One of the benefits of looking at online document solutions, like Google Docs, is the shifting of responsibility of backup and archival to a third party. In my corporate life, I have yet to embrace the concept outsourced backup…call it ultimate paranoia. This, however, is off topic so back to Google Docs.
One of the first things I noticed with Google Docs was the lack of an easy way to upload multiple documents. The site directly supports uploading of individual files, but not multiple files. I eventually found an application that would assist in the uploading of multiple documents to the Google Docs website but its user interface needs improvement. Once I had some documents uploaded, it was easy to create and assign labels/folders to documents for effective organization. I then started to open a few of the documents.
The vast majority of documents I work with are MS Word and Excel. I was disappointed at the amount of formatting that was lost specifically in my Word documents. Documents that were very specifically formatted (spaced, fonts, etc.) essentially had to be reconstructed. I noticed only minor discrepancies in my Excel files. Overall, the majority of my Word documents were in acceptable condition. All of them required some sort of formatting adjustments.
I created a couple of new documents this week using the word processor and one using the spreadsheet application. I found for the average user these programs worked as advertised and would be functional for the majority of consumers and small-businesses. I do not see mid to large size businesses dropping Word anytime soon…I know I would not deploy this to my corporate user base anytime in the near future. However, I do see tremendous opportunity in the educational and SOHO arenas.
I found the prior versions feature available for all documents to be powerful and effective. I had incorrectly made a change to a word processing document and was able to roll back to the prior version within moments. I found the general performance of the application to be completely acceptable and I really liked the ability to output these documents as PDF files without having to purchase Acrobat or install any software on the local computer.
For me personally, I see Google Docs as an opportunity to more effectively manage information that I track in spreadsheets. It is very convenient to be able to access information from any computer that is attached to the Internet. It is also convenient for my wife to be able to access these common household spreadsheets on any computer she happens to be on. That is where I see my utilization of Google Docs ending.
The import routine makes too many changes to the formatting of my existing Word documents for this to become a reasonably effective replacement for Word. Google needs to develop a utility that better supports uploading of information to the Web application and preserves the accuracy of the document formatting. Google has the right concept and this is still a “beta” application. I would anticipate over the next year we will see more impressive features rolled out.
The one application where I can see this might be effectively used is with a field-based sales and support staff. This would be a very intriguing beta project to roll out to a group of individuals. It could resolve issues regarding archiving of corporate documents on systems that are not attached to the network and at a dramatically lower costs than current solutions. Corporate may be able to push down documents to multiple user accounts or create shared libraries for field-based staff. One of my future testing projects will be to create a document structure for a virtual sales team and see if it could be effectively utilized. A field team that is not reliant upon Microsoft’s Office products would have a lower IT costs for software acquisition, maintenance and support.
Something to seriously think about…
The links below are to my other posting about Google’s applications and services.