Google has finally dropped the idea that the end goal of Google Docs is to print words on a sheet of paper.
It’s been a long time coming.
When personal computers were new, word processors were all about print.
But it is now years since everyone used computers to produce printed documents. We may not have the promised paperless offices, but there is a lot less paper in the modern workplace.
These days documents usually spend all their time in a pure digital format.
Yet, until now, editing tools remain geared to print.
Take Microsoft Word. You can’t use it for long before seeing a page break. Yes, you can use the web layout view which doesn’t have breaks. But that’s ugly to read as you put down words. And the outline view is for specialist uses.
Likewise Apple’s Pages or the Writer section of LibreOffice. They all assume you want to print documents on paper.
Dive in deeper and you’ll find word processor settings for page headers and footers. Again, these features are print-oriented.
Text editors have a digital-first perspective. But they still nod to printed pages at times.
Google Docs has offered an option not to show pages for years. I wrote Word processor software still geared to print on the subject in 2014.
Google Docs part of Workspace refresh
This week Google announced sweeping changes to Workspace, a set of tools that includes Google Docs.
The big idea behind these changes is that you are no longer working to put words on paper. It’s a symbolic move. It’s a philosophical move and it’s also a practical move.
Instead, Google Docs becomes part of a bigger picture: dynamic, interactive documents that integrate with other tools. This includes embedding video, even links to video conference meetings.
The challenge for Google is that many customers liked Google Docs the way it was. They may not print much these days, but the concepts and workflows are familiar. There’s no discontinuity adapting to a fresh approach.
There’s a lot more coming from Google. More to write about here. Yet for now, Google has untethered its popular word processor from print.