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In a Word or two, Google Docs

Over the past couple of weeks, Blah, Blah! Technology doubled in size. Yes, that’s right — there’s now two of us. Our US office is open for business, and a feminine touch should do the place nice. Being intercontinental presents certain challenges from a collaborative point of view. Some can be solved with Skype and a pair of video cameras, but there are written challenges, too…

We have some big ideas for Blah, Blah! Technology over the coming months and years. Big ideas that need committing to a digital format, one that can be easily shared. And for Kate & me, Google Docs was the logical choice.

Google Docs: copy in England, paste in the USA

It’s dead easy to use and affords us a wonderful clutch of simple Word-esque tools that let us get the job done. Being able to see changes made live is just excellent, and makes for a really productive joint effort.

Additionally, having a revision history means we can just go back to a point we were both happy with. Or create new files based on older versions of the same document; useful for our To Do List document, for example.

I’m not going to write a review of Google Docs, nor will I offer some kind of fawning adulation. The point of this particular discourse is to first highlight how Google Docs is already helping us at Blah, Blah! Technology manage creativity across continents and time zones. And second, to discuss the disruptive potential of Google Docs in terms of lightweight general office productivity.

Things missing from Google Docs

  • Strange as it may seem, there’s no Strikethrough option.
  • There’s a tendency to lose the cursor within the page, so you’ve no idea where you are typing.
  • No support for folders within folders.
  • While we can save to a variety of file formats (Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF et cetera), we cannot open any such files.

Only the weak need fear…

Remember those writing projects at school when you were supposed to keep a journal or revise a paper over time instead of cramming in revisions at the 11th hour? With Google Docs, professors could ensure that process by watching the shared document’s process (in fact, some are already using Google Docs in education).

The same issue of monitoring progress and ensuring personal employee reliability could be applied to the workplace, much to the delight of employers in their ever vigilant quest to cut dead weight.

Perhaps that’s one reason why people may be a bit reluctant to embrace this internet application — they are anxious about the ways it could be “used against them”. Privacy issues have seemed to be at the forefront of many Google criticisms as of late.

Or maybe they are worried about having to learn something new. Microsoft Word is probably the first program most people learn (after surfing the ‘net), and they are reluctant to let that comfort and familiarity go.

While there’d be no admission that they couldn’t handle it, they’d be quick to point out that the temp at the front desk would be quite overwhelmed, the poor dear.

But just like how the younger generation whizzes through the internet superhighway at breakneck speed, throwing out words like Pownce, Azureus and Technorati, leaving their somewhat less technically savvy parents wondering if that was English little Timmy was speaking.

After all, adaptation is essential or you risk becoming obsolete. And when the masses start collaborating via Google Docs, as even Microsoft predicts they will, that’s when things will get interesting.

In many respects, Google Docs has the potential to be disruptive to Microsoft in a way that undermines a very fundamental pillar of their business:

“But it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t had to deal with issues of perception before. Just look at their Xbox. Who’d have thought that Microsoft would have come out with something like that? The problem is Microsoft can’t afford the loss in revenue. And even if they charged as much for their essentially crippled web-based Office package, the transition and cannibalization of sales would hurt them very badly indeed. Right now, Microsoft absolutely relies on Office and Windows for their revenues. They’re desperate to diversify, and that’s why Microsoft has pushed hard into the creative space with their Expression range.”

In conclusion, this is just the beginning

So for Kate and me, we are wholeheartedly embracing the ability to easily share ideas, draft out documents, put together analysis and work jointly on articles, while slowly figuring out how best to manage the division of labour; one which plays to our strengths.

Additionally, if we can figure out a way of sharing our process with you guys, or make available the stuff we uncover as research material, letting you guys save and reuse (subject to appropriate copyright issues), then that’s what we’ll do.

And finally, if you have any suggestions on topics you’d like to see covered here, or any other suggestions, feel free to contact us right away!

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

6 replies on “In a Word or two, Google Docs”

Kudos on your expansion and welcome aboard Kate! Where is she in the U.S.?

I’ve not spent much time playing with Google docs yet, but I do know a bit about trying to work long-distance. I have a client in California and she’ll send me site mark up via a .pdf file. She’ll grab the page then add her comments to it with arrows and such so I can see exactly what she means. This is helpful. Additionally we’ll sometimes chat by phone while looking at pages simultaneously, but the .pdfs have been great references while I’m working on things.

Hi Heidi – thanks for the warm welcome! I’ll do my darnedest to maintain the high bar Wayne has set. 🙂

I’m a Jersey girl by birth, but a New York City businesswoman. I’ve worked in the marketing biz for the last 6 years, and when I’m not here at Blah, Blah! you can find me at Cheesy Marketing Ramblings (which should hopefully be getting a makeover soon).

It’s a shame you have to speak by phone and there is no embedded chat client in Google Docs – though I hear that may be in the works already…

Hi!

I came across this post in Digg. I’ve tried Google Docs too and, although they’re not in the same level as regular office apps, they good enough for most job. Some buddies and I have collaborated on a report online through it. Useful. 🙂

“I’ve tried Google Docs too and, although they’re not in the same level as regular office apps, they good enough for most job.”

That’s right. In their current form, Google Apps don’t really compete with Microsoft Office, but that’s now, which says nothing about what Google Apps might look like in a year from now.

In that respect, these are exciting times, because Microsoft are being forced to innovate, which is something they’re just not used to…

Welcome Kate and congrats to you Wayne. I definitely think some female geekness is in order.

I use Google Docs for the same reason you guys do. My partner is in New Jersey but I’m in Belgium. It’s just really nice for document collaboration.

I have to ask this… I usually read in the feedreader (but wanted to give Kate proper welcome so I came out of lurkdom), did you finally switch over to WP? I may be late to notice, but it’s about damn time!

Hi Sara and thanks for commenting!

“I use Google Docs for the same reason you guys do. My partner is in New Jersey but I’m in Belgium. It’s just really nice for document collaboration.”

Excellent. It’s good to see we’re not alone. There are some things about Google Docs that could do with tweaking and improving, but over all, it’s a good application.

Yes, we made the switch, we’re now running on WordPress. Took some time, but we managed to make the switch eventually.

There were a few technical problems which caused some serious head-scratching — at one point, I was contemplating going back to Google Blogger, such was the severity of the problem.

Thanks again for commenting and speak to you soon!

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