Google Docs, the search company’s cloud word processor, has changed for the better since my 2009 look.
Today, Google Docs is good enough for serious work.
Listing all the tweaks is hard; cloud applications go through rolling software updates, not large-scale version changes. Let’s just say today’s Google Docs is much improved.
Three years ago I had two main problems with Google Docs. First, I ran into problems with constant scrolling and mousing, windows switching as well as with cut and paste.
Cutting and pasting text from a web page is still irritating – I do this often in one of my regular freelance jobs.
Otherwise, the user experience is hugely improved. This may not be a simple software issue, as I’ll explain in a moment.
In terms of productivity, Google Docs is now either equal to Microsoft Word or it is so close there’s no noticeable difference.
The second problem I had with the old Google Docs was proofing my work over a wide line width. Google fixed this. The screen now displays a fixed-width page, roughly the size of an A4 paper sheet. This works just as well on a wide-screen monitor as a narrow display.
Microsoft Word’s integration with Office and Windows remains a strength. While Google Docs doesn’t need to integrate with the operating system in the same way, Google Drive means the word processor now integrates nicely with everything else Google.
Here I mean with other Google applications as well as the Chrome browser and Android. This last point is vital now I use a smartphone. This makes Google Docs more useful than it was. Today I can check documents while I’m away from my desk.
Perhaps the most powerful improvement is something Google can’t claim the credit for. My internet connection has been upgraded to ADSL2+ and like almost everyone else in New Zealand, I’m on the fibre-to-the-node cabinet network.
Before I was getting speeds of maybe 2 or 3Mbps most of the time, now I typically see 11 or 12Mbps and, more importantly, the network seems more stable.
All cloud applications work better, but the difference is most notable with Google Docs, which now rarely misses a beat. This has vastly improved the Google Docs experience, it now feels as if the application is running locally and not halfway around the world.