Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a free online office suites type of program. It is sometimes referred to as Google Office because of it’s similarities to software such as Microsoft Office. This internet based service offered by Google acts as a word processor, spread sheet, forms and presentation application. It was created to handle every day office chores while allowing the user to work from any computer at home or on the go. The application is designed to allow for the collaboration of others in real time. It still lacks some of the extensive features of professional office software, but has had many updates since it’s release in 2007 and continues to be improved. New features are routinely added making it more comparable to expensive office software. You can create documents, forms, spreadsheets or presentations using the software itself or import files into it from your hard drive or various online sources. You can even send a file via email. Completed work can be saved to your computer as PDF, RTF, Word, Text, ODS, XLS and HTML files.
In order to start using Google office applications you’ll need to sign up for a free Google account. This is a fast and simple process that can be completed in a minute or two. The application works best while using Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher, Firefox 2.0 or higher, and Google Chrome on Windows NT, XP, and Vista. Firefox 2.0 or 3.0 is recommended for Mac users with Linux or Mac OSX 10.4. Google Docs began as a merge and update of two other programs, the Writely word processor and the previously stand alone Google spreadsheets. The program has a nice and simple blue and white layout. Everything has a clean look to it and is intuitive and easy to learn. The sign in page gives you links to Google’s tour of the applications. For more detailed and in depth information on how everything works there is an extensive help system. Everything is organized in similar ways to Google’s GMail system. At the end of your work day you can upload files directly to Google Docs instead of emailing them to yourself. This makes taking work home with you a simple task.
When you open or create a new text document the first layout tabs you’ll see are for Edit, Insert, and Revisions. A toolbar with common and familiar icons allows for all of your editing options. Commonly used features such as word count are all conveniently located and easy to find. There are a wide variety of fonts and text colors. All of the usual suspects are here including Times New Roman, Arial, and even wingdings and foreign symbols. The system allows you to insert images and work with text tables as well as converting the whole document to HTML code. This feature is great for blogging and posting your work to a website. Every feature that you could want for letter writing or for school and work papers is here.
For spreadsheets your tabs at the top include Edit, Sort, Formulas, and Revisions. The Formula tab branches out into a list of abbreviations for statistics, math, finance, and more. Below these you get the same icon bar that you have for text documents. You can import your ODS, PDF, and XLS files and save them in those formats as well as HTML. All of the features are simple to find and easy to use.
For the Presentations application you have tabs for Edit and Revisions. Beneath these there are buttons for New Slide, Duplicate Slide, Delete Slide, Add Image, Add Text, and Change Theme. Presentations also gets the graphical icon bar, but with it’s own unique editing options.
The best thing about Google office applications is that they allow you to access and edit files from any computer anywhere. You can then invite others to view and edit your work in real time. You choose who can access your files by simply entering their email address and sending them an invitation. You can even have multiple people viewing and editing at the same time. The fact that there’s nothing to download means you can access and work on projects from literally anywhere. Google uses an auto save feature and stores everything on their servers so that you’ll never lose any data. Everything can be imported, exported, and saved as well as organized into folders by dragging and dropping them. This makes organizing and finding your files quick and easy. You can even publish your document right to your blog without leaving Google Docs. It has also been integrated with Google Apps which allows you to more easily share your papers, spreadsheets, and presentations with a work or school group.
Google has continued to add features, fix bugs, and tweak existing features to make this application run smoothly. It has turned into a really nice free alternative to some of the more expensive office software options. The only real downside is that there is no offline application to use. You must have an internet connection to use any of the features. A lot of people like to do work on the go with their laptops. If you fit into that category you’ll need to be in a WiFi hot spot or have some other source of internet access to use Google office applications. But most people will have secondary word processing software for offline work and really that’s not what this application was created for. Over all it’s a great solution for a number of business, home, and school related needs.