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Day 13: Google Docs on the iPhone

Google Docs seemed to work OK on the iPad, so I decided to check it out on the iPhone. It is not an experience I recommend.

I am really pushing the envelope on this mobile computing thing now. Here I sit, typing a 30 Days With...Google Docs post in Google Docs on my iPad over a Verizon 4G MiFi portable hotspot while sitting in the middle of a field at my daughter's soccer practice. But, we can push that envelope just a bit farther, so today I am going to examine using Google Docs on a smartphone--specifically my iPhone.

If I had an Android smartphone, I could be using the Google Docs app, but I don't. There are a couple third-party apps for viewing Google Docs, but there is no app for actually working in Google Docs on iOS.

But, Google Docs is a Web-based tool, and my iPhone has a Web browser, so I can just go in to docs.google.com on the Safari browser on my iPhone. Just like on the iPad, when you go to the Google Docs site you are automatically redirected to the mobile version.

The basic layout and steps to use to start a new document (or spreadsheet) are the same on the iPhone as they were with the iPad. Once you get to the actual document, though, thing start to get dicey.

The document editing screen also looks like what I saw with the iPad for the most part. The main difference that is immediately obvious is that the iPhone doesn't have the huge swath of wasted space at the bottom. But, I could tap the text editing region to bring up the virtual keyboard and tap away to type some sentences. So far, so good.

I discovered that the drop-down at the top of the document editing region only has Print as an option on the iPhone, but the link to switch to the normal Desktop mode is still at the bottom. But, once I switched to the Desktop version I could no longer work with the document. I tapped and tapped, but could not get the virtual keyboard to appear. So, I switched back to the Mobile version and was able to add and edit text once again.

But, I found that typing text would only work with new documents created on the iPhone, and only during the initial session. If I open any existing files from my Collections on Google Docs, I can read them just fine, but I can not edit them. No amount of tapping will make the virtual keyboard appear. If I create a new file on the iPhone, then go back to the Google Docs home and select that file again to work with it, I get the same result--no can do.

I checked out the spreadsheet function and found that it has some of its own quirks, but at least I can edit fields in existing spreadsheet files. It is not the same as doing it in the normal Google Docs, though. The various worksheet tabs are all a jumble of links at the top of the display, and you have to scroll down to get to the actual spreadsheet data. There is an additional column inserted on the left with a link that says Edit. When you click Edit it opens that row for editing and pops up the virtual keyboard. Once you are done editing, you have to tap a Submit button to register the changes.

Bottom line? You can review files in Google Docs on an iPhone, but I wouldn't plan on editing them, and I certainly wouldn't suggest trying to create content on the iPhone. It might provide some limited functionality in an extreme emergency, but it is not for the feint of heart.

If you absolutely must have Google Docs capabilities on your smartphone, get yourself an Android model and use the Google Docs app--although, apparently that can be a bit of an adventure as well.

Day 12: Google Docs on the Go With My iPad

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