Google’s never made a secret of the fact that its vision of your future computer desktop does not include any Microsoft products. For Google, all you’ll need is a browser, an Internet connection, and a Google account – everything else is optional! Google will provide for all your computing needs on a “virtual desktop” you can access from any computer with a connection to the Web. Log on to Google Docs and you can experience the first wave of Google’s strategy in action.
What is Google Docs?
“Google Docs and Spreadsheets” is a web-based word processing and spreadsheet program that enables you to create, modify, save and share documents without the need for Microsoft Office (or any other office suite). It enables you to do everything from simple word processing and spreadsheets to remote collaboration with business associates all over the world. It also allows you to convert your documents to PDF, HTML and several other formats and publish them right from the web.
Getting started rates extremely fast and simple. Just sign up for a free account and you’re ready to start creating documents. You can also import your existing documents and spreadsheets for remote storage and editing. You can then invite people to your documents and spreadsheets to make changes together at the same time. Though the software does carry a “revision history” function which allows you to see changes made to a document by everyone with access, things could quickly get out of hand if you have a dozen people hacking up the same document—so exercise caution.
Easy to get started
I created an account in minutes and created my first document using the simple interface to format my text (though I did miss the “page” view from Microsoft Word that lets me see how my text will look on a printed page). And, true to the promises made on the website, you can easily do all the basics, including: making bulleted lists, inserting images, changing fonts, bold, underline, change fonts, and more. You can even use it to create basic html pages which you can download to your computer and then upload to your own hosting account. Google Docs supports all the major file types, including: DOC, XLS, RTF, CSV, etc.
Two things struck me as most notable about the service. First, that ability to share and collaborate online with others will come in extremely useful for remote work groups. If you need a simple, easy, and fast way to collectively edit and share information (such as project “to-do” lists) Google Docs rates much simpler than many other solutions. Just email someone an invitation and they can instantly make modifications you can see in real time.
Second, the ability to access and publish your docs from any computer creates a truly remote working situation. If you can get online, you can get your work done. The ability to get things done without the need to take a laptop along or leave your home computer powered on for remote access really does open up a whole new world of possibilities. Keep a close eye on Google Docs as a sign of things to come.