Replacing Office

Writing slightly behind the curve as usual. Google made some comments this month that their Docs system is making a push in the next year to properly replace traditional desktop office software.

Google acquired their Docs codebase back in September of 2006 when they bought writely. Back then, Writely was little more than a glorified text editor.

They had already bought XL2Web earlier that year which gave them spreadsheet functionality and launched Google Docs and Spreadsheets later that year.

It wasn’t until the following year that Google finally added a Presentation feature and renamed the whole thing to Google Docs. Since then, they appear to have been content with the odd tweak here and there. The last major change being an overhaul of the initial document browsing interface.

I’ve been using Google Docs since shortly before they added presentations and at first it was hard going. Ironically, a large part of the improvements to the service have come not from Google, but from the browser makers’ continuing focus on making Javascript faster and more efficient.

There was initially a lot of speculation that Microsoft was doomed under a new attack from Google and that one of their highest profile products was in trouble. It certainly hasn’t played out that way, although Microsoft have dragged their heels in implementing any form of response - Office Live remains very thin on features - seeming content to remain a place for storing documents that you create on your office-installed desktop machines.

I’ve found myself using Google Docs more and more recently - I’ve started working across multiple machines more and more and it seemed infinitely more sensible to use a complete system rather than trying to sync documents back and forth. I’ve found it offers pretty much everything I need day-to-day, so it will be interesting to see what improvements they make in the coming months. It may well be that people are ready to start migrating away from traditional desktop applications.