Google Docs, which can be slow and hard to use, is an essential product in need of improvement. At GigaOM, we see problems as opportunity for innovation, so we invite you, readers, to weigh in on how would you fix or change Google’s extremely-handy-but-could-be-so-much-better productivity tools.


If you prefer to work in a “paperless” office the way we do at GigaOM, you’re probably a Google Docs user. Same goes if you’re a remote worker and you need to collaborate with colleagues or customers via the web. And if you’ve used Google’s cloud-based take of Microsoft Office, like many of us, you probably love and curse it at the same time.

You’ve probably had the service randomly go offline at a really inconvenient time, seen general sluggishness or noticed the clunky and not-very-pretty interface. A quick unscientific internal poll brought these issues to our attention:

  • Mishandles formatting when importing documents or data
  • Complex spreadsheets load very slowly
  • Google’s navigation bar, title and menu bar in Spreadsheets overwhelm the viewing pane, taking up a third of the page in some browsers
  • No offline editing
  • Doesn’t handle Powerpoint imports well
  • Underpowered features in Spreadsheets: formulas, functions woefully limited compared to Excel
  • Unreliable sharing feature

Google is a search and advertising company at heart. So it’s not a huge surprise that the company doesn’t intuitively know how to build productivity software and online collaboration tools. But the convenience and integration into other widely used Google products is unavoidable — so it’s not a service that’s going away any time soon.

This is why we want to see it improve. At GigaOM, we see issues like these as opportunities for innovation, so we invite you, readers, to weigh in: If you use the service, what problems have you encountered? And most importantly, how would you improve Google’s extremely-handy-but-could-be-so-much-better productivity tools?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Can you explain what you mean by “had the service randomly go offline”? Are you talking about outages, or about phantom document problems?

  2. I’d like the ability to insert cut cells. It’s tough to reorganize docs without that feature.

  3. April Ricafort Friday, November 11, 2011

    My wish list:
    1. upload directly to the current folder
    2. alternatives to quickly managing folder permissions (quicker way to transfer file ownerships when someone is rolling off the team)
    3. scheduled backups
    4. for spreadsheets: a way to toggle grouping of rows and columns

  4. There is offline editing. Check out the Chrome App store.
    GDocs is clearly behind Microsoft Office, but most people don’t need all the features of Office.
    There are some quirks in functioning, and some are frustrating, but I tried to load a MS Excel sheet on Microsoft’s Skydrive and it went berserk. I did not expect that. I thought their online Excel version was simpler but bug free. Well, it’s not.

  5. Stéphane Gallay Friday, November 11, 2011

    Editable style sheets in Documents.

  6. All of the listed problems are serious detractors from Google Docs usefulness, but for me, the #1 problem is how unreliable the sharing feature is. Supposedly, I should be able to share a folder or a document with anyone. Sometimes I can, sometimes, I can’t, and there just doesn’t seem to be a common factor in either situation. Google account or no, Macs or Windows. None of it seems to matter. Sometimes you can share, sometimes you can’t.

    But what is equally irritating is the lack of support from Google. Of course, there is little support for anything Google, except for forums where everyday Janes and Joes try their best to help out the fellows, but there is seldom a word from an actual Google employee, and when there is, it’s in the form of “We’ll get back to you,” and then a month later, they make major changes to the system, and you problem may disappear, only to be replaced with something else.

    Those are my two major problems with Google Docs.

    However, I think it excels in the area of online forms. I can create a form, post it to the web, and get a very nice spreadsheet of all of the results. While it does have its problems and limitations, they are minor. I think that particular feature is one of their best.

  7. Why care about making Google Docs such less, when you have http://www.docs.com from Facebook and Microsoft, as well as MS Office Web Apps on SkyDrive for free, Office 356, etc, etc?

  8. I have had problems with interruptions in service when using google docs. Fortunately I always store backups locally. That sort of defeats the purpose of shared docs in the first place. Google is improving, thankfully

  9. It is kind of amazing that a company famous for iterating on products is doing so little on docs.

    If they made the data exchange really good with say…. Open Office? Then they could have an offline client right away.

    Another request would be to make document navigation better. If you document is more than a couple of pages, moving around it is really clunky.

  10. 1) whole row color selection by conditions
    2) more flexible sharing options
    3) doc sharing without registering
    4) product: online “ms-access”
    5) no limit when importing data from other datasheets
    6) product: project manager (tasks+gantt)

    and much mucho more


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