Google Docs, Sheets and Slides
The Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides icons
|Initial release||March 9, 2006|
|Operating system||Web, Chrome, Android, iOS|
|Available in||53 languages|
|Initial release||October 31, 2012|
|Operating system||Web, Chrome|
Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides are a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation program respectively, all part of a free, web-based software office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. The suite allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users in real-time.
The three apps are available as web applications, as Chrome apps that work offline, and as mobile apps for Android and iOS. The apps are compatible with Microsoft Office file formats. The suite also consists of Google Forms (survey software), Google Drawings (diagramming software) and Google Fusion Tables (database manager; experimental). 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.
While Google Docs has been criticized for traditionally lacking the functionality of Microsoft Office, it has received praise for its simplicity, ease of collaboration and frequent product updates. In 2011 The Next Web 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.
Google Spreadsheets, first launched as a limited test on Google Labs on June 6, 2006, originated from the product XL2Web by 2Web Technologies, which was acquired by Google in June 2005. 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.
Summary of developments
In February 2007, Google Docs was made available to G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Business) users.
In June 2007, Google changed the front page to include folders instead of labels, organized in a side bar.
In July 2009, Google announced on its official blog that Google Docs, along with other Google Apps, would be taken out of beta.
In January 2010, Google announced:
- That Google Docs would allow storage of any file type, with 1 GB of free space and $0.25/GB for additional storage.
- That support for Internet Explorer 6 would end on March 1.
In March 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 April 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."
In January 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.
In 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.
In May 2012, a research tool was introduced in Google Docs.
In June 2012, Google announced:
- That it had acquired Quickoffice, a leader in office productivity solutions.
- That 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.
In January 2013, offline support was extended to Google Slides.
In 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.
In March 2014, Google introduced add-ons for Google Docs and Google Sheets.
In 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".
In June 2014 at the Google I/O conference, 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.
In 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.
In September 2016, Google released "Explore" updates to Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
- Explore button in Docs uses machine intelligence to show relevant Google search results based on information in the document, simplifying information gathering. Users can also mark specific document text, press Explore and see Google search results based on the marked text only.
- Explore button in Sheets enables users to ask questions, such as "How many units were sold on Black Friday?", and Explore will return the answer, without requiring formula knowledge from the user.
- Explore button in Slides will dynamically generate design suggestions based on the contents of the slide.
In October 2016, Google announced:
- "Action items" to Docs, Sheets, and Slides. If a user writes phrases such as "Ryan to follow up on the keynote script", the respective service will intelligently assign that action to "Ryan". Google states this will make it easier for other collaborators to see which person is responsible for what task. When a user visits Google Drive, Docs, Sheets or Slides, any files with tasks assigned to them will be highlighted with a badge.
- The Forms service can now automatically generate answer suggestions when creating forms, as well as an "Upload file" option for users answering to share content through.
- Voice typing in Docs gets formatting and customization improvements, particularly changing text color, deleting words, and inserting links and comments.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are the three primary services that form Google's "software as a service" office suite. Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations can be created with the suite. When editing, changes 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). Using the Google Chrome browser, users can save documents, spreadsheets, and presentations for offline viewing and editing. Documents can also be exported to a user's local computer in a variety of formats (ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Office Open XML). Documents can be tagged and archived for organizational purposes. The service is officially supported on recent versions of the Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, and Safari web browsers running on the Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS operating systems.
The suite serves as a collaborative tool for cooperative editing 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. Only adjacent revisions can be compared, and users cannot control how frequently revisions are saved.
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 up to 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. 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. The add-on store was also made available to Google Forms in October 2014.
- Documents (Google Docs)
- Up to 1.02 million characters, regardless of the number of pages or font size. Document files converted to .gdoc Docs format cannot be larger than 50 MB. Images inserted cannot be larger than 50 MB, and must be in either .jpg, .png, or non-animated .gif formats.
- Spreadsheets (Google Sheets)
- Up to 2 million cells.
- Presentations (Google Slides)
- Presentation files converted to .gslides Slides format cannot be larger than 100 MB. Images inserted cannot be larger than 50 MB, and must be in either .jpg, .png, or non-animated .gif formats.
Supported file formats
Files in the following formats can be viewed and converted to Docs, Sheets or Slides formats:
- For documents: .doc (if newer than Microsoft Office 95), .docx, .docm .dot, .dotx, .dotm, .html, plain text (.txt), .rtf, .odt
- For spreadsheets: .xls (if newer than Microsoft Office 95), .xlsx, .xlsm, .xlt, .xltx, .xltm .ods, .csv, .tsv, .txt, .tab
- For presentations: .ppt (if newer than Microsoft Office 95), .pptx, .pptm, .pps, .ppsx, .ppsm, .pot, .potx, .potm
- For drawings: .wmf
- For OCR: .jpg, .gif, .png, .pdf
It should be noted that the viewing/conversion is not always complete or accurate (inaccuracies are mainly formatting and will be visible). Converting a document from a Microsoft format or ODF to Google and back again will remove some information and features, and the layout can subtly change. In particular, Google does not support file/document properties (metadata), which would be viewable from Windows Explorer and within the relevant Microsoft application; when converting a document from Google format the file/document properties will not be set.
While Google Docs, Sheets and Slides are primarily online services, offline viewing and editing is supported by enabling offline availability for each file in the Android and iOS apps; when using a PC or Mac, users must have the desktop application installed, and can then enable offline sync of Docs, Sheets and Slides to their computer in Google Drive settings. Documents, spreadsheets and presentations are saved as links (.gdoc, .gsheets, .gslides) that launch an offline replica of the respective service's webpage in the Google Chrome browser.
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 was released on 25 August 2014. 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, simply download as the relevant file format.
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
- Collaboration software
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