14 October 2009

Google Docs improves sharing and interface

Google Docs share a folder pop up Two days ago in the late evening I was writing on my previous article in Google Docs. When I closed the document, a brand new interface popped up with a message about a long awaited feature, sharing an entire folder. Probably less than 20 minutes passed since I opened the doc from the old interface until the new one was rolled out. Now that’s what I call a seamless software update!

Probably a lot of people will be excited about this new feature, that was previewed on the Google Operating System blog more than a month ago. I never really used sharing to it’s full potential, and I don’t expect that to change with this release.

Google Docs drag-and-drop filesI actually found the changes in the interface more pleasant and useful. First of all, the buttons now have an unified look, silver-gray, very similar to the buttons on top of the Gmail inbox, and stripped of icons. The sidebar menu was also simplified and stripped of unnecessary images; some options are now collapsed by default, like searches and filter by document type. The whole front page looks cleaner now and less cluttered.

Another tweak was made in the “Folders” section: until now, you could only access top-level folders from the left sidebar, which made organizing (or labeling) documents confusing. Now, “My folders” has a familiar tree structure and you can easily drag-and-drop documents in any sub-folder/label. The same nested folders view is presented when you click the top “Folders” button. As a bonus, here you can add or remove documents from different folders simultaneously using check boxes again reminiscent of the Gmail design. Maybe this idea sharing between Mail and Docs could go in the opposite direction in the future and bring the nested folders into Gmail. I know many people have asked for this for years.

Google Docs looks and acts more like a desktop file manager after this update. A preparation for the Google Chrome OS perhaps? Still there are some key features missing. For example, when you open a folder and create a new doc, the doc lands in “All items” instead of being automatically placed in the folder you were viewing at the time. This would be more consistent with the desktop experience and would help users get familiar with the app more quickly. And it would certainly speed up my workflow in Google Docs!

Google Docs nested folder menuIn the article about folder sharing, Google Operating systems also talks about a new upload tool for multiple files. I have also noticed it yesterday in my account, but since then Google seems to have decided to remove it. Now I can only access the old, single file upload page in both Firefox and Chrome. Hopefully they will reenable it soon, because it also allowed you to choose a folder for the uploaded files, a big time-saver in the long run.

Update: After some 24 hours, the new multiple-upload feature is again available in my account!

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