Rediscovery of Google Docs

Recently I've decided (on accident really) to take another look at Google Documents. The interface has changed a little bit, and of course there's the presentation feature at which I haven't really looked too closely -- but the biggest change I've noticed is the addition of an offline mode.

For those not familiar with Google Docs, the whole setup is pretty cool, basically it's a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation app all stored on the Internet. Although one of the problems I've had with it in the past is the fact that it's more of a gimmick that you can only access when you're on the Internet than an actual productivity application.

With a technology called Google Gears, the Google Docs interface stays on my computer and I can work on my existing Docs items in my web browser without having an Internet connection. When I'm once again connected to the Internet, either through that AT&T/Cingular mobile "broadband" card, or at home, I can re-synchronize my data with the google servers.

The only problems so far are that I have never really had an opportunity to try offline mode before -- because I never really wanted to be offline if I didn't have to be. The other problem is that you can't create new documents when you're in offline mode. It shouldn't be too terribly difficult to just write something into an existing document, or use a piece of local software. If, for example, I wanted to write my blog entry about how I'm on the bus going to Tucson, I could just open up my copy of Word 2007 and start typing away.

It would be a huge advantage to be able to create new docments in offline mode, because it brings a pretty healthy amount of unification to the workflow of using Google Documents -- especially if I were to be away from my Internet connection for an extended period of time, while somehow having the opportunity or requirement to create a fairly massive number of new documents. (Anything more than five new documents for which I intended to use the Google Docs workflow, is a number that I'd consider to be inconvenient to have to upload separately to Docs. For now though, I'll probably have to continue creating documents in Live Writer, Word or OneNote for offline use, and transferring them to Google later on if I need to. Docs.

Another cool new feature is Docs' ability to display everything in a fixed-width page view. This particular feature does help close the gap between Docs as a cool thing to talk about, and an actual useful tool. Google Docs is a great writing tool, and it is great for collaboration, since just about everybody ever has a Google account at which you can send them docs to review.  But it lacks in a few organizational things, and it's not the very best at making documents look very pretty, for presentation.

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