Google Docs, A Review Part 1

Sunday, 2006-December-31 at 22:34

Google Docs (the Writely online word processor and Google's online Spreadsheet)

Part 1 : Evaluation Criteria:  

While
the criteria are admittedly fuzzy and subjective, I believe they are
sufficient for our purposes.  I wish to evaluate GDocs using the
following set of criteria:

  • User interface: is it
    complete enough, is it simple enough, is it familiar and intuitive
    enough, and is it responsive enough.  "Enough" in these
    areas  means  "enough to satisfy me that it is good enough".
  • File format support: ODF
    formats are vital, and therefore, that will be the most important test;
    but RTF, .doc, .xls, .pdf, and .csv will also be considered; I will
    also compare the PDF output with the output of AbiWord, OpenOffice.org,
    or KOffice.  These are the applications that I have, so these are
    the applications that I will use.
  • Document upload: is it fast
    enough, can it handle a large document, can it handle complex
    documents, and is it faithful at interpreting uploaded content.
  • Document download: is it fast
    enough at exporting into end-user file formats, can it handle
    sufficiently large documents, and is the downloaded document a faithful
    representation of what was on the screen.
  • Round-tripping: After
    uploading a document, adding one character and then erasing that
    character, then downloading the same document, does it remain true to
    the original document.

I could take the time to develop a points-based system, but since I
will probably not use it more than once or twice, it isn't worth the
effort. 

At the same time, I no longer use my copy of MS
Office XP (2002), because I moved the computer it had been installed on
to Linux.  Therefore, I will not consider the .doc and .xls format
tests to be authoritative.  I will primarily count the .odt and
.ods formats as the tests of performance.  If ThinkFree's online
applications ever announce full support for ODF, I will try them and
see how well they stack up on the same basis.  As always, your
needs are quite likely different than mine, or any other reviewer's
needs.  The results do not necessarily apply to all users or all
situations.  Your mileage may vary.  Dealer contribution may
affect rebates and discounts.  Professional driver, closed
course.  Not to be taken internally.

Before we begin, I
must say that I tested the "publish to blog" functionality.  It is
a no-go.  Several paragraphs, separated by the standard
double-enter-key, with a bulleted list in the middle (in the place of a
paragraph) is not a particularly complex layout, yet GDocs changed
fonts, italicized whole sections, and added inappropriate markup, so
that I had to go into the source and almost completely re-write
it.  Take my advice: if you wish to use an outside processor to
create blog entries, choose writetomyblog.com
It is not perfect, but it cuts the agravation factor by more than half
over the blog software's native posting mechanism. (I tried these tools
on Blogger, which has just plain awful administrative tools, and have
also used WriteToMyBlog on WordPress.  GDocs was a miserable
failure, even on the blogging service that Google owns, while WTMB's
main issue on that service was too much spacing between paragraphs.)

Purpose:
This is to see whether individuals and small businesses can truly
benefit from using Google Docs as a part of their daily activities and
operations.  It is not expected or suggested that anyone
completely replace the use of onsite software with online
applications. 

We will soon have the second part of this series. 

Tags: , , ,

Entry filed under: Computers, ODF, Small Business, Software, Web. Tags: .

Goodbye, 2006; Hello, 2007 Mass Plus ODF: A Winning Combination


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