Until recently, the Android Google Drive application was used to manage and edit Google Documents and Quickoffice used for Microsoft Office format files.
Google released the Google Docs and Google Sheets applications at the end of April 2014, the new way of editing Google’s own format documents and spreadsheets. The Google Drive application was updated a few days later removing the ability to edit these documents, instead taking users to the new applications via the Google Play Store.
Let’s take a look at Google Docs and the new features available with the application.
Firstly, Docs is free but you’ll need a device running Android 4.0 or greater and a Google account. Docs integrates into your Google account just as Google Drive does. You can star, or favorite, files from with Drive or Docs, and you can also make them offline from either application, too.
As a word processor, Google Docs is an interesting product because it’s basic compared with most of the competition. It has fewer features than most other Android word processors. You get the basics plus a couple of real advantages.
The usual array of text editing functions are available including formatting, font size, color and typeface. You can also justify your text, use bullet points and paragraph indentation.
Plus when your Android device is working online, Google Docs gives you spell and grammar checking. This is able to cope with both my British and American writing!
One feature that’s missing is the ability to insert or edit images into a document. You must add new images to the document using a web browser (you can use Chrome on the Android device running in Desktop Mode if you want to). Google have enabled the ability to add and edit tables into documents so I suspect that the ability to add a document is a feature that’s going to be implemented at a later stage.
However, one of Google Doc’s main advantages is that it keeps your document synchronized with your Google Account. In other words, as you edit a file any changes are very quickly synchronized to the online copy.
If you are editing the same document across multiple devices and even platforms, changes made in one version are quickly reflected in the other open copies. This service is relatively kind to your data allowance whereas offline document synchronization is less so.
It’s very difficult to lose data through device crashes or losing connectivity. Another advantage of this is that users do not need to consciously synchronize between their devices. Instead, you just use your documents as you need to and don’t need to worry about keeping things up to date.
The other advantage of Google Docs is that offline file synchronization obeys Google’s AutoSync preferences. If you are trying to save bandwidth or battery, you don’t need to worry about changes to your documents elsewhere as these will not be copied back to your device until you tell it to.
Despite lacking in features, Google Docs is not always the speediest of applications. Screen rotation operations can take quite a time with a larger document as can reformatting, but bear in mind that a couple of my documents easily exceed the 100,000 word point.
To summarize, there are plenty of ways that Google can improve on the Android Google Docs application. It feels like a lightweight word processor and whilst it offers great integration with your Google account, this is something we’ve grown to expect with the Android platform. It’s difficult to level much criticism at some performance issues when working with novel-sized documents because all of my portable devices are slower working with big documents compared with small documents.
As a few-thrills way to enter and edit large amounts of text, Google Docs is a viable application. It relies on the Google infrastructure and it’s here where the app excels. However, I leave my more sophisticated document work to the web browser client or my Chromebook.