when downloading the files, is that the app keeps any comments or edit suggestions, and they manifest in a different form in the program you re-open the file in.
For example, a Word document will keep any comments in Word’s version of comments. a .txt file will form the comments as an addendum at the then end of the document, labelled accordingly. This is a really nice little feature, which shows a great attention to detail. It won’t be helpful very often, but when it is needed, you will really appreciate it.
Phones and tablets
Google are one of the giants of the mobile world, and accordingly, they have made Docs, and all the productivity apps are available across all devices.
The interface on a phone or tablet is very similar to the interface online, keeping a feeling of unity and familiarity across the platforms, ultimately making it even more easy to use.
Google Docs is great. Like the rest of Google’s apps, it has been designed to be used by people, and feels like it was built from the user experience up. In terms of cross platform and collaborative use, it is a clear winner for me, but for editing solo documents on a computer, it will take a lot to pry me away from Microsoft Office. If Google can sort out a program or app to run natively on a computer or laptop, so that it isn’t totally reliant on internet access, I would be 100% converted.