Friday, February 6, 2009

Google Docs

Recently I have started using Google Docs. Before that, all my docs were stored in Git and I was reasonably happy with that system.

Reasons for changing:

  • Technical complexity. My system using Git is not suitable for the non-technical members of my family.

  • No syncing now. I move around several trusted computers, each with a clone of my Git docs repository and the master repository is encrypted on a USB memory stick. Finding the USB stick, mounting the encrypted disk image and syncing the repository was not difficult or too time consuming, but it was inconvenient.

  • Version diffs. I never did it, but if I wanted to compare versions of a spreadsheet/document then that would probably be a manual process with the old system as they are stored as a binary file (OpenOffice) on the filesystem.

I had a quick look at Google's competitors - Zoho and ThinkFree. Zoho has many applications, probably with more features than Google, e.g. the Equation Editor with LaTeX support, although it doesn't have a built-in PDF viewer like Google. One day I should investigate it further. ThinkFree looked more specialised and complicated, like MS Office, so I didn't sign up and trial it.

Issues with Google Docs that I have encountered so far:
  • Only upload single files. I wish I could select multiple files to upload at a time.

  • PDF versioning. I can't find a way to replace a PDF with a new version and have that history.

  • Sharing folders. You can't share a folder of documents, you must select the files and share those. Collaborators also only see the individual files, not the folder structure that they have been organised in.

  • Invitation email address. When a sharing, invitation email is sent, it comes from your address, irrespective of your Gmail settings (Accounts -> Send mail as). I don't know whether Google Apps solves this.

I still need to put a backup strategy in place, i.e. periodically download a copy of my documents. Not sure if the Google Gears offline support will be an easy way to achieve that.


Anonymous said...


I discovered I can have multiple lists with Google Apps Pop-in task list. I can set a date and add notes although I have not been able to view all lists at the one time...

The strikeout feature is very useful as well as the view/clear completed tasks.

Matt Campbell

Brad Clow said...

Thanks Matt. I will try it out when my Remember The Milk subscription is up for renewal.