Google Docs homepage (April 2012)
|Developer(s)||Writely Team (originally)
back end: Java
|Operating system||Web-based application|
|Platform||Internet Explorer 9+
|Available in||Multilingual (53)|
|Type||Online spreadsheet, Presentations, Word processor, Drawing application, Form creator|
Google Docs is a freeware 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 It was formerly a storage service as well, but has since been replaced by Drive. 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 up to 1 GB total in size was introduced on January 13, 2010, but has since been increased to 15 GB. Documents using Google Docs native formats do not count towards this limit. The largely anticipated cloud storage feature by Google is said to be replacing most of Docs' features in 2012. Google Drive, an extension of Google Docs, was opened to the public on April 24, 2012.
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 was written by Sam Schillace, Steve Newman (both of which 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.
Spreadsheets, launched as Google Labs Spreadsheets on June 6, 2006, 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. 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 their official blog that Google Docs along with other Google Apps would be taken out of beta.
On January 13, 2010, Google announced on their official blog that Google Docs would allow any file type, including 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.
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 April 26, 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.
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 to prevent data loss, 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. 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.
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.
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. Google Cloud Connect was discontinued on April 30, 2013; former users are advised to migrate to Google Drive.  This solution is, however, only available to paying users of Google Drive.
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.
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 contains a subset of the features in Google Presentation (Google Slides) but with different templates.
With the launch of Google Docs, 1 GB of storage was included for free. On 24 of April 2012, the free storage increased to 5 GB. Since then, the storage service of Docs has become Google Drive, which shares storage space across all services and provides 15GB of space to free users.
Individual documents may not exceed 1 GB as of 13 January 2010[update], embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each, and spreadsheets are limited to 256 columns, 400,000 cells, and 200 sheets. In September 2009, an equation editor was added which allows rendering in LaTeX format. However, Google Docs lacks an equation numbering feature. 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. Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 10GB in size.
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.
The Android Google Docs app, which is available for free on the Google Play Store, allows users to view, edit, and create Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Android Google Docs app can also take a photo of a document, sign, or other text and use optical character recognition to convert to text that can be edited.
The iPhone and iPad Safari Browser 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.
- Google Drive
- Google Fusion Tables
- File hosting service
- Online office suite
- Cloud collaboration
- List of collaborative software
- List of word processors
- List of online word processors
- Comparison of word processors
- List of online spreadsheets
- List of presentation software
- Comparison of office suites
- List of equation editors
- Google Picasa for image storage
- Google Cloud Connect to sync from Microsoft Office Documents
- Syncdocs to sync any file format
- Document collaboration
- Document-centric collaboration
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- Google Docs
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- Tonic Systems web page (with a few details on Google acquisition)
- Some examples of how Google Docs is used
- Video: Collaboration in Google Docs