Google Docs & Spreadsheets review: Google Docs & Spreadsheets

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The Good Google Docs & Spreadsheets is easy to set up and offers a clean interface; tags documents by subject; imports various file formats; exports to PDF; Spreadsheets includes formula shortcuts; autosaves files; works with ODF and Microsoft Office files.

The Bad Google Docs & Spreadsheets' features are limited; still in beta; doesn't import WordPerfect files.

The Bottom Line Google Docs & Spreadsheets beta gracefully merges word processing, spreadsheets and basic presentations within an online service that lets you collaborate with other users.

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7.3 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Support 7

Review Sections

Google Docs & Spreadsheets can handle the nuts and bolts of daily office work, such as composing and editing text documents. crunching numbers in a spreadsheet, and making basic slide shows. While the features are far fewer than those of desktop software such as Microsoft Office, this online service conveniently lets you do your work anywhere and collaborate with other users.

To get started, just sign in with a Google username using at least Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 1.07+, Mozilla 1.712, or Netscape 7.2 (you must enable JavaScript and cookies). Setup took just a few moments in our tests. If you've already used Writely or Google Spreadsheets, they'll transfer automatically.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets displays text and spreadsheet files in a list that you can organize by subject tags or chronologically in the order edited.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets is built around the now-dead Writely beta word processor and the formerly solo Google Spreadsheets. The recent addition of Presentations rounds out this suite.

This online bundle has a clean blue-and-white layout that's pretty easy to get to know. The sign-in page displays your word and spreadsheet files in one long list that was refreshed this summer. Similarly to Gmail, content is organized in topical tags, so you can hide all files marked for "family" when signing on at work. This service makes it perhaps too easy to take work home with you. Rather than having to clunkily e-mail ourselves a file of a story we were working on, we just uploaded the text to Google Docs & Spreadsheets to make after-hours tweaks.

When you open a text file, layout tabs contain Edit, Insert, and Revision functions, while a toolbar of graphical icons links to common editing features. Features such as word count conveniently located in the File drop-down menu. Bookmarks easily to find as well, in case you want to set place marks within a long document.

You can pick from many text colors and 19 fonts, and the Insert tab displays wingdings and international symbols in a handy box. That's all the formatting you'll need to write letters and memos for your office or household, as well as papers for school. You can insert images, but a report demanding snazzy graphics would be a better job for Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect. We also found it clumsy to work with text tables; you can't use the Tab key to move to the next cell, as you can with Microsoft Word. Nor can you select a table column by using the mouse--a big aggravation. But we like that clicking the Edit HTML link opens a new tab converting your document to relatively clean, Web-ready code. You can post to Blogger, BlogHarbor, BlogWare, LiveJournal, SquareSpace, and WordPress blogs without leaving Google Docs.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets lets you apply various formatting styles and fonts to text, which is good enough for most writing tasks. But beefier desktop software is better for creating a polished professional report heavy on graphics.

If you're working on a spreadsheet, tabs arrange editing, sorting, and formulas. Clicking More within the Formulas tab takes you to a nice list of abbreviations to insert formulas for math, finance, logic, statistics, and so on. Spreadsheets imports XLS, ODS, and comma-separated files, and exports your work in those formats as well as PDF and HTML. We easily imported and exported files in various formats.