Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Google Docs revamp: Our first look at GDrive

The new Google Docs & Spreadsheets revamp must surely be our first look at Google’s GDrive.

To me, this simply looks like an iterative move towards what is looking more and more like a full-blown online platform. Let’s look at what draws me towards this conclusion.

Firstly, the changes made to the document management side of Google Docs & Spreadsheets have been made completely independently of the document creation apps. Create a new document or spreadsheet and those screens haven’t changed at all. They load in a new window or tab and now feel almost like completely distinct applications.

What is completely obvious is this revamp has been set up to allow for the integration of Google Presentations.
– Where as the old Google Docs & Spreadsheet always referred to ‘documents’ the new revamp refers to ‘items’.
– The icons now much more clearly distinguish between documents and spreadsheets with the use of colour – a necessity as you add more file types.
– Google has prominently introduced an ‘Items by File Type’ – which right now is pretty lonely with just documents and spreadsheets options

You wouldn’t need to be a brain surgeon to assume that whatever else Google adds to its online productivity suite will be integrated with this file management system, given these pretty clear moves to make the application more generic and less tied to the wordprocessor and spreadsheet application.

So the next question to ask yourself is: If you’re storing your wordprocessing documents, your spreadsheet documents and your presentation files – easily the main file types for most users then are you really going to want to use another file management system to store images, PDFs, videos, etc on an online storage drive. I don’t think so.

Given that fairly logical assumption that it makes sense for this to evolve into Google’s file management system, let’s take a look at the considerable headroom that has been built into this interface.

If you go into any folder, you will notice Google has given over an enormous amount of screen real estate for information about the folder. There is one basically redundant tab called Items. I think we might expect to see a couple more tabs, probably a Users and Settings tab that will greatly expand the usefulness of these folders.

As it stands, there was no reason for Google to move to the folder presentation model. The folders still act like the old tags; ie you can label your documents in multiple ways. But tags as they are understood are very basic creatures, they’re simply an identifier and not hugely useful for doing any real filing, sorting or retrieval of documents.

Folders on the other hand can be hierarchical. You can share folders. You can give folder’s descriptions. All of these things are going to be necessary for people who store a lot of files or documents within this environment. If you’ve got 100 tags/folders, its hardly going to be an easy proposition to have to scroll through all those simply to file a document. The folders have to become hierarchical and I belive they have to have sharing mechanisms. As a heavy user of google docs I can tell you that sharing, while extremely valuable and really the primary value-add is a pain-in-the-butt to have to keep typing in email addresses for every doc I share. Dragging and dropping into a folder will be a far more elegant solution and I’m sure it must be in the product plans.

Again, if you’re going to build a sophisticated file management system like this, it would certainly make sense for it to drive your online file storage system wouldn’t it?

One final question still to be answered is what will Google do with the name ‘Google Docs and Spreadsheets’ once it adds presentations in the not-too-distant future. One would think it is going to have to reveal where it’s going with this product line at that point. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we don’t see a simultaneous launch of Google Presentation and Google Drive.

Filed under: Google

New Google Docs a sign of things to come

Google has just rolled out the new version of Google Docs and it looks to me like it could indicate a design revamp across the entire Google productivity suite. Click the thumbnail below to check it out.

docs.jpg

So what’s new or changed? Well, Google has embraced “folders”. People ‘get’ folder. They’re used to working with them and quite simply they make a lot more sense than Tags or Labels. The only downfall to folders is that you haven’t been able to put stuff in more than one folder at a times using the Windows model. Google’s Docs folders still act the same as the old tags or labels, you can still put a document in more than one folder; ie apply multiple tags. But you can potentially do a lot more with a folder. Right now, the only thing Google is letting you do is add a description but I’m sure it won’t be too long before we’re able to share folders. That will be a god-send for Google Docs. It annoys the hell of me, having to go through the share process. If I could just drag a doc into a folder and have it automatically shared with the people who have access to that folder – its going to make life much easier.

There’s of course drag and drop into folders and I don’t think this is going to be limited to Google Docs. I expect to see this same design rolled out into GMail and probably Google Reader.

What I’ve found very interesting is that we made the decision about two months ago when we started the development of our website to use an interface and design that is very, very similiar to this.  We had previously used a design that was for the most part based on the GMail design, but we’ve found it to be pretty limiting.

Well done Google. This is a massive improvement. I’m now such an online apps junkie that I can’t stand using desktop apps and this is going to drag me even more into the mentality.

Filed under: AJAX Challenge

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