Basically Google Docs are simply an alternative to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. No, there isn’t anything wrong with these programs and I use them all the time (well, not PowerPoint as much anymore). Actually the Microsoft incarnation of these programs are much more powerful. You can’t do complex formulas on Google’s version of Excel and you can’t do a mail merge on Google’s version of Word. However, there are some unique aspects about Google Docs that I love.
1. Accessibility. Ever lose a document or spreadsheet? Accidently deleted? Maybe you just can’t find it as it’s buried somewhere among the thousands of files and folders on your computer. Ever been somewhere and wish you had a document that was sitting on your computer? Google Docs takes away the frustration of all these situations. Google Docs is stored online and can be accessed from anywhere you have an Internet connected computer.
2. Collaboration. As we spend more time online and more time “away” from co-workers, the demand for collaborative tools has soared! Goggle Docs allows you to share your documents with anyone you please. You can control their editing/viewing rights. If you’re working on it at the same time, you can use Google’s built in chat to discuss the document (I wish I had this 2 years ago when I was working on my Masters Degree online). If working on a document separately and you don’t like the changes someone made to it, you can revert back to previous revisions.
Example: Not too long ago my wife and I were making phone calls off of a list. I imported this list into Google’s Spreadsheet. She started calling from the bottom and I was calling from the top. The sheet was shared between the two of us and as she wrote notes in the columns next to the people she was calling, it would update in my sheet as well. This all happened within seconds of her making the changes. Brilliant!
3. Compatible: This is what irritates me most about competitive operating systems… the lack of compatibility. This is why after college I switched from Apple to Windows. Google is compatible with the biggest format. You can import files from office documents, or export them out as office documents. Are you using Open Office (the open source version of Microsoft Office)? You can import and export to them as well. Some goes for RTF and Text. Get this, you can also save your documents to PDF. All this for free?
Maybe Google Docs won’t completely replace your dependency on Office products. It hasn’t for me. I’m still in the habit of opening word first. But a year ago I had 3 Google Docs online. Now I have a couple dozen. It’s growing on me, especially as I’ve become even more mobile and have had more uses for collaboration.
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