This year at Google I/O, the company’s biggest developer conference, Google emphasized its goals of creating software that would improve online collaboration and application portability. With the release of Google Wave, it has indicated its intent to focus on developing faster and more efficient tools for collaboration in the internet. Now, it has released its newest version of Google Docs, which hits on the same theme.
Various changes have been made to Google Docs in order to create a faster and more convenient experience for businesses and individual users alike. In the previous version of Google Docs, documents needed to be attached by a single user, sent to another user, revised, and then sent back to the original user. This meant that users had to be careful about making multiple edits and saving, since one wrong save could lead to important information being lost. This is not an issue anymore, as the new interface allows all editing to be done in real time. Google Docs now supports collaboration of up to 50 people on the same document. Users will be even be able to see edits in real time, character by character. This new functionality is similar to the Google wave model, opening up live collaboration on the web.
There are a few changes to the editor as well; the first being that now allows users can chat while editing a document. The new commenting system makes it easy for users to post comments on the side, similar to the commenting system in Microsoft Word. Also features like rulers, tab-stops, spell checks while the user is typing, and floating images are all new as well. Some of the new improvements to the spreadsheet editor include auto fill, faster loading times, and the ability to drag and drop columns.
The drawing editor is one of the more interesting new features. The interface now has increased support for adding images to documents. Users can now draw their own images and place them in documents, which are especially useful for business documents that require charts, graphs, etc.
Perhaps the biggest contender to Google Docs is now Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, which is essentially a the desktop version, but stripped down. Although Google never intended to compete against the desktop version of Office, the recent release of Office Web Apps may be a cause for concern. Google Docs may be feeling the pressure now that Microsoft has entered the fray and in a big way by partnering with Facebook to do Docs.com. Hopefully the competition between the two companies will result in a better overall consumer experience.
The upgraded version of Google docs provides many new advantages for the online community. The ease of use as well as the speed with which users can now collaborate and produce documents is definitely a positive development. One thing is certain, the improvements to Google Docs are significant, and may serve as a good indicator to potential features to other Google applications.
Links: Google Docs Update