Google has thus far neglected to create a mobile application for managing Google Docs. But Google today announced that the mobile Google Docs site will soon allow editing of documents from the mobile browser. When viewing a document online, there will be a link to load editing mode, where users will be able to change the document from within the browser. While an app might provide a better experience, this web-based editing would be more in line with Google's ways.
The new feature will be available on iOS devices running version 3 or later, and on Android phones running 2.2 Froyo. Google also made sure to note that Android users can use voice dictation to edit documents. The 2.2 requirement is a real bummer for users of phones that are still running Android 2.1 or earlier. The Docs editing mode will be rolling out over the next few weeks, so some phones might get an update in the meantime.
Don’t be surprised if the next batch of Google Docs enhancements includes third party applications, cloud printers, and sync devices. Google-centric blog Google Operating System found a strong hint to this effect inside Google Docs’ source code while scrolling through it. "Coming soon: Third party applications, cloud printers, and sync devices," reads a message inside the code.
Support for cloud printing in Google Docs would be in keeping with the company’s stated goal of building “a printing experience that enables any app (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer anywhere in the world.” The cloud printing feature will be enabled through the upcoming Google Cloud Print service.
Although not available yet, the launch of Google Cloud Print has got to be just round the corner with the first installment of Chrome OS devices fast approaching.
Third-party apps and the “sync devices” feature will also be equally welcome additions to the web-based productivity suite.
“Each of the features you mentioned have been announced before but we are excited to see everyone's enthusiasm for the cloud and integration with Google Docs,” the company said in an e-mail response to a Cnet query. “We have no specifics on timing for these features at this point.”
Around six months after it added the drag-and-drop feature to Gmail, Google has now introduced the feature to its web-based productivity suite, giving Google Docs users yet another way of adding images to their documents. The HTML5-driven feature is currently only supported by the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
“Google documents already has three ways to add images: you can choose them from your hard-drive, add them by URL, and you can find them using Google Image Search,” Philipp Weis, a software engineering intern at Google, wrote in a blog post.
“But sometimes the exact image you need is on your desktop and you just want to add it to your document quickly. Starting today, you can drag images from your desktop directly into your documents.”
The drag-and-drop feature is a legacy of the company’s ill-fated collaboration tool Wave.
But Premiere and Education Edition users will have to first ensure that their domain administrator has enabled Google Labs from the Google Apps control panel. “Once the lab is enabled, the “Search Mail” button in Gmail will say 'Search Mail and Docs' instead. When you run a search in Gmail, your search results will include matching documents and sites in addition to results from your email,” Google said in a blog post.
There has been a slight jump in comparisons between Google Docs and Microsoft’s wildly popular Office productivity suite, mainly due to the launch of Office 2010 earlier in the week. The comparison is barely justifiable as the numbers decisively favor the latter. But numbers seldom tell the whole story - Docs does have its moments.
Docs has traditionally excelled in areas such as collaboration and sharing. Google has just announced new upgrades to make sharing easier in Docs. Users can now choose among three visibility options: “Private,” “Anyone with a link” or “Public on the web.” All documents are marked as private to begin with.
If you opt to make a particular document visible to anyone who knows its URL, “you can better control who has access to your doc” by resetting the link whenever necessary.
Forrester analyst JP Gownder was all praise for Microsoft Office 2010 in a recent blog post. He believes that the productivity suite has the unenviable task of providing ballast to the fast drowning packaged software industry. But he is confident that it will not disappoint.
Gownder rubbished the idea of Google Docs being a worthy Office rival, even calling it a failure “ in terms of usage and penetration.” According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics PC and Gaming survey, only 4 percent of respondents admitted to using Google Docs regularly.
“Let’s think about that for a second: We’re talking about a free software-as-a-service offering from one of the top brand names in technology, Gownder wrote. “The offering has been available for over three years from Google (and two more years if you count Writely before Google purchased Upstartle). And yet only 4% of consumers are onboard.”
On the other hand, he has high hopes of Office 2010 becoming a “success in the consumer market” just like previous versions. He imputes its impending success to a combination of factors: valuable consumer input that has gone into developing it; its popularity among enterprises; and the introduction of Office Web.
The Google Gears blog has been pretty quiet lately, and for a good reason. It appears the project, at least in its current state, is soon to become an orphan. Its no secret that Google is a fan of open standards, and they feel they are fairly close to duplicating all the functionality of Gears, but using HTML5 instead of a separate browser plug-in. “We're not there yet, but we are getting closer. In January we shipped a new version of Google Chrome that natively supports a Database API similar to the Gears database API, workers (both local and shared, equivalent to workers and cross-origin wokers in Gears), and also new APIs like Local Storage and Web Sockets.”
Google is promising to support the older version of Gears until the new HTML5 edition has fully matured, but curiously Safari on OSX Snow Leopard is being dropped because it would require a “significant engineering effort to support due to large architectural changes”. Firefox 3.6 users who have been left in limbo since its release will be happy to hear an update will be coming soon, but I fully expect it will be the last.
Gears has always felt a bit sluggish, so let just hope HTML5 can infuse some much needed pep into Google’s offline services.
Communication technology has long been commonplace in political protest movements. American colonists used committees of correspondence and broadsheets to voice displeasure and organize against the British. Fax machines were used by opponents of the North American Free Trade Agreement. And cell phone-initiated smart mobs are thought to have played a role in the downfall of Philippines’ president Joseph Estrada. How far such efforts might go are limited only by the availability of technology and the imagination of participants.
Consider the most recent use: an adaptation of Google Docs and Google Maps to organize virtual protests. The responsible parties are from Turkey, and are protesting Turkey’s draconian Internet censorship policies. The Turkish government tolerates dissent much like the Chinese, and blocks sites deemed offensive, including YouTube, Last.fm, and Google Sites (formerly Google Pages).
Opponents are responding by using a Google map of Istanbul, which can be edited using Google Docs’ “anyone can edit” function. Protesters are asked to ‘meet up’ in Taksim Square. And, upon reaching a critical mass, they will perform a virtual walk to the Turkish capital of Ankara, bringing their protest to the parliament house. (The current map shows ‘protesters’ moving eastward from Istanbul along highway E80, about a quarter of the way to their destination.)
For the organizers the more, the merrier. They'd like to reach a total of one billion protestors, in the hopes this will persuade Turkish officials to roll back their censorship. Jolie O’Dell, writing for ReadWriteWeb, is optimistic “this seemingly simple stunt will send a strong message to governments that restrict their citizens’ web access.” I’m not so sure. It’s one thing for government officials to look down upon a sea of real protesters and another entirely on a sea of virtual protesters. The former can’t be easily ignored. The latter can be easily unplugged.
Google wants to simplify the accessibility of documents which, when large in size, are troublesome to move about or make available. Email is not always an option. A USB drive isn’t practical if the documents are to be shared. And a central repository isn’t much use if it isn’t readily accessible.
Google is going to offer up to 1 GB of free storage in its cloud, on which you can load documents up to 250 MB in size. (Additional storage is available at a paltry 25-cents per gigabyte per year.) Documents, by default, are private, but can be readily accessed by others using shared folders.
Google’s offering is not something new--you can get this same feature from a number of places, like Dropbox, Windows Live, and MobileMe. But, unlike most services, Google’s is tied to a suite of productivity applications, providing one-stop convenience.
Cloud storage is not yet available, but will be rolled out over the next few weeks. Google says look for a “bubble notification” that announces the feature’s availability.
Zoho allows for the attachment of files from Google Docs for use in its customer relations management (CRM) apps, including Leads, Accounts, and Cases. Attachment will require authentication in Google first, with Google Docs appearing within Zoho afterward.
Zoho mail will be able to attach files directly from Googe Docs. And users will be able to upload files either to Google Docs or Zoho Docs. Zoho’s project management application will also be able to access files from Google Docs.
Zoho, which has some two million users, also offers integration to Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Outlook, as well as a mobile option and a plug-ins for Internet Explorer and Firefox.