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Day 3: Thanks for the Help, But...

Even after figuring out how to do certain things in Google Docs I was still disappointed.

I feel compelled to start today's entry by reiterating the premise of the "30 Days With..." project.

After having used Google Docs in place of Office for the first full work day, my post yesterday was filled with issues and complaints. Some of the comments were constructive and helpful, but many said clever things like "Wow, maybe PCWorld should rename itself to whiney whine whiner world," or "This has got to be a joke. Why is this guy writing an IT article?"

Understand that the whole point of "30 Days With..." is that it is a learning experience. I am essentially live-blogging what it's like to abandon a platform you have used for more than a decade, and try to replace it with something similar cold turkey. While I am sure that Google Docs is a very capable platform in many ways, it is also not Microsoft Office. There will be a learning curve to adjust to Google Docs, and in the end I am sure I will find unique features and benefits in Google Docs, as well as features and functions I miss from Microsoft Office that simply don't exist in Google Docs.

That said, let's review some of the issues I had yesterday with Google Docs, and some of the responses I received in the comments.

There were comments like this one from JoeNC that lean toward the vitriolic end of the spectrum, yet managed to be helpful in some way anyway: "You insist on using an unsupported browser and you can't figure out how to add trailing space beneath paragraphs (it's right there in the line spacing drop-down), and then complain that Google Docs doesn't work the way you want it to?"

See, there is some helpful guidance buried in there. I went back to Google Docs and verified that there is, in fact, a line spacing drop-down in the menu, and that on the list of line spacing options you can choose from ‘Add space before paragraph' or ‘Add space after paragraph'.

I thought it was like a toggle, though, so I was perplexed at why my document was not adding any space even though it seemed that ‘Add space after paragraph' was enabled. I then determined that it is not a switch, but an option that you have to manually select each time you want to implement it.

If I am wrong, please feel free to enlighten me on how to permanently enable the ‘Add space after paragraph' option. But, if this is the best Google Docs has for that issue, it falls short of what I was looking for. I just want to type, hit Enter to move to the next paragraph, and have the space inserted automatically. Having to stop, move from the keyboard to the mouse, open the drop-down, and select ‘Add space after paragraph' after each paragraph is a huge productivity killer. I think I'll just keep double spacing and removing the extra line after the fact when I paste it into the PCWorld tool.

JoshMurphydt9m was more helpful with his comment: "If you don't like the documents opening in new tabs you can change the in the settings page. Just click the gear in the top right corner and select ‘Document Settings'."

Fair enough. I clicked on the little gear icon to go into the Documents settings, and in the section labeled "Where items open" I selected the "In the current window" radio button.

Unfortunately, that setting also seems to fall short of the intended goal. With that setting enabled, when I click on a file from the list in Google Docs, it does open in the same window as advertised. So far, so good. But, if I then click Documents at the top to return to the list, it opens it up in a new tab.

It's not consistent, either. For example, I discovered that clicking on Photos from within Calendar opens in the same tab, but clicking on Photos from within any of the other Google Docs apps opens it up in a new tab. Clicking any other app on the list--Gmail, Documents, Calendar, Reader--in the upper left seems to always open it in a new tab.

While I was in Photos, I noticed another inconsistency. When I am in Gmail, or Documents, or Calendar, or Reader I always see the same list of links at the top to let me access the other Google Docs functions. But, when I click on Photos it opens a Picasa Web Albums page that is missing those links and has no visible connection with Google Docs.

And, yes--for the record, and for the IE9-bashers--this was all done from within Chrome. For those who asked, the lag problem still exists to some extent, but is significantly better in Chrome than in IE. In my opinion, a tool that relies on a wireless Internet connection, or even a wired one, is going to be prone to some lag that wouldn't exist if you were running the software locally. That isn't a condemnation of Google Docs. It is just noting a difference that would not exist if I were still using Microsoft Office.

But, all of that is part of the 30 Days experience. Perhaps by the end of the month it will be my recommendation that Google Docs is great...as long as you use Chrome. We'll see.

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