Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Google Docs moves from tags to folders -- sort of

Google reports on its GDocs blog:
Almost from the day we launched people have been clamoring for folders. They're here! Even cooler, our new folders continue to work like the tags they've replaced - your old tags are automatically converted to folders and documents can live in more than one folder at a time. Organizing your documents is as easy as dragging and dropping a document to a folder. We've also included special controls for seeing only those documents created by you or shared with a particular person.

So what's the "move," exactly? Here's a quick translation of the above:

  • Tags are now called folders.
  • Instead of text, tags are represented by a large side panel ful of folder icons.
  • Folders still work as tags -- you can add a doc to more than one folder.
  • Oh, you can drag documents to "folders" (tags) or you can use the drop down menu that used to be called "Tag."

Beyond the dragging, not much new here beyond increasing the comfort level of those who are used to more icon-driven interfaces. I mean, really. Is dragging going to be the killer feature? Duncan Riley of TechCrunch thinks so:

Folders are the biggest change. Google has not abandoned tagging and yet the inclusion of folders would indicate that Google is finally listening to the millions of people who prefer folders in preference to tagging.

The question I do have is what about Gmail? Without hopefully causing a flurry of people telling me how wonderful tagging is, I’m one of those (perhaps crazy) people who download my email from Gmail into a desktop based email client, and I do so only due to the lack of folders in Gmail. Hopefully the inclusion of folders in Google Docs is a sign of future functionality in Gmail.

I'm not going to tell Riley how wonderful tagging is, but I am going to point out that this new feature is not a new feature. It is tagging. Adding little folder icons is not a feature, it is the equivalent of putting spinning rims on a car.

Fortunately, GDocs also includes some genuinely new features. You can now view documents by collaborator. Your view defaults to reverse chronological order divided into "Today," "Earlier this month," and "Earlier this year." Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to recover the original, clean interface; to order docs in a different way; or to archive docs so they are not taking up your visual field. For me, the changes are a net loss.

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