My plan was to use Google Docs exclusively for two weeks. I wanted to test it as a Microsoft Word alternative.
The experiment fell at the first hurdle. I caved in after two days because my productivity dropped too far. Worse, I made more errors with Google Docs than with Word.
I’m a journalist. I write 10,000 or more words a week. When you type that many words, the tools matter.
My productivity dropped 25 percent when I switched to Google Docs. This may have been temporary – maybe my speed would pick up as I became familiar with the software. But the price was too high – a 25 percent productivity drop means I working 33 percent longer to produce the same output. This is not acceptable.
What was the big problem? Google Docs requires more mouse activity than Microsoft Word. Both applications offer a full set of keyboard shortcuts and many of them are the same. Scrolling up and down the page to read my work is harder in Google Docs.
Cutting and pasting copy from other documents was also harder. And I had problems switching between web browsing and Google Docs. Switching between a browser and Word using alt-tab is easier than control-tabbing through a large number of open browser tabs.
To make sure the problem wasn’t browser related, I used Google Docs with Firefox and Internet Explorer. I also tried using Google Docs in a separate browser Window.
Two days into the experiment my wrists ached from the extra mousing. I didn’t experience serious pain – I bailed out before reaching that point.
Never mind the quality, feel the width
Speed is important. So is quality.
My other problem with Google Docs was proofing. That’s the business of rereading your words to find and correct mistakes or improve the text.
At first I struggled to find why my proofing was so bad. Then it hit me. Text in Google Docs extends across the entire width of the screen – while Word text is restricted to relatively narrow columns. Proofing is harder with wider text columns.
There maybe ways to work around these problems, but I need to get on and earn a crust, so earlier today I went back to Microsoft Word – a better experience.