It’s a known fact that web developers often work from multiple computers. Whether it’s a Vista PC at home or a Mac at the office, it can be tedious to keep up with your documents and finding the most current version. Using a flash drive is convenient, but can easily fall out of your pocket or get lost. So earlier this year, I started using Google Docs, Google’s new online Office competitor.
Google got an early hold on this market when they bought Writely, one of the first services to take word processing online. Since then, they’ve integrated it into their system as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. All users who have a Google account can access the service for free.
The one thing I love about Google Docs, (besides the fact that I can access my docs online from any PC) is the sharing feature. My wife and I share documents back and forth and it makes it very simple to coordinate on projects. In fact, I can include a group of collaborators in on the same doc making coordination of projects very simple. You can even publish it to let the public at large view a doc.
Another feature that I love that really made me finally switch from working offline is the revisions feature. I can go back to every saved revision of a document and either restore it or copy and paste from it to the current working revision. I know many would like this in Word, and granted there are programs out there that can track versions of programs on you’re desktop. Many who are working with the new Mac OS have discovered this same type of feature, but it’s a long process and the revisions aren’t integrated into the software you’re working with. Google Docs integrates it and with one click you can see the various revisions of your docs online.
In fact, with Google’s current technology in development (I’m referring to Google Gears – I’ll talk about it in a later post), Google is setting the stage for both online and offline functionality with Google Docs (although not yet available).
Google Docs can also handle all of your current documents and allows you to upload from a myriad of different word processing programs whether it be text files, rtf, doc, or odt as well as spreadsheet docs. And it can also export to a myriad of doc formats, including PDF (very helpful to those people like me who need to save a doc as pdf and don’t want to install pdf995 or use a third party program).
Is it a perfect solution, not entirely. With Google Docs, you have to get used to the formatting of documents and it can be a challenge to use initially, but the benefits far outweigh anything else. If you have a Google account or use Gmail like me, you can access Google Docs by simply clicking on the Documents link at the very top left of your screen when you’re logged in.