Google premiers online tools

Why pay for an expensive productivity package like Office when you can use one for free, online, from any ­computer?

Google is hoping that millions of web users are thinking this — and has begun offering just that.

After buying Writely, an online word-processing program, earlier this year, Google was expected to add it to the web-based spreadsheet application it quietly released a few months ago.

And, as is its habit, Google launched Google Docs & Spreadsheets ( last month with little fanfare and in its ­customary “beta” status, which refers to software in its final pre-release state.

Google’s Gmail webmail is one of the world’s longest-running and most successful beta releases, and an account is a requirement to use Docs, and other Google services for that matter.

Where Office 2007 is a triumph of usability, Google Docs is a triumph of accessibility — as long as you have always-on broadband.

Compared to the new Office, Google Docs is relatively simplistic, but it fulfils its promotional promise to create basic documents and spreadsheets from scratch or to edit existing ones.

“You can easily do all the basics, including making bulleted lists, sorting by columns, adding tables, images, comments, formulas, changing fonts and more,” Google says.

It offers a “familiar desktop feel [that] makes editing a breeze”.

But where it gets interesting is in how it enables you to upload your existing files — either through a browser (by searching your hard drive) or by emailing them to a specific address so they appear on your Docs home page.

It accepts all Microsoft’s Word (.doc) and Excel (.xls) files and the often-used generic equivalents rich-text format (.rtf) and comma separate values (CSV), respectively.

Once these files are online, they are relatively easy to edit — but not quite as easy to share.

Google claims anyone can view the documents, but a person must be a Gmail account holder to edit them.

This didn’t work the first time I tested it, but it did work on subsequent attempts.

It required a Gmail login to view or edit a spreadsheet.

It cleverly autosaves every few minutes but the delay in loading documents is apparent, even on broadband.

Google is using its massive online presence to good effect: enabling Docs users to publish their documents or spreadsheets and allowing anyone to see them — through a unique website address. It also ­facilitates the publishing of blogs.

Google is also integrating its ­various offerings — especially Gmail’s contacts as well as its online calendaring — into the online equivalent of Office.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday