Product in Focus — Google Docs
Collaboration, word processing, and my everyday go-to work tool.
By October 2022, Google Docs will turn 16 years old.
Google Docs serves its primary purpose very well, enabling users to write, collaborate with others, and make their documents accessible across multiple devices with internet connection.
Even in Lagos traffic, I can accept suggestions, write comments, and make corrections to my documents on my mobile phone… Lol
Google Docs is not only a great writing tool for me, but it is also my favorite work tool.
From a product management perspective, I shared a brief background, favorite features, and recommendations.
You might find a few things you can do differently the next time you use Google docs.
Owning a Gmail account is a passport to all Google applications, including Google Docs. It is available both as a mobile and a web-based application. Users can access all the features for free without needing a “product key” or license.
Prior to the launch of Google Docs in 2006, Microsoft Word was the Defacto word processor, launched some 23 years before Google Docs. It was widely adopted among students, educators, and everyone who needed to create documents.
I guess it’s fair to say Google Docs is one of those tools users didn’t know they needed before it was created.
Microsoft Word is a powerful and successful product that originated from a series of innovations to improve writing productivity (Read about the innovation of word processing here).
Google Docs was launched as a cloud-based tool targeted primarily at office workers. Because workers are more likely to have internet access than any other segment of the potential user population.
It was easy for users to adopt the tool in the early days because of its familiar interface, similar to the pre-existing tool (Microsoft Word).
These users freaked out when they couldn’t “save their documents” because to not “save their documents” would mean losing all their work in Microsoft Word. — As reported by its creator Sam Schillace in this article.
They were like, how am I sure that I wouldn’t lose this document forever if I don’t save it?
Google Docs has a lot of helpful features that make work(life) efficient and productive. Listed below are 5 of my favorites.
Collaboration, Live edits, Commenting et al.
The first time I experienced someone editing the same document as I was magical. In my mind, I could not comprehend how such technology existed… and even though I now find it normal, it is very time-, stress-, and effort-saving. The ability to collaborate on shared documents is a great enabler of remote work.
1. User Access
Users can share different access levels with collaborators, or even anyone on the internet. You can transfer ownership, update user access or restrict any type of edits on your document.
2. Revision history
The thing I like about the revision history feature is the ability to track and recover your writing no matter how long you started working on it.
Users can look at a document’s entire revision history to figure out what was changed, by who, and when. This means that you can retrieve paragraphs, pages, or even an entire document from day one.
3. Suggesting, viewing, and editing mode
It is not uncommon for new ideas to pop into your mind when reviewing your own work or that of others, you can use the “suggesting mode” to pen down these ideas so that you can revisit them later. The default mode for writing is the “Edit mode”, however, you can suggest edits by switching to the “suggesting mode”
4. Comments, Tag People in Comments, emoji
If you have to collaborate on several documents with one person, It is way more efficient to have your conversations on your working document than having to discuss over other platforms.
Users can view messaging history, reply and even tag other collaborators on different parts of a word document. The best thing is that you get notified in your email inbox.
5. Add-ons for Grammar check and more
Add-ons empower you to add new functionalities that you might need.
Other than Grammarly, WordTune is my current favorite add-on. It is an AI tool that can help to improve the quality of a sentence. You can find more add-ons on Google Workspace Marketplace.
Other features you might want to explore are
- Voice Typing for Easier Thought Processing
- Accessibility across multiple devices.
- Offline Mode for Writing Anywhere
- Voice typing
- Reaction with emoji to any part of your document.
- Basic image edit capabilities
- Integration with several other applications.
As a Google Docs fan, other features I would love to see added are
1. Dark mode
I usually access Google Docs via my Desktop Chrome browser. I use the Chrome dark mode theme and It was surprising when I realized I couldn’t switch Google Docs to dark mode as well. A lot of users spend a large chunk of their time viewing screens across their mobile devices and laptops. A dark mode feature will enable users to preserve their eyes while conducting their numerous on-screen activities.
2. Ability to pin docs
Google Docs is a multifunctional tool.
It is just as useful for business writing as for personal productivity. I would like to be able to pin documents to the “Docs Home” page. This will make it easier to access frequently used documents and save time remembering the titles.
In the early years of word processing applications, people spent a decent amount of money and time learning “how to type without looking at the keyboard”. The existing tool, (Microsoft word) although suffices for creating documents, Google Docs solves a problem users might not have anticipated is possible. The ability to collaborate on a single document seamlessly without the email back and forth, and loss of documents in transition.
Now your turn, do you use Google Docs? Please share your favorite features or any recommendation you would like to see in the comments.