I have been using Google Apps for over 2 months ever since my ISP switched its email service to Google and maintains their own domain name. I really like the easy access of webmail just like everyone else who uses Gmail or other webmail service. Previously, I used mail2web to view new messages while I was away from home and I had to download messages to my computer once I got home. Using mail2web doesn’t allow me access to my old messages so the new webmail access is a breath of fresh air. Aside from webmail, the ISP also promoted Google Docs as part of the reason behind the transition.
I used Google Docs for the first time last week when I had to go on the road and present a workshop. What attracted me to using Google Docs is that I can share the presentation and an accompanied resource list by giving out links of each part to my audience instead of emailing PowerPoint or Word files. I sent a follow up email after the workshop to pass out the links but I haven’t received any rave reviews. I fyi’ed another group of colleagues recently and one of them was excited enough to request sharing the links on some email lists.
My impression of Google Docs is that it is very archaic. The word processing app is only slightly better than the basic text editing application we all have on our computers regardless of OS. The media hype of whether Google Docs would compete with Microsoft Office is totally overblown. For the minimum, I can’t even change the page margins of a document as easy as in MS Word since the only option is through the Internet browser Page Setup menu. Working with fonts was extremely frustrating until I found out how to change the default settings, otherwise the text always reverts back to the default font every time I press return to add a new blank line or add links to certain words. This kind of behavior does not happen in the traditional word processing software. I haven’t had a chance to utilize the collaboration function but I’ve heard some folks found that very useful. I will have to report back when I get a taste of it.
The presentation app is also archaic. It can import a PowerPoint file and seems to recognize text boxes versus images immediately. I experienced the same issue of ever-changing font style when I was editing text. Unfortunately, there is no default setting to change. Copying and pasting text from other sources would only give me text with font settings from the original. I really miss the option of “Paste Special” and strip any text formatting while pasting in Microsoft programs. There is a “Remove Formatting” button in Google Docs but it doesn’t work every time.
Printing a presentation is a total joke. PowerPoint gives you a bunch of options on how you want to lay out your slides in print but there is nothing like that in Google Docs. You get one layout and that’s it. All the slides get shrunk and lined up straight down on the left of the screen with a lot of white space on the right. On screen, the text in the mini-slides appears to lay out the same way as the full size slides. But in print, the text is not resized correctly so it runs off the bottom edge of the slides and disappears. So much for providing handouts of your presentation to your audience when they look like crap.
The notes option in presentation is also missing in Google Docs. I imported a PowerPoint file with tons of notes and those notes are nowhere to be found. I previously played around with Zoho Show and it has the notes option but it does not offer any printing function. Zoho Show has problems showing my PowerPoint file in the correct aspect ratio and its lack of a “Help menu” or user instructions except for their online forums really turns me off. Google Docs at least has a Help Center that you can read up some step by step instructions.
I am not a fan of Microsoft but those guys revolutionized how most of us do word processing, spreadsheet and presentation. Anything short from the very first version of Microsoft Office would not compete with the big gun. Some might argue I should try OpenOffice or other open source programs but my main reason of using online tools is to detach myself from the hard drive. Most of us already have all our emails residing online so why shouldn’t our documents be the same? And yes, I should try online storage. But if a company is offering email, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation with storage all in one place, why do I need to go to a bunch of different websites to get all my work done? I suppose depending on Google alone can be kind of like placing all your eggs in one basket. I was pushed to use Google Apps by my ISP so I might as well get the best out of it.