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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Google Docs

    Some months ago, I kept seeing the online service, Writely, pop up in various technology-related websites, and there was definitely a buzz around it.’ After all, Google had bought them out, and people seemed to really enjoy the service.

    Not really knowing what it was, I read up on it a bit and then signed up for an account.’ Writely had strived to become an online Word, and from the looks of it, came pretty darn close – I was hooked.

    Some weeks ago, Google completed its integration of Writely, and the end result is Google Docs & Spreadsheets – I’m focusing on Docs for now.

    I am in love with this service, though I must admit, the overly simplistic interface that Google employs for its sites is not nearly as enjoyable to use as the original Writely.’ If you have a Google account, then you already have a Docs & Spreadsheets account – how’s that for simplicity?’

    All of your documents are listed on the main page, and can be tagged into categories in GMail style.’ Navigating through these categories isn’t as simple as I’d like it to be, requiring more clicks to go back and forth.

    I have this criticism with GMail, preferring the pane-based Yahoo! Mail beta.’ Implementing a basic system to conveniently sift through files would be no chore at all for Google’s programmers, since the dynamic AJAX framework is already in place.

    Once you create a new file, all the familiar word processing elements are there – you can choose different fonts, paragraph alignments, create bulleted/numbered lists, highlight text, and the like.’ The Insert tab allows you to place pictures, links, tables, and more, in an easier and more intuitive fashion than Microsoft has been able to do with Word.’ There is even a spell checker built in, which highlights your words when you tell it to.’

    Your work is automatically saved every so often, or you can click the Save button to your heart’s content.’ Clicking the Revisions tab lets you see any and all changes made to your document, with the name of the user who made the changes and time he or she typed.’ Nothing is lost, and nothing is forgotten to Google Docs & Spreadsheets.’ Interpret that as you will.

    As I hinted at before, Google provided us with collaboration tools in Docs.’ Adding a collaborator is as simple as clicking Collaborate, and sending an invitation to whomever you would like to either edit or read your document, depending on the privileges you allow.

    Instead of emailing multiple copies to multiple individuals, or suffering through Word’s cumbersome commenting features, Docs allows you to have multiple people collaborate on a document cleanly and efficiently, and even at the same time, so long as they are editing different portions of the document.

    There is also Publish tab, which allows you to publish your document not only to Blogger, currently part of Google, but a half dozen other services, including WordPress and LiveJournal.

    If you don’t have a blog, Google will create a unique URL to your document, which you can email to your friends, family, and colleagues that will link directly to a page with your document on it.’ Very neat.

    If you are dealing with those who are less technically inclined, or simply prefer traditional word processors, there is an option to save your document in popular formats, including Microsoft Word, Open Office, Rich Text Format, PDF, and HTML.

    Like most things in life, Google Docs & Spreadsheets isn’t perfect, but it does come close.’ I would love to see a more powerful interface for managing my documents, something more intuitive and less clunky than Windows Explorer.

    A great feature addition would be if I could physically house documents on Google’s servers as well – some documents simply don’t upload properly, leaving me with an incoherently rendered mess.’

    Allowing us to house original files as files within Docs & Spreadsheets would alleviate most of the problems that causes.’ Kudos to Google for its great job on this service.

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