Monday, April 21, 2008

Google Docs + Google Gears -- preliminary impressions

I've been waiting for Google to roll out Docs + Gears integration because I want to see how the web app is extended to the client for offline access. Now I've been able to test it, some initial impressions:
  • Editing existing docs seems fine. Big yellow message at top to let you know you're editing offline.
  • Spreadsheets are view-only. (Mentioned in Help.)
  • Presentations are greyed out. You can see them in the list, but you can't get to them. (Mentioned in Help.)
  • Can insert comments in docs (great for offline grading).
  • Cannot create new docs -- that's a real handicap, and I suppose you can leave a few blank docs hanging out there if you absolutely want to compose new things in GDocs. (Mentioned in Help.)
  • Once you have edited a doc, in the docs list it says "Edited offline" next to it. Great.
  • Can still view by doc type, by folder. Can still assign to folders and remove from folders.
  • Can only print via "Printer-Friendly HTML."
  • "More actions" only allows "Preview."
  • Offline Help available but rudimentary.
  • Can delete docs.
  • Can sort docs.
Overall, this integration is not as great as I had hoped. The word processor works fine to edit existing docs, but since you can't create new ones, it's pretty limited. I guess you could have a few blank docs hanging out there just in case, but that seems like a bit of a hack.

On the other hand, GDocs is a good way for students to share their assignments, and I could insert comments even when offline. I also have several manuscripts to edit, so I doubt I would be at a loss for work during short periods.

I'll continue to road-test GDocs over the next few days. If you're doing the same, why don't you drop me a line or write your experience in the comments.
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