Strange things are afoot at Google HQ. Originally released to iOS users in June of 2012, the Google Drive app has been split with its latest update. Now, users who want to create or edit documents are required to download a standalone Google Docs app, while spreadsheets are now handled by a lone app dubbed Sheets. Likewise, Google says another app called Slides will soon handle presentations. The search giant isn’t offering up much of an explanation as to why it’s moving Docs and crew around (again), but it does say that Drive will remain available as a tool for online storage, and viewing and organizing documents.
With that in mind, are the functionalities of the new Google Docs any different than those iOS users have come to know and expect over the course of the last two years? We put our hands on the new app to find out.
Straight off the bat, Google Docs looks much like it always has in both a desktop and mobile environment. Although it’s not likely to win anyone over with its no-frills, bare-bones user interface, Docs is an efficient beast that rivals Microsoft’s own Word with respect to intuitiveness and ease of use. Anyone who’s ever used a document creation program before will find themselves in familiar yet simplified territory, and even absolute newbies should be able to figure out Docs’ functionality within seconds.
Docs’ top menu bar offers a drop-down font selection tool with a respectable (but by no means large) number of typefaces to choose from. Within the same controls, users can increase or decrease font size, alter text color, and pick different background colors. The menu bar also contains controllers for bold, italics, underline, paragraph justification, numbered bullets, and standard bulleted lists. Comments for collaborative purposes can also be made, and a head-and-shoulders icon lets you know who else is currently viewing or editing a document. The UI here is straightforward, immediate and welcoming.
Unfortunately, there’s no support for the insertion of images, something which would’ve put Docs on an even more competitive level with the likes of Word or Apple’s Pages. There are also no existing templates to make document creation easier, which would’ve been another nice added touch.
Improvements that weren’t already present in the pre-existing Google Drive app are scant. For example, users can now edit locally saved files that were only viewable before. Offline support has also been built in, essentially enabling a user to edit and create new documents even if they’re not connected to the internet. Updates to cloud stored documents then take place the next time the user gets online and syncs their changes.
Other than that, though, nothing much has changed. That can be taken as a welcome relief for mobile users who utilize the program on a regular basis or a bit of a letdown for those hoping to see an improved overall experience. The good and bad of Google Docs remain in place; the only major difference is how you get to them.