Learning to Love Google Docs

Google DocsOh, Google Docs, how I’ve wanted to love you. Sometimes, I can be at the “cutting-edge” of technology and new Web apps, but at other times, I’m practically a Luddite.

I’ve been a fan of Gmail for so long but have avoided the Docs feature for almost as long because I just wasn’t getting it. Why did I need to upload my documents, I wondered, when I could easily email them to my clients or team members. What was the big deal?

Beause I’m not one to “read the manual,” when I finally started using Google Docs in the middle of last year, I didn’t take advantage or even know what it could do. Even today, as I find myself using it daily, I’m still finding features I never knew existed so it is like falling in love all over again with each discovery. Here’s is the evolution of my slowly evolving love of GD.

1. Document Hell. It started out as a purely desperate move to track a mish mash of spreadsheets that several team members generated on a client project. Keeping a handle on each update, passing each different spreadsheet around to just the team members who needed it, and updating them then passing the new version along to everyone was causing mass confusion. Finally, I gave in to my GD resistance and uploaded each spreadsheet, using one as the master document for everyone to access and edit. The dark clouds parted, the sun shone through, and suddenly, there was order in the chaos.

Google Docs 12. The Computer Shuffle. I didn’t go back to GD until a few months later as I was transferring files from my old PowerBook to my new MacBook and began misplacing files and current versions of files. Why not just upload the current versions to GD, a voice inside my head said one day. So I did. And it was a good thing. I was able to not only access those critical documents from my new MacBook but also from any computer I happened to be on, anywhere. Ahhhh, I was seeing the light.

3. Long-term Collaboration. As I prepared the manuscripts to my upcoming podcast, I started sharing them with my producer on Basecamp. She obliged me, and checked them out but commented that the “writeboard” or whiteboard collaboration feature wasn’t up to snuff because it required its own markup language. “Try Google Docs,” she said. She had found GD and was a convert. She uploaded the first manuscript. I was frustrated because I wanted to see her previous revisions after I made my changes to the script. “Look at the Revision History,” she said. Revision history? I didn’t know GD had a revision history feature! I swear a choir of angels sang and trumpets trumpeted in my head with that discovery.

4. Quick Collaboration. I just started working on a rough Table of Contents to land a new book deal and have asked another writer to co-author the book with me. With me in Alaska and her on the East Coast, I knew that email and the occasional phone call would be all we’d need. But I was wrong. We needed GD. We each took a stab at the TOC, then I uploaded both versions and used one of the versions as the foundation for the collaborative draft. Then I discovered another feature. When I went to save the document so I could email it to my book agent, I noticed that I could actually attach the document to my email to her directly from GD. Confession: I just discovered this within the last few days. I know I’m missing more of GD’s capabilities, and I may be cursed to stumble upon them by accident over time. But at least I have found GD. And it is good.

Google Docs5. The Hobby. I’d be remiss if I didn’t confess to one more thing. I have actually been using GD to track…the results from each week of….The Bachelor. I know, I know, this has nothing to do with work, but if anyone is tracking American Idol or The Bachelor with friends across the country as I am, making predictions and being competitive about it, nothing beats GD for tracking each week’s results and making snarky notes on the side. Genius!

Am I the only one who is coming to the Google Docs party embarrassingly late? Come on, confess!


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