No I Don’t Work For Google But…: Google Apps; Productivity And Creativity
Sit down by the digital fire, children; I’d like to tell you a tale of the end of the world.
The conversation I’m having most often lately, and more with people who have some tech background, rather than those without, goes a little something like this:
Me:“Hey, I just found this new (insert product/service/minset towards technology here) and it’s awesome. It can do this, this and this, and it syncs up perfectly with all the trends we’re seeing with respect to the future of computing. You should try it.
Random friend with tech knowledge: ”But it doesn’t do this, and it’s not the way things have always been done and I don’t like it so FAILLLLLLLLL“
It’s an odd response, especially considering the source. Technology is, in this writer’s humble opinion, about what’s new and useful and how to get it into the hands of everyone whom it would be useful for. For people who have spent their entire lives dedicating themselves to developing or understanding technology and what it brings, to suddenly not want progress seems…
Ah, but technology is also incredibly fetishistic. The culture war between Mac fanboys and Windows fanboys1 has been ample evidence of that. No matter what their interests, people are people and people don’t like change.
But change comes whether we will it or no, and those who don’t adapt are swept away.
I’ve finally played around with Google Apps enough that I am ready to declare it my all-purpose productivity tool for…well everything I need to do at work.
Easy to use CRM so I never have to remember where I’m at with my clients on any given day? Covered.
Brilliant calendar app that allows people to follow a link to my Google Calendar and request an appointment in my free blocks of time? Yay!
Need to do some image editing on the fly and Gimp is giving me a headache? There’s an app for that too.
In fact there are so many customization options available that, if you’re a business owner and you’re still paying for software that doesn’t give you the versatility that you get with Google Apps for free, there is officially something wrong2.
But it’s not just the obvious stuff that’s wowing me. I want to take a few minutes to talk about Google Docs itself.
There’s been some conversation in my circles about the things it can’t do. It doesn’t interpret formatting from Word or Pages (like inserted images into a text document) with perfect fidelity. You have to convert imported projects into the Google format before you can work with them online; otherwise you have to download to your desktop each time you want to work on something. It doesn’t have the rich feature set that a product like Office or iWork does.
I hate me a naysayer.
All those things are true. Docs does have issues with certain types of formatting, and the features aren’t as robust as when using Word or Powerpoint. But this complaint that you have to download files to work with them if you don’t want to convert them to Docs format strikes me as a wee petulant. The underlying complaint here seems to be, ‘how is that any different from Dropbox?”
The thing is, yeah, now you’re uploading content created elsewhere and scratching your head over letting Google convert it to a format it can use. But, when the Docs format or something like it becomes the way (and it will) you won’t be doing that. You’ll be starting and editing every document within your browser.
I used to write all my blog posts in a Word document, upload them to WordPress, and then spend hours screaming at my monitor while I tried to redo all of the beautiful formatting that WordPress had undone. There were nights I spent more time reformatting than I did writing.
You know what’s easier? Just writing the bloody articles in the in-browser editor. Everything I was used to doing in Word has a WordPress equivalent; I just had to learn what they were. I know, effort. But changing mentalities on that one issue made blogging much, much more enjoyable. My forehead was starting to get really veiny.
With Docs, there’s an even bigger incentive to learning a new game….collaboration.
I work in a field where it is a daily fact of life that some of my clients are located in different cities than me. But I still have to meet and work with them to produce a product that is acceptable to both of us. With Docs, here’s how that looks.
Yeah. I’m not a graphic artist. That’s why I like templates.
Now, both Word and Pages have a share button too, but the difference here is that Google wins on easy functionality. With the other productivity suites you have the option of “sharing” to a cloud storage service. By share they mean, ‘hey, if you set up your cloud storage service (like the painfully slow Skydrive) with shared folders, other people can log into your folders, download them, edit them, upload them again and then you can see what they’ve done! Whoooo!’
And that was awesome not too long ago.
But Docs, heh. It’s not even a comparison. That share button lets me open the document up to as many or as few people as I like. I can set permissions to read only or edit. So far, exactly the same as the other offerings. But…When I share that document, I can work on it, in real-time, with the people I’ve shared it with. Live. With chat.
I’m working on a Facebook page design with a client. I share the presentation I’ve built, with that client, over docs. Now the two of us can, while talking, manipulate that presentation together, from two separate machines, until we end up with the result we like. IN REAL TIME. WITH NO DOWNLOADS.
Maybe you’re a screenwriter and you’re working on a script with a friend. Maybe you’re an editor and you want to walk through a manuscript with your writer.
The ability to share and modify and collaborate in real-time is priceless and, in my opinion, one of the shining examples of how products like this can and will redefine productivity. And it’s the in-browser mentality, rather than virtual storage, that makes it possible. I like Dropbox and Sugarsync and like services. But really, they’re the equivalent of having a jump drive in the sky3. This, by contrast, is like having everything you’ll ever have work on, available anytime, instantly and with anyone from any browser.
Is Google Docs perfect? No. I’d like, especially from a company as resource and talent rich as Google, to see Docs play nicer with other formats. The issues that crop up are minor, but annoying and I’d like the option of adding media content from another format without the app choking on it.
But it’s free. And the more of us who find ways to use it, the more time and effort will be thrown into making it not a compatible add-on, but a full replacement for the clunking behemoths of yesterday.
I like progress, especially when it looks like this.
1 Which extends even to tablets which run neither OS. Which, you know, wow.
2If you have specialized requirements i.e. you’re a graphic artist, video editor etc. you’ll likely need to shine on just a bit longer until there are good online tools to replace your native applications. But it’ll come.
3Cloud storage is going to get really useful again as more than a media locker the second someone figures out how to turn my Dropbox folder into a bootable remote drive.
Posted on October 3, 2011, in Fanboy 101, Remedial Classes, The Cloud and tagged Collaboration, Dropbox, Google Apps, Google Docs, iWork, Office, Pages, Sugarsync, Word. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.