Google Docs now includes co-editing features, similar to Google Wave. The feature is one of several new updates to Google Docs that includes faster online access to documents and better formatting.
The new features provide capabilities that enhance Google Docs on platforms such as the desktop or laptop. But the stark difference between apps and traditionally crafted web pages is evident as Google seeks the best way to present Google Docs on mobile devices.
The challenge is particularly vexing for the iPad. Google Docs does not run on the iPad due to the customized Safari browser that Apple created for the new device. Google Docs runs on a browser designed for the desktop, not the iPhone. Google focuses on using a single platform for its applications. To dive into the murky water of mobile apps becomes an investment decision that Google is still weighing.
Instead, Google Docs will continue to be available solely through the mobile web browser on Android, BlackBerry and the iPhone with the capability to view Google documents and presentations. Spreadsheets may be edited on the available mobile platforms.
The new features for Google Docs have a lot to do with speed and rendering, which allows for the co-editing capabilities. People may see what each other type as they work within documents, spread sheets or using the drawing feature. Up to 50 people may work simultaneously on a document with integrated instant messaging.
The goal, in many respects, is to bridge people to the cloud by providing a high performance platform that is as responsive as a desktop environment.
Commenting in the margin, real-time spell-check and the ability to float images anywhere in the document are new features that come from faster capabilities within the application.
Spreadsheet features include drag-and-drop columns, auto-completion and formula editing bar.
Drawing is one of the coolest new features. Drawings may be co-edited, downloaded into standard formats and copy and pasted into Google Docs.
But the new features mean there has to be tradeoffs. Google Docs will drop offline capabilities, no longer available starting May 3. Offline access to GMail and Google Calendar will continue to be available.
Google is at a cross roads. They will have to decide about how to move their applications deeper into a mobile environment. HTML 5 offers a similar experience to mobile apps. But native apps are so well-suited to a mobile environment. Just look at scheduling apps. The progression to find the route, schedule, stops and times can all be presented in simple, logical order. HTML 5 can offer a rich user experience, too, but apps are native and have a future as bright as traditional HTML has had over these past several years.