Google Docs – office suite for everyone or no one?

google_docs_icon I have been getting the familiar vibe from Google Docs – that it is kinda cool thing that I had neglected for too long. I mean it is Google and it is still alive after some years – so not the buzzwords alone. And the purpose is quite transparent and approvable by me – let yourself be liberated from the clutches of Microsoft Office.

Yet, I am not even on the fence about this one. It is more like I have trouble deciding where fence goes.

What it does

Simply put Google Docs is office suite online. Tasty concept as much as it is hard to believe. No downloads, no installation, no payments – log in and use.

google_docs_interface

The interface tries hard to make any office user (Microsoft or alternative either) feel at home. Familiar layout, more or less familiar menus and buttons. And it is in your browser – the future is here?

Strong features

Service tries hard and thorough to be very easy to use. It is obvious that rather than dumb copying there had been a lot of effort spent to copy intelligently. Every feature and every button that feels familiar at the same times make you think – hey, this is easier than usual.

Being part of Google ecosystem is also nothing to sneeze at. Couple clicks and file is shared with other accounts, update details are emailed out and maybe someone even drops in real time to poke a document in parallel with you.

Downsides

The problem is – office suite without office suite is a little too good to be true.

It works like crap in Opera. Not uncommon for Google stuff, yet I seriously challenge the idea of something being web page if it doesn’t work in arbitrary modern browser. I don’t want to give a damn about browser wars and politics. If I open web page I expect it to work.

The polish and ease of features only obscure for a short time that there aren’t that many features that made it. It is only a common ones. Everyone expects to type text in the document, few expect some highly obscure and complex formula to work in it. Latter should not expect that from Docs.

Document managing is a mess. I might be tech dinosaur, but documents are files for me and files are… well – files. Google tries hard to slap some modern fancy tags/collection labels on documents. As I remember it’s not the first set of labels they tried and I fully expect it to fail and be replaced with yet another take. Oh and since they are trying hard not to be files – your options to get local copy are almost entirely developed by third parties because Google couldn’t care less.

One of more discouraging aspects – other people are not guaranteed to be Docs-happy. Send someone Excel file and he will figure out what to do with it without question. Share document in Docs to someone and it can be met with chilled what-the-heck-not-interested-to-figure-this-out attitude.

Overall

Google Docs seem like great stuff and work like a charm most of the time. Its problem is that office suite does not seamlessly transfer to web. You get good thing, but it’s not the thing that got you lured in.

Do you use Google Docs or any other web-based office suite? What are your experiences with such?

Link https://docs.google.com/

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7 Comments

  • “It works like crap in Opera. Not uncommon for Google stuff, yet I seriously challenge the idea of something being web page if it doesn’t work in arbitrary modern browser. I don’t want to give a damn about browser wars and politics. If I open web page I expect it to work.”

    The expectation may be unrealistic; no doubt, in fact it has happened to us, SIS works fine in every browser except Opera! OMG, when I use a browser, I expect it (demand it) work in any modern browser. Lesson learned: What is is more important than what should be.

    I don’t work with GDs as much as Zoho–Zoho has some nice offerings. But for the average worker and computer user, Office Live offers more than enough, more than he/she will ever use.

    Personally, I’d rather have all the programs on my desktop–actually, rather idiotic since all I really need, even a decent photo editor, I can find online.

  • @jasray

    The expectation may be unrealistic

    I don’t think it is as much expectation as more of definition. For example Firefox/Chrome/Opera (pick one) extension works in browser and may be similar to web page, but we aren’t calling it web page.

    So is something that requires specific browser(s) still a web page?

    I understand very well the compromise Google makes by discarding Opera most of the time. However the viable compromise is still one, if it doesn’t work as web page then it is less than web page. If it is less than web page than it should be evaluated as such.

  • It works like crap in Opera. Not uncommon for Google stuff, yet I seriously challenge the idea of something being web page if it doesn’t work in arbitrary modern browser.

    On the one hand I agree. On the other hand, I agree with jasray that this may be an unrealistic expectation. Last I checked, Opera made up less than 4% of the market for web browsers. Add to that the fact that Opera isn’t entirely supportive of web standards, and most developers won’t focus on it. Particularly when we have so many other browsers to work with, and covering Firefox/IE/Chrome/Safari covers more than 95% of our potential users.

    Still, I agree that it’s nice to assume a web product will work in our browser of choice, and it still bugs me that so many websites won’t let me use Chrome or Safari and default to the typical IE/Firefox requirement.

    The alternatives (and I recommend you give them a try in Opera as well) would be Microsoft Office Live and Office 365 . They claim to be similar cloud-based office apps … but I haven’t used them very much.

  • @Eric Mann

    Last I checked, Opera made up less than 4% of the market for web browsers.

    Let me rephrase this as I usually do – there are only over fifty millions of Opera desktop users. Who cares about that many, right? :)

    Market share is function of marketing budget, not technical merits of browser.

    Add to that the fact that Opera isn’t entirely supportive of web standards

    Care to point out specific web standards it doesn’t support? Preferably real and finalized ones. Because the “sneak in semi-custom half-baked features and make competing browsers suck” got very tiresome over years.

  • “Opera isn’t
    entirely supportive
    of web standards”

    Actually, the problem has been Web pages designed for IE which
    wasn’t entirely supportive of Web standards !

    Before Opera v. 10x, I had to open up IE to view Web pages that
    Opera couldn’t handle on a regular basis. Yet this was because
    those Web pages were written for IE’s non-compliant requirements.

    Since Opera v. 10, I haven’t had to do that much at all.
    Not because Opera had changed BUT BECAUSE IE CHANGED !

    IE became more Web-standards compliant. And now Web pages which
    are written for IE will work in Opera.

    The DataRat

  • “if it doesn’t
    work as web page
    then it is less
    than web page”

    This is just indolence and inertia on Google’s part. They simply
    don’t care enough to fully port their applications to Opera !

    Part of it also is browser imperialism.

    If we don’t use IE or Firefox or Chrome (in Google’s estimation)
    we should ! Well, computers and the Internet are about choices.
    More choices rather than less choices.

    Any trend oppositional to that shall -in the long term- defeat
    itself.

    Cloud Computing, in particular, has this defect to overcome.
    As long as it trends to conventionality and conformity, it will
    generate resistance.

    The DataRat

  • @Eric Mann

    Add to that the fact that Opera isn’t entirely supportive of web standards

    Opera has the best support of web standards. It (along with performance) was always the strong selling point of this browser.

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