Friday, 19 December 2008

Google Docs: What It Needs To Be Great.

         Well after posting a comment on the Official Google Docs blog about the future of Google Docs and hearing nothing back, I've decided to predict what the future of Google Docs will be. 
          First of all, lets begin with the near future, maybe what Google Docs will be able to do in 1 year. It can import and export most of the common file formats, although there is no support yet for .docx. The word processor, Documents, is in badly nead of page view. Fixed-width view is now available, but margin changes in printer settings are not reflected on the screen, there are no page breaks unless the user inserts them, and alignment of text varies depending on zoom level. All of this really needs to be fixed up. I checked out Zoho writer and they do have a page view, but margins did not seem consistent and again text alignment varied with zoom level. Another thing needed by Documents is an equation editor, science geeks like myself are constantly writing documents that contain equations and not having one in our word processor is a major pain. The only way for me to solve this problem is to use an online equation editor and then copy and paste the equation into my documents. Another feature that should be added is the ability to copy and paste pictures from the computer to a document. This can be only be done with online photos, any photos on the computer must be inserted by going through the whole insert photo process. More photo formats besides the two (JPEG and possibly TIFF) should be allowed to insert into a document.
         Now lets look at spreadsheets. Out of the three applications, I have used this one the least. Last week (early October, 2008) the interface was updated, which was much needed. For smaller spreadsheets, its speed is on par with desktop based applications, but when they get larger, especially when extra sheets are added, it sure does slow down, this definitely needs to be fixed up. Besides that, more numerical formats should be available. Currently, the number of places after the decimal place can only be defined to 2, this is a major inconvenience for number crunchers like myself. Also, the graphing needs to be improved, and trendlines (line of best fit) should be added. As far as I know, these features aren't available on other online spreadsheet applications, but if they are, let me know. 
The final application to be discussed is Presentations. This application is extremely easy to use and offers basic presentation editing. Youtube videos can be easily inserted, along with photos, and some basic shapes. The only animation available is incremental reveal, but what I've realized lately is that the more fancier ones are distracting. Powerpoint files can be uploaded and slides inserted into a presentation, and I absolutely love having a chat window within the viewer, it works very well for getting students involved in discussions. So, the big things that this app. needs are: a few more animations, increase the number of available shapes, ability to upload videos from desktop, editing of html and css, use of special characters, and subscript/superscipt. Maybe they can produce something similar to sliderocket if they can get the Native Client technology working. 
Right now I would classify Google Docs as good. It has a good set of basic features, and offers excellent collaboration features. With the deveopment of teachnologies such as Native Client, Docs will hopefully be classified as great, and will have a full set of features similar to desktop apps. I can't wait for the future!!