Search engine giant Google has given its Docs suite a makeover, as it seeks to position the productivity suite less an rival to leader Microsoft Office, and more as the team collaboration application for Google Apps.
The search engine giant has given Google Docs a thorough makeover after changing the look and feel of its front end, adding shared folders, batch file uploads, plus more than 50 other new features.
The change to Google’s word processing, spreadsheet and presentation suite is designed to make it more valuable for knowledge worker collaboration.
In Docs, colours have been changed and buttons have been moved. The new “Folders” dialog lets users control which folders an item is in. When users have a folder open, they can access the “Move to” dialog to move files to other folders.
Sharing folders brings the notion of shared files to another level. While users have always been able to share files in Docs, they may now share whole folders of files, a valuable proposition for workers collaborating on a project.
The new Docs upload page also lets users select multiple files and upload them at the same time. Docs users who pump dozens of files into the application are likely clapping aloud over this feature, a departure from the former one-file-at-a-time approach. Uploading single files is fine for the casual user, but not for power users accustomed to shuttling a lot of content to and from different repositories.
See instructions on how to use these features, as well as screenshots, on Google Watch. The Docs update also includes the ability to insert drawings in any document, spreadsheet or presentation, including snap-to guides, polylines and multiple lines.
The latest upgrades to Google Docs are the culmination of work Google has been doing for the last several months. Rishi Chandra, senior product manager for collaboration at Google Apps, foreshadowed these capabilities in an interview in August.
Chandra said Google’s goal is to position Docs less as a productivity suite targeted at taking down Microsoft Office’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications, and more as the team collaboration application for Google Apps. More users are interested in co-authoring documents and creating multiple versions that update on the fly, and then sharing those files with colleagues in the cloud, Chandra said.
Google is also trying to build better bridges between Office and Apps. Chandra said Google wants to make sure that Apps users are able not only to pull any document created in Office into Docs and Sites, but also to push those documents from Apps back to Office without losing formatting fidelity.
Of course, Docs is hardly the only collaboration play Google had going for it. To address the real-time collaboration craze currently gripping the high-tech world, Google is gradually inviting users to test Google Wave, which provides email, instant messaging, file-sharing and social computing features from one HTML5-based platform.
Google expects that Wave will eventually let users pull all of their content from Apps into Wave, and possibly vice versa. In the meantime, users have to get the hang of Wave, which is causing some headaches, even among the high-tech digerati. Wave requires an adjustment period and can be distracting.