Google Docs: A Review

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In my move to eventually be platform independent, and be able to work from any location at any time with any device, I have been looking for one of the most basic tools to accomplish this: a universal document creator and repository. I've thought about network drives, standardized document tools that can handle the same document type though have different features across the board, and even limiting the hardware I would use, just to be sure I would be able to accomplish this goal.

But then I started to play with Google Docs. I have to admit, at first I didn't want anything to do with it, because I didn't think that it could be functional enough as a web application to make it worth while. I was wrong.

The first rule you need to know about documents, or indeed any office software, is that no matter how many bells and whistles that are on it, most people use just the basic features. This is because, in a sense, the business world in general doesn't needed anything more than a typewriter for their documents and email. As such, pretty much any word processor program can handle about 90% of all office needs, regardless of the amount of bells and whistles that are added. That being said, there are some people that need fancy tools, imbedded graphs, etc. For those people, I would not recommend something like Google Docs, but rather a more robust word processor.

But for the rest of us, Google Docs works great! I started by importing some documents, both Word and Open Office documents to them, and they work great. Formatting remains pretty much the same, and everything else looks great. I then uploaded a spreadsheet, and even though Safari isn't technically supported (Curse you!), it still works great in Safari 3.0 Beta.

So what's the real benefit? Storage space and accessibility. You can store your documents on Google's servers, and then download them and print them in any format you like, even PDF. You also can organize them within folders, to be sure you know where all your documents are. It also means that your documents are not located on your computer, but rather on the web, where you can access them from any location with an internet connection.

Currently, I am using it to write a long-standing project that I have been meaning to finish for years. I'm writing a book, and can write each chapter as a separate document, work on it from any location or any device, and still be able to download and print it from a location with a printer. I still haven't tried testing Google Docs from the iPhone, but if it works, that's just one more utility that I would have wanted on a mobile internet device that is resolved. Now, if they would just release an iPhone version of iChat, I might consider purchasing one.