Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Quick Hit: Freelancing With Google Docs

If you haven't heard, the new version of Google Docs is now available for opt-in. I recommend it, as it has substantial improvements built in. For me, one of the biggest tweaks is that you can now use Analytics to track hits on your Google Docs. That's important for my situation, as it lets me know how many people are accessing and downloading my Complete Characters and other freebies. Collaboration tools similar to those in Wave also make an appearance, which is great for journeyman writers such as myself.

But as for the supposedly improved applications, do they suck? Check below the fold to find out.

I use Google Docs all the time and am a big advocate of cloud computing. Google's universal access to my files allows me to pull up my latest project from my desktop, netbook, or even work computer without having to continually update files and move them from one machine to another. I'm slowly moving my whole operation to Google's cloud until I hope to one day be able to do without a traditional word processor, spreadsheet program, and even vector graphics program on my hard drive.

One thing that Docs isn't ready to do, however, is desktop publishing. I've spend the last little while trying to put together a Complete Character PDF using the new version of the Documents application. It really just lacks the control that I need to make the publication look how I want.

That's not a dig on the software, and honestly I doubt Google will ever make desktop publishing a goal for this application. Documents benefits from having only a few fonts, basic layout tools, and a somewhat rigid page structure. So, for now I'll continue to use my native applications when I actually need to lay something out, but it will all be up in the cloud for the actual creation process.


Robert G. Male said...

What you want to put in a PDF layout on Google Docs? I ask because I've been publishing a magazine in PDF and I go through the rigorous process of making it look the way I want in HTML--no easy task when it changes when I print it to PDF so I have to back and forth multiple times with Print Preview. Then I take the pages, put them together, make links and bookmarks in a PDF program I bought. The pages include two text columns, text art, advertisements, and coloured borders. I could use an easier way.

Jason Richards said...

I usually use Word Perfect to do my layouts, so I'll use that as a comparison. In Word Perfect I can adjust the dimensions of my headers and footers so that they hug the general layout of the page, while in Google Docs the relationship between header/footer and the body appears to be set. Perhaps more importantly, in order to do columns in Google Docs you have to use a table to create the layout, so there is no automatic overflow from one column into the other, and that sort of thing. Add in the limited font types and sizes, and it becomes problematic.

Google Docs will allow you to use HTML to do page layouts, but for what I'm doing that sort of defeats the purpose.

Lord Zaboem said...

I am doing most of my web browsing on my Android these days. There is one curious quirk to doing things this way. I don't know if you are aware, Jason. Whenever I use the Android web browser to follow a link to a Google Document, I end up at my own Google Documents associated with my own Google account.

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