Introduction to Google Docs

Introduction

google-docsGoogle Docs has been around since 2006 after Google acquired Writely, XL2Web and DocVerse at various points to create a suite of applications that would later become Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawings and Forms. Recently, Google announced Google Drive that folds Google Docs and Google Drive into the same offering. When we refer to Google Docs, we’re actually referring to the clouds based applications themselves.

The basic premise of these products is to provide an alternative to applications suites such as Microsoft Office and Exchange, but focused as online only (cloud based) with the ability to collaborate in real-time with other users.

All of these applications are designed to run inside of a web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and FireFox.

The benefits to this model is that the cost to the end-user is minimal compared to the cost of acquiring the software, the hardware and the support services for something such as Microsoft Office.

Note: Google Docs can handle both the import of and export to various Microsoft Office program formats.

Google Documents

Google DocumentsGoogle Docs is a cloud-based application. It allows for the creation, sharing, and editing of documents online.

It is an application that most would consider a "word processor" type program.

Specifically:

  • Convert existing file types to Google Docs format.
  • Format documents, with options such as paint format, margins, spacing, and fonts, etc.
  • Invite other people to collaborate on a doc with you, giving them edit, comment or view access.
  • Collaborate online in real time and chat with other collaborators.
  • View your documents' revision history and roll back to any version.
  • Download Google Docs to your desktop as Word, OpenOffice, RTF, PDF, HTML or zip files.
  • Translate a document to a different language.
  • Email your documents to other people as attachments.

Is Google Docs a viable replacement for Microsoft Word? For most editing/word processing tasks, the answer is yes. However, there are features and functions that a desktop client can provide that is bit beyond the capabilities of Google Docs at this time.

Google Spreadsheets

Google SpreadsheetsGoogle Spreadsheets is a cloud-based spreadsheet application that lets you create and format spreadsheets, charts, and gadgets, and simultaneously work with other people.

It is an application that most would be consider to be a compeitor to Excel.

Specifically:

  • Import and convert .xls, .csv, .txt and .ods formatted data.
  • Export .xls, .csv, .txt and .ods formatted data and PDF and HTML files.
  • Use formatting and formula editing so you can calculate results and make your data look the way you'd like.
  • Chat in real time with others who are editing your spreadsheet.
  • Create charts and gadgets.
  • Embed a spreadsheet, or individual sheets of your spreadsheet, in your blog or website.

Can Google Spreadsheets replace Microsoft Excel? We here at Take Charge do feel that Google Spreadsheets has no where near the horsepower of the desktop version of Microsoft Excel. However, for simple tasks where online collaboration is required, Google Spreadsheets is great tool.

Google Forms

Google FormsGoogle Forms is a cloud-based editor that allows you to build online forms to gather information and have it stored in Google Spreadsheets.

Think of it as a way to create a form online with checkboxes, radio buttons and text areas.

With Forms, you can:

  • Build an RSVP list
  • Create a Poll or Survey to gather opinions
  • Create a feedback form to capture feedback and comments on specific subjects
  • Share the information gathered from the form with others through the online collaboration capability of Google Spreadsheets

Google Forms is one of the easiest ways to create and collect form based information for those that do not want to build that into a website or hire a professional form builder to create something. It’s quick, fast and simple to use.

Google Presentations

Google PresentationsGoogle Presentations is a cloud-based presentations editor that allows you to work in a visual way.

Most people would consider this to have similar functionality to PowerPoint.

Specifically:

Share and edit presentations with your friends and coworkers.

  • Import and convert existing presentations in .pptx and .pps file types.
  • Download your presentations as a PDF, a PPT, or a .txt file.
  • Insert images and videos, and format your slides.
  • Allow real-time viewing of presentations, online, from separate remote locations.
  • Publish and embed your presentations in a website, allowing access to a wide audience.

Google Presentations is a great way to build a presentation that can be viewed online in a quite and efficient manner. While it doesn’t have the power of the desktop version of Microsoft PowerPoint, it does online much better.

Google Drawings

Google DrawingsGoogle Drawings is a cloud-based drawings editor that lets you create anything from a scribble to a flow chart while working collaboratively with other people.

This is a cool little program that isn't really available in Microsoft Office except where it is buried in other applications.

Specifically:

  • Share and edit drawings with your friends and coworkers
  • Download your presentations as a PNG, JPEG, SVG, or PDF file.
  • Insert images, shapes, and lines, and format them to fit your preferences.
  • Real-time collaboration with other people, no matter where they are.
  • Insert a drawing into a document, spreadsheet, or presentation.

Summary

Google Docs is a set of cloud-based tools that excel in online collaboration. For most simple tasks and requirements (which is the majority of people we deal with), the features/functions are more than adequate.