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Day 28: My Five Biggest Google Docs Complaints

I reflect on the biggest issues I have encountered, and what I have missed most about Microsoft Office.

We've come down to the wire on 30 Days With...Google Docs. The final three days will be spent reflecting on the experience, starting today with my five biggest pet peaves about Google Docs.

1. Browser Tabs. While many readers commented--some more nicely than others--or sent me emails to explain that there is an option in Document Settings to open new items in the current window, that setting seems to have a very limited scope. Although opening a document will use the same tab Google Docs is already in, clicking Documents from that open document will open Google Docs in a new tab.

2. File Fidelity. As much as I would like to consider Google Docs as a standalone product on its own merits, the reality is that most of the world relies on Microsoft Office, and much of the value of Google Docs hinges on its ability to work with Microsoft Office files and file formats. Even if I never personally used Microsoft Office again, I would still need to work with Microsoft Office files on a regular basis, and my peers and customers would be very annoyed when I returned those files to them with all of the formatting jacked because Google Docs does not do a great job at preserving the file fidelity in converting documents back and forth.

3. Translations. Although Google hypes the ability of Google Docs to translate text into so many different languages as a benefit, my tests found that the resulting translations were mostly useless gibberish. The tool might work fine for individual words, or even complete sentences, but translating entire documents did not go well at all--especially when translating to languages that use different alphabets, or reverse the reading direction from the Western standard of left-to-right to right-to-left.

4. Google-centric. Many of the features and capabilities of Google Docs are tied to the need for everyone involved to have a Google account and be logged in. Sharing files, online collaboration, the comments and discussions, etc., all require participants to have Google accounts. In the real world, some partners, peers, or customers may not have a Google account and may not want one. Granted, Google accounts are free so it is not the end of the world, but for businesses that may not have Microsoft Office, Microsoft offers free utilities to view and work with Microsoft Office files for free as well--and those don't require you to sign up and log in.

5. The Little Things. Really, if I had to choose my biggest complaint about Google Docs, it would be this--the little things. The little things add up. The little things make work more efficient, and life easier. Which little things, you ask? Things like having the word count of a document displayed at the bottom so I can see it as I type rather than having to stop and select the option from a menu. Things like having easy, right-click access to synonyms as I type instead of having to install some thesaurus browser extension. Things like being able to paste content into a document and choose how to format it on the fly, or being able to dynamically see what different heading or font choices might look like before I select them.

I am sure it sounds to some as if I am just whining about trivial things. But, it is those trivial things that I rely on throughout the day, and those are the things I have missed the most during this experience.

I have to be fair, though, and point out that using Microsoft Office instead of Google Docs would not resolve some of these issues. While they aren't browser tabs, opening a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, Outlook email, and a PowerPoint presentation simultaneously does, in fact, open four different applications on my Task Bar. Perhaps it is an unreasonable pet peave to expect Google Docs to somehow keep all of the different applications contained within a single browser tab.

And, although I haven't tested it to the same extent that I ran Google Docs through the wringer, in my limited experience using the Translate feature in Microsoft Office the results have not been any better really. Apparently, translation technology just has a way to go before it can do more than translate single words.

Fear not, though. There are some things that I really liked about Google Docs as well. We'll talk about those tomorrow.

Day 27: Google Docs Scripts and Power Tips


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