Google Documents is one of the 23 Things I’ve postponed writing about because it’s only now I’ve started to use it for an actual project I can see whether or not it is practically useful. I’m currently collaborating with a friend on a translation of Hincmar of Rheims’ De Divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae (a ninth century treatise on a royal divorce case that makes Princess Di’s life look tame). Now we’re got to the stage of revising the translation, it makes sense to use Google Docs rather than constantly having to send each other updates of the translated text and the introduction.
So far, I’m finding Google Docs more than a little frustrating. The first problem was that because I have multiple e-mail addresses, I couldn’t open a document until the share settings were set to the specific e-mail address I use for my iGoogle account (which people aren’t necessarily going to know). And there are other little inconveniences as well. When I tried to upload documents my browser crashed several times. The main document I’m working on (admittedly a large one, at around 500-600K) is slow to load and to scroll around, and when I start to type the lag in the text appearing on the screen is perceptible.
I also loaded a spreadsheet with some statistics onto Google Documents, which I thought I might link to from a blog post, for the next time I want to include a few more statistics. I’ve sometimes had posts with statistics and graphs, but I don’t think I’ve displayed them as well as I could. But when I tried to create the graph I wanted (something I’d been able to create fairly easily in Excel) I couldn’t work out how to produce it: there didn’t seem to be the same range of options. I can see how Google Docs might have some limited use, for relatively early drafts of texts which people are working on concurrently rather than successively, but I think most of the time, e-mail attachments are still going to be a more effective tool.