For years I have been using Google Docs as my main text processing tool. Just like many of you I started using Microsoft Word in high school and upgraded to Pages when I started using a Mac some years later. These are great test processors but lack two very important features: collaboration and version control.
You probably know the story . You start a document and name it my_document_v1_Original and send it around to other people from whom you need feedback. A week later My_document_v1_original_ JOHN.pages, My_document_v1_original_ Sandra_Smith.doc, my_document_v1_original_ MonicaBae.docx and My_document_v1_original_ with comments.pdf arrive. Megan has not sent anything.
You print all the documents and compare pages with your eyes half closed, trying to abstract from the content and identify the edits for the changes in text alignment and length. At 3 am you think you have them all and call it a day. You spend the day after trying to understand your own notes and transcribing them in a doc; My_document_v2_withcorrectionsexceptmegan, that’s sent again for feedback.
The process repeats until everyone is happy with all the comments and Megan is back from her holidays. Of course Megan forgot her out of office autoreply.
Tired of this I started using Google Docs. I love Google Docs because I can collaborate in real time with people, track changes, go back in time to recover a version for a specific date… If you have always used Word I bet you are not looking forward to change. But if your people is using Google Drive and you are still using Word to create your documents before you put them in Drive for fear of change you are missing a LOT of really cool things. Google Docs gets better when used in a group – it works for personal user, it rocks collaboration – and makes a lot of tedious things much easier. Those text processor tools of you are all underused but Google Docs has some little magic things that just give you superpowers.
The first thing you have to do is to make your docs available in Google Drive. Don’t be afraid of losing access to them if you are not online (fear number one of everyone new to Google Drive). But that’s another story. To upload files or folders from your computer to your Google Drive go to Drive, click on NEW on the top left corner (yes, that big red button) and select file upload or folder upload. Your documents are now imported but they are still Word files with a .doc or .docx extension and they will be opened as a preview in your browser, not in the Google Docs interface that lets you edit, suggest edits and add comments.
To generate a copy of the file in Google Docs format right click on the file, select Open with from the list of actions and select Google Docs from the list of apps. The file has now been generated as a Google Drive file. This means John, Sandra, Monica, Dave a.k.a. ‘withcomments’ and Megan can enter their feedback in the document. As a result you can go to bed early.
OCD level tip: Remove .doc from the Google Doc file name and delete the original Word file you uploaded in the folder. You won’t need it anymore.