Google Docs

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Google Docs
Logo Google 2013 Official.svg
Google Docs - example document.png
An example of a document in Google Docs
Original author(s) Writely Team
Developer(s) Google Inc.
Written in JavaScript
Platform Internet Explorer 9 and later[1]
Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
Available in 53 languages[2]

Google Docs is a free, web-based 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 It was formerly a storage service as well, but has since been replaced by Google Drive.[3] It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users live. Google Docs combines the features of Writely and Spreadsheets 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 office suite into itself alongside providing improved storage functionality.[4]


Writely's beta logo

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.[5] It was written by Sam Schillace and Steve Newman (both of whom had previously worked on FullWrite and Claris Home Page) and Claudia Carpenter. They were trying out the then new Ajax technology and the "content editable" function in browsers, and intrigued by the idea of making a simpler version of Microsoft Word online.[6]

Spreadsheets, launched as Google Labs Spreadsheets on June 6, 2006,[7] originated from the acquisition of the XL2Web product by 2Web Technologies. 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.[8] At the time of acquisition, Upstartle had four employees.[9] Writely closed registration to its service until the move to Google servers was complete.[8] 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.[10]

Writely originally ran on Microsoft ASP.NET technology which uses Microsoft Windows. Since July 2006, Writely servers appear to be running a Linux-based operating system.[11]

Meanwhile, Google developed Google Spreadsheets using the technology it had acquired from 2Web Technologies in 2005 and launched Google Labs Spreadsheets[7][12] 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.[13]

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 September 17, 2007, Google released their presentation program product for Google Docs.[14]

On July 6, 2009, Google announced on their official blog that Google Docs along with other Google Apps would be taken out of beta.[15]

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.[16]

On January 29, 2010, Google announced that support for Internet Explorer 6 would end on March 1.[17]

On March 7, 2010, DocVerse, an online document collaboration company, was acquired by Google.[18] It allows multiple user online collaboration on Microsoft Office compatible document formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.[19] Improvements based on DocVerse were announced and deployed in April 2010.[20]

In June 2010, it was reported that access to Google Docs had been blocked in Turkey.[21] A Google employee confirmed the problem saying that it "appear[ed] to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube."[22]

On January 31, 2011, Google began to test a new homepage for This shows users all of the files, documents or not without having to go to multiple places.[23]

As of September 29, 2011, Google Docs supports offline viewing through an opt-in beta HTML 5 web app.[24]

On April 26, 2012, Google launched Google Drive, which supplants Google Docs. It combines all of the Docs features with improved storage functionality.[25] This also incorporates the Google Docs service into Google Drive. Google Docs' URL now redirects to Google Drive.

In June 2012, Google announced that it had acquired Quickoffice, a leader in office productivity solutions.[26]

On 28 June 2012, offline editing was made available to Google Docs. 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 Google Sheets and Slides.[27]

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 released for Android on 25 June 2014. According to Google, the iOS version of Google Slides is "coming soon".


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.[28]

Google Docs serves as a collaborative tool for editing documents in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users simultaneously. 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. 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. The application supports two ISO standard document formats: OpenDocument (for both opening and exporting) and Office Open XML (for opening only). It also includes support for viewing proprietary formats such as .doc and .xls.[29][30]

Google Docs is one of many cloud computing document-sharing services.[31] The majority of document-sharing services require user fees. (Google Docs is free for individuals, but has fees for business starting at $5/month.)[32] 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.[33]

In September 2009, an equation editor was added which supports the LaTeX format; however, Google Docs lacks an equation numbering feature.[34][35]

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.[citation needed]

Google Cloud Connect is a plug-in for Windows Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 that can automatically store and synchronize any Microsoft Word document, PowerPoint presentation, or Excel spreadsheet to Google Docs in Google Docs or Microsoft Office formats. The Google Doc 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.[36][37] However, Google Cloud Connect has been discontinued as of April 30, 2013, as Google Drive achieves all of the above tasks, with better results.[38]

Google Spreadsheets and Google Sites also incorporate Google Apps Script to write code within documents in a similar way to VBA in Microsoft Office. The scripts can be activated either by user action or by a trigger in response to an event.[39][40]

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.[41][42]

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.[43][44]

On May 15, 2012, Research tool was introduced in Google Docs.[45] This allows users to easily access Google Search through a sidebar while editing a document.[46]

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.[47]

File limits[edit]

Individual documents may not exceed 1 GB as of 13 January 2010, embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each.[48] Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 10 GB in size.[49]

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.[50]
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.[50]
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.[50]

Supported file formats[edit]

Users can upload files of any format. Google Docs supports 15 file formats for viewing:[51]

Data safety and privacy[edit]

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).[52][53]

  • In a June 2011[54] attack on Google from Jinan, China the passwords were stolen for the Gmail accounts of hundreds of senior US government officials.[52] 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.[53]
  • Google has a close relationship with the United States intelligence agencies[55][56] 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.[57]

Mobile access[edit]

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, 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.[58]

The Safari browser on iOS also allows users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentation and to edit and create Google Docs documents and spreadsheets.[59] 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.[60] PDF files can be viewed but not edited.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google Apps Says Goodbye To Internet Explorer 8, Pulls Support For the Browser
  2. ^ "Docs Blog: Translation and undo smartquotes in documents". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  3. ^ "Google Drive". Google. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  4. ^ McCarty, Brad. "Google Drive is live, completely replaces Google Docs". Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  5. ^ Emily Chang - eHub Interviews Writely[dead link]
  6. ^ Google Docs began as a hacked together experiment, says creator. The Verge (2013-07-03). Retrieved on 2013-11-29.
  7. ^ a b Google Press Center: Google Announces limited test on Google Labs: Google Spreadsheets
  8. ^ a b Official Google Blog: Writely so
  9. ^ - Google Acquires Online Word Processing Company
  10. ^ The Writely Blog: Google Account Sign-in LIVE
  11. ^ keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 report?url= Site report for
  12. ^ Official Google Blog: Its Nice to Share
  13. ^ "Google Announces Google Docs & Spreadsheets". Official Google Press Release. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  14. ^ Attila Bodis (2007-09-17). "Our feature presentation". Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  15. ^ Matthew Glotzbach, Director, Product Management, Google Enterprise (2009-07-07). "Google Apps is out of beta (yes, really)". Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  16. ^ "Upload and store your files in the cloud with Google Docs". Google Drive Blog. Google. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  17. ^ Modern browsers for modern applications
  18. ^ Google buys DocVerse
  19. ^
  20. ^ A rebuilt, more real time Google documents
  21. ^ "Turkey bans Google Books, Google Docs, Google Translate...". The Register. 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  22. ^ "Has Turkey blocked Is anything being done about it?". Google Docs Help Forum. 2010-06-04. 
  23. ^ A refresh to the Documents list
  24. ^ "Google Docs Offline". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  25. ^ "Google Drive". Google. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  26. ^ Warren, Alan (June 5, 2012). "Google + Quickoffice = get more done anytime, anywhere". Official Google Blog. Blogger. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  27. ^ "Google Docs now work offline". 
  28. ^ "Getting to know Google Docs: System requirements". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  29. ^ Google Docs Tour
  30. ^ List of supported file types
  31. ^ PC World: Should you move your business to the cloud?
  32. ^ Google docs Pricing
  33. ^ Firth, Mark & Mesureur, Germain. "Innovative uses for Google Docs in a university language program", The JALT CALL Journal. Retrieved on 2010-06-30.
  34. ^ "Google Docs Has an Equation Editor". Google Operating System: Unofficial news and tips about Google. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  35. ^ "Writing Equations in Google Docs". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  36. ^ Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office available to all
  37. ^ Mashable: Now Anyone Can Sync Google Docs & Microsoft Office
  38. ^ "Migrate from Google Cloud Connect to Google Drive". Google. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  39. ^ Meyer, David (August 20, 2009). "Google Apps Script gets green light". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  40. ^ Finley, Klint (October 22, 2010). "Google Apps Now Offers Business Process Automation on Google Sites with Scripts". ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  41. ^ Google Forms
  42. ^ Wolber, Andy. "Use Google Forms to create a survey". Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  43. ^ "About Google drawings". Google. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  44. ^ Anthony, Sebastion. "Google Docs Drawing tool removes any reason to use MS Paint ever again". Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  45. ^ "Find facts and do research inside Google Documents". 
  46. ^ Research tool
  47. ^ "Add-ons for Docs and Sheets". Google Drive Blog. Google. Retrieved 2014-04-17. 
  48. ^ "Google Docs Help: Size limits". 
  49. ^ "Google Docs size limits". 
  50. ^ a b c "Google Docs size limits". Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  51. ^ "About the Google Drive viewer - Google Drive Help". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  52. ^ a b "China Google hackers' goal: Spying on U.S. Govt". CBS News. 
  53. ^ a b Google software bug shared private online documents, AFP, 10 March 2009
  54. ^ Sanger, David (June 3, 2011). "Hacking of White House E-Mail Affected Diverse Departments". NYTimes. 
  55. ^ Shachtman, Noah (March 14, 2012). "Google Adds (Even More) Links to the Pentagon". Wired. 
  56. ^ Shachtman, Noah (July 28, 2010). "Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future' of Web Monitoring". Wired. 
  57. ^ Shachtman, Noah (February 4, 2010). "‘Don't Be Evil,' Meet ‘Spy on Everyone': How the NSA Deal Could Kill Google". Wired. 
  58. ^ "New mobile apps for Docs, Sheets and Slides—work offline and on the go". Official Google Blog. Google. Retrieved 3 June 2014. 
  59. ^ Appsafari: Google Docs
  60. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Conner, Nancy (2008). Google Apps: The Missing Manual. Sebastopol: Pogue Press. ISBN 978-0-596-51579-9. 

External links[edit]