Bill Bennett

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Google Docs: Much improved, almost first class

Google Docs, the search company’s word processor, has changed for the better since we first looked at the software in 2009.

Today, it is good enough for serious work. That wasn’t the case three years ago.

It’s hard to list all the tweaks; cloud applications go through rolling software updates, not large-scale version changes. If you blink you can miss the addition of a new feature or the fixing of an old usability issue.

Let’s just say today’s Google Docs is much improved. It’s almost first class and likely will be before much longer.

Better productivity

Three years ago there were two main problems. First, problems with constant scrolling and mousing, windows switching as well as with cut and paste. You could mouse to a point on screen then click only to find the cursor is inserted some distance away.

Cutting and pasting text from a web page is still irritating.

Otherwise, the user experience is hugely improved. This may not be a simple software issue.

In terms of productivity, for everyday writing Google Docs is now either equal to Microsoft Word or it is so close there’s no noticeable difference. If you need to collaborate with colleagues it is a better than Word. Microsoft is clumsy and needs sending versions of files back and forth. With Docs everything happens in one place.

The second problem with the old Google Docs was proofing over a wide line width. Google fixed this.

Google Docs’ 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. Wide lines of text are hard to read and even harder to proof-read or edit.

Google Docs now offers better integration

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.

That is with Google applications as well as the Chrome browser and Android. This last point is vital if you use a smartphone.

These changes make Google Docs more useful than it was. Today you can check documents on a phone when you are not at your desk.

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