An example of a document in Google Docs
|Operating system||Web, Chrome, Android, iOS|
|Platform||Internet Explorer 9 and later
|Available in||53 languages|
Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are a free, web-based word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation program respectively, all part of an office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. It was formerly a storage service as well, but has since been replaced by Google Drive. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users live. The three apps are available as web applications, as Chrome apps that work offline, and as mobile apps for Android and iOS.[note 1] The apps are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The suite also consists of Google Forms, Google Drawings and Google Tables (beta). While Forms and Tables are only available as web applications, Drawings is also available as a Chrome app.
The suite is tightly integrated with Google Drive. All files created with the apps are by default saved to Google Drive. It combines the features of Writely and Google Spreadsheets, along with a presentation program incorporating technology designed by Tonic Systems.
Data storage of files was introduced on January 12, 2010, with 1 GB of free space. On April 24, 2012, Google launched Google Drive which supplants Google Docs. Google Drive incorporates the Google Docs suite into itself alongside providing improved storage functionality.
While Google Docs has been criticised for traditionally lacking the functionality of Microsoft Office, it has received praise for its simplicity, ease of collaboration and frequent product updates. The Next Web has described Google Docs as a "pretty robust set of free tools that are improving every month".
Google Docs originated from two separate products, Writely and Google Spreadsheets.
Writely was a web-based word processor created by the software company Upstartle and launched in August 2005. It began as an experiment by programmers Sam Schillace, Steve Newman and Claudia Carpenter, trying out the then new Ajax technology and the "content editable" function in browsers. Writely's original features included a collaborative text editing suite and access controls. Menus, keyboard shortcuts, and dialog boxes are similar to what users may expect in a desktop word processor such as Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer.
On March 9, 2006, Google announced that it had acquired Upstartle. At the time of acquisition, Upstartle had four employees. Writely closed registration to its service until the move to Google servers was complete. In August 2006, Writely sent account invitations to everyone who had requested to be placed on a waiting list, and then became publicly available on August 23. Writely continued to maintain its own user system until September 19, 2006, when it was integrated with Google Accounts.
Meanwhile, Google developed Google Spreadsheets using the technology it had acquired from 2Web Technologies in 2005 and launched Google Labs Spreadsheets on June 6, 2006, as the first public component of what would eventually become Google Docs. It was initially made available to only a limited number of users, on a first-come, first-served basis. The limited test was later replaced with a beta version available to all Google Account holders, around the same time as a press release was issued.
In February 2007, Google Docs was made available to Google Apps users.
In June 2007, Google changed the front page to include folders instead of labels, organized in a side bar.
On July 6, 2009, Google announced on its official blog that Google Docs, along with other Google Apps, would be taken out of beta.
On January 12, 2010, Google announced on its official blog that Google Docs would allow storage of any file type, with 1 GB of free space and $0.25/GB for additional storage.
On March 7, 2010, DocVerse, an online document collaboration company, was acquired by Google. It allows multiple user online collaboration on Microsoft Office compatible document formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Improvements based on DocVerse were announced and deployed in April 2010.
On April 12, 2010, Google launched a standalone drawings editor into the Google Docs suite.
In June 2010, it was reported that access to Google Docs had been blocked in Turkey. A Google employee confirmed the problem saying that it "appear[ed] to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube."
On January 31, 2011, Google began to test a new homepage for docs.google.com. This shows users all of the files, documents or not without having to go to multiple places.
On 26 April 2012, Google launched Google Drive, which supplants Google Docs. It combines all of the Docs features with improved storage functionality. This also incorporates the Google Docs service into Google Drive. Google Docs' URL now redirects to Google Drive.
On 15 May 2012, a research tool was introduced in Google Docs.
On 28 June 2012, offline editing was made available to Google Docs on Chrome and Chrome OS. The capability was announced at Google I/O by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps. Bavor stated that the company was also working on offline support for spreadsheets and presentations.
In October 2012, following the launch of Google Drive, Google Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations were renamed Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, respectively. At the same time, Chrome apps were released which provided shortcuts to the services on Chrome's new tab page.
On 23 January 2013, offline support was extended to Google Slides.
On 11 December 2013, Google released a new version of Google Sheets on the Chrome Web Store that added offline support and removed most of the spreadsheet size restrictions, among other improvements.
On 11 March 2014, Google introduced add-ons for Google Docs and Google Sheets.
On 30 April 2014, Google announced standalone mobile apps for Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides on Android and iOS. While Docs and Sheets were made available on both platforms immediately, Slides was announced to be "coming soon".
On 25 June 2014 at the Google I/O, Google Slides was released for Android, while the iOS version was announced to be released over the "coming weeks". At the same time, a new collaborative feature called 'Suggested Edits' was introduced. A new Chrome extension called 'Office Editing for Docs, Sheets and Slides' was also introduced.
Towards the end of July 2014, Google launched individual home screens for Google Docs, Sheets and Slides on the web. The interfaces incorporate Google's new Material Design language with a simplified menu and extensive use of colours, and is similar to the interface on the mobile apps. Users can still access all of their files collectively through Google Drive.
Google Docs is Google's "software as a service" office suite. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations can be created with Google Docs, imported through the web interface, or sent via email. Documents can be saved to a user's local computer in a variety of formats (ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Office Open XML). Documents are automatically saved to Google's servers, and a revision history is automatically kept so past edits may be viewed (although this only works for adjacent revisions, and there is currently no way to find and isolate changes in long documents). Documents can be tagged and archived for organizational purposes. The service is officially supported on recent versions of the Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome browsers running on Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux operating systems.
Google Docs serves as a collaborative tool for editing documents in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users simultaneously and users are able to see character-by-character changes as other collaborators make edits. Users cannot be notified of changes, but the application can notify users when a comment or discussion is made or replied to, facilitating collaboration. There is no way to highlight changes made by a particular editor in real time during a writing session, nor a way to jump to the changes made. However, an editor's current position is represented with an editor-specific color/cursor, so if another editor happens to be viewing that part of the document they can see edits as they occur. A sidebar chat functionality allows editors to discuss edits. Also, the revision history included in the service allows users to see the additions made to a document, with each author distinguished by color, but the entire document must be manually searched to find these changes. The revision history feature only displays one edit at a time, i.e. only adjacent revisions can be compared, and users cannot control how frequently revisions are saved. A new collaborative feature introduced in June 2014 allows any user with commenting access to make edit suggestions. However, this feature is currently available only for documents.
Google Docs is one of many cloud computing document-sharing services. The majority of document-sharing services require user fees. (Google Docs is free for individuals, but has fees for business starting at $5/month.) Its popularity amongst businesses is growing due to enhanced sharing features and accessibility. In addition, Google Docs has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity among students and educational institutions.
A simple find and replace tool is available; there was no ability to do the search in a reverse direction in the original release, but a later version allowed reverse search and reverse replace.
Google Docs includes a web clipboard tool that allows users to copy and paste content between Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings. The web clipboard can also be used for copying and pasting content between different computers. Copied items are stored on Google's servers for upto 30 days. For most copying and pasting, Google Docs also supports keyboard shortcuts.
Google offers an extension for Google Chrome Office editing for Docs, Sheets and Slides that enables users to view and edit Microsoft Office documents on Google Chrome, via the Docs, Sheets and Slides apps. The extension can be used for opening Office files stored on the computer using Chrome, as well as for opening Office files encountered on the web (in the form of email attachments, web search results, etc.) without having to download them. The extension is installed on Chrome OS by default.
Google Cloud Connect was a plug-in for Windows Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 that could automatically store and synchronize any Microsoft Word document, PowerPoint presentation, or Excel spreadsheet to Google Docs in Google Docs or Microsoft Office formats. The online copy is automatically updated each time the Microsoft Office document is saved. Microsoft Office documents can be edited offline and synchronized later when online. Google Cloud Sync maintains previous Microsoft Office document versions and allows multiple users to collaborate by working on the same document at the same time. However, Google Cloud Connect has been discontinued as of April 30, 2013, as Google Drive achieves all of the above tasks, with better results.
Google Spreadsheets and Google Sites also incorporate Google Apps Script to write code within documents in a similar way to Visual Basic for Applications in Microsoft Office. The scripts can be activated either by user action or by a trigger in response to an event.
Google Forms and Google Drawings have been added to the Google Docs suite. Google Forms is a tool that allows collecting information from users via a personalized survey or quiz. The information is then collected and automatically connected to a spreadsheet with the same name. The spreadsheet is populated with the survey and quiz responses.
Google Drawings allows users to collaborate creating, sharing, and editing images or drawings. Google Drawings can be used for creating charts, diagrams, designs, flow-charts, etc. It contains a subset of the features in Google Slides but with different templates. Its features include laying out drawings precisely with alignment guides, snap to grid, auto distribution, and inserting drawings into other Google documents, spreadsheets, or presentations.
On March 11, 2014, Google introduced add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets which allow users to use third-party applications installed from the add-on stores to get additional features within the main services.
Individual documents may not exceed 1 GB as of 13 January 2010[update], embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each. Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 10 GB in size.
There are also limits, specific to file type, listed below:
- 1,024,000 characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size. Uploaded document files that are converted to Google Docs format can not be larger than 10 MB.
- All the limits on spreadsheets have been removed in the newer version of Google Sheets. In the older version, there could have been a maximum of 256 columns per sheet and 200 sheets per workbook, with 400,000 cells in all. Uploaded spreadsheet files that are converted to Google Sheets format can not be larger than 20 MB, and need to be under 400,000 cells and 256 columns per sheet.
- Presentations created in Google Slides can be up to 50 MB — which is about 200 slides. Uploaded presentation files that are converted into Google Slides format can also be up to 50 MB.
Supported file formats
Users can upload files of any format. Google Docs supports 15 file formats for viewing:
- Microsoft Word (.DOC and .DOCX)
- Microsoft Excel (.XLS and .XLSX)
- Microsoft PowerPoint (.PPT and .PPTX)
- Adobe Portable Document Format (.PDF)
- Apple Pages (.PAGES)
- Adobe Illustrator (.AI)
- Adobe Photoshop (.PSD)
- Tagged Image File Format (.TIFF)
- Autodesk AutoCad (.DXF)
- Scalable Vector Graphics (.SVG)
- PostScript (.EPS, .PS)
- Fonts (.TTF, .OTF)
- XML Paper Specification (.XPS)
- Archive file types (.ZIP and .RAR)
- Video file types (WebM, MPEG-4, 3GPP, MOV, AVI, MPEG-PS, WMV, FLV, Ogg)
Data safety and privacy
In a cloud environment, data security issues and national interests mean that on-line document storage and processing can be unsuitable for use by governments or commercial organisations, especially so where sensitive data or confidential data is being stored, edited or shared on systems and infrastructure that are outsourced and shared with many other organisations, individuals, users (e.g. the Internet).
- In a June 2011 attack on Google from Jinan, China the passwords were stolen for the Gmail accounts of hundreds of senior US government officials. The Gmail address and password would have given the attackers the ability to access other areas of Google for these user accounts (Apps, Docs, etc.). Other systems where the username and password pair were the same could also have been accessed. Also some systems using a password recovery feature could be accessed. (If a password is forgotten a new one is sent to the registered email address. See Password notification email.)
- On 10 March 2009, Google reported, for example, that a bug in Google Docs had allowed unintended access to some private documents. It was believed that 0.05% of all documents stored via the service were affected by the bug. Google claims the bug has now been fixed.
- Google has a close relationship with the United States intelligence agencies and provides information to intelligence agencies around the world upon request via established protocols (e.g. RIPA in the UK). Google is primarily a US-based company. Certain commentators have argued that to protect national interests, it is unwise for some non US citizens to use some of the Google services.
On April 30, 2014, Google announced standalone mobile apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets on Android and iOS. A similar app for Google Slides was stated to be "coming soon". Google Slides for Android was released on 25 June 2014 at the Google I/O developers conference, while the iOS version is still "coming soon". Google Docs, Sheets and Slides allow users to create, view and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations respectively. These apps also work offline and are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats.
The Safari browser on iOS also allows users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentation and to edit and create Google Docs documents and spreadsheets. Furthermore, the Google App for iPhone and iPad allows users to view and edit Google Docs files. Most other mobile devices can also view and edit Google Docs documents and spreadsheets using a mobile browser. PDF files can be viewed but not edited.
- Cloud collaboration
- Document collaboration
- Document-centric collaboration
- Google Drive
- Google Fusion Tables
- Google Slides has not yet been made available for iOS, as of July 2014, although Google had announced on 25 June 2014 that the app would be released in the "coming weeks".
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- Google Forms
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- Research tool
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- Google Docs
- Official Google Docs Blog on Blogger
- Tonic Systems web page (with a few details on Google acquisition)
- Some examples of how Google Docs is used
- Video: Collaboration in Google Docs