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!



Great post aliza, you’ll be even more in love when you discover using Docs offline

@Wayne, I can understand if you work at or own JC and just want to get a plug in, but if you’re ignoring Google Docs because its free you’re missing out. If you really think that paying for a service is necessary to have respect from your clients, you can still go with Google Apps and have it linked to your domain. While the basic setup is free, you can certainly pay for more in Premier and get more features.


Thanks for the posting. I’ve use Google Docs as place to store simple notes, but would recommend Joint Contact as a better place to store company files, contacts, discussion groups and tasks.

Google docs is nice for little things, but wouldn’t want customers accessing it for official work or project information. All of us know that Google equals free. It just doesn’t reflect a high standard of quality or professionalism.

aliza sherman

David Leffler – Finally someone gets my humor!! Yes, that was totally intentional – the “GD” reference to God. I cracked myself up when I thought of it. It is gratifying to know that at least one other person doesn’t think I’m totally nuts.


Great post! I’m a program manager working with Google Docs, and I’d love to chat with you more about your use of Google Docs.
Feel free to email me at the address provided :)


One great use of Google Docs if you have an iPhone: Put all your notes (e.g. from your old Palm or Treo) onto Google Docs (as either docs or spreadsheets) – then access them from your iPhone! Google has made a special effort to transform the icons so they show up nicely on your iPhone web-app screen.

I find this a great use of Google docs – to be able to locate and review documents from a mobile device. (Phone numbers and URLs embedded within a doc are highlighted, so you can call or link to them with a single tap.)

David Leffler

Not sure if this was intentional or not (probably was), but where you say “But at least I have found GD. And it is good,” all you have to do is add an “O” to the middle of “GD” and you’ve arrived at an entirely different spiritual plane.

GD be praised.

Wayne Smallman

Google Docs really does grow on you.

I’ve been using it on & off since it’s release.

Now more on than off, but it’s still something that needs to be a forced habit at times.

Only yesterday, I added all of the renewal dates for my client hosting accounts into Calendar with 1 week email reminders prior to the date.

I’ve already got plenty of documents, which are shared in different ways with different people.

I’ve not dabbled with Spreadsheet, but I’ve heard good things.

Keep the faith, Aliza! You’ll feel the benefit soon enough…


I still don’t get the GD thing. I have Google apps for my domain and my daughter (12) has been starting to use GD for writing school reports. For me, my word process docs and spreadsheets must be a little more compex and they don’t seem to transfer right into GD. Also, I’m not conviced I should be leaving documents on Google’s servers (and I’m not the paranoid type).

I really want to use it, I love the web and do just about all of my work on the web-heck I teach classes about the web, but I don’t use Google docs…



Thanks for sharing your experience.

Best part of this post:
The “Comments” part in the last spreadsheet picture on flickr *laugh*

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