To make things a bit clearer — and perhaps to differentiate them from other office suites — the apps formerly known as Google Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations are now called simply Docs, Sheets, and Slides and can be installed as shortcuts in Chrome.
If you’d like to install them, head over to the Chrome Web Store and grab the new Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps. Once they’re installed you’ll see the icon links every time you open a new tab in Chrome.
The change helps bring together the Chrome browser and Chrome OS, making both just another way to connect to Google Drive, the company’s cloud storage service that forms the basis of Google’s take on cloud computing.
Google has been improving the technology since then, and this is its first appearance in a Google product. Of course, since it’s part of the API, you can roll it into an app of your own creation. But we can expect the conversion tool to improve and yield some pretty cool applications down the road.
It’s not perfect, and the results will vary based on the resolution or visual clarity of whatever you’re uploading.
Google continues to use HTML5 to push its web apps into the future. The latest bit of HTML5 to feel Google’s love is drag-and-drop support, which is now a standard part of Gmail. If you’re using Google Chrome 4 or Firefox 3.6, you can now simply drag a file from your desktop onto a message window and Gmail will automatically attach the file.
The new feature solves one of the most common complaints from web app users — why can’t I just drag and drop files like I do everywhere else? Well, thanks to the new APIs in HTML5, you can.
We’ve seen a few implementations of HTML5′s drag-and-drop features, including on Google’s own Wave, but Gmail, which has over 140 million users, is by far the most popular web app to embrace the new features. Part of the reason for the slow uptake of drag-and-drop support might well be some of the difficulties developers have had in supporting the feature — differences between browsers make drag-and-drop one of the most complex HTML5 features to implement.
Hopefully, with Gmail leading the way, drag-and-drop for uploading files will become more common since it is, as your less tech-savvy friends have no doubt pointed out, the way things should have been from the beginning of the web app era.
Gmail’s drag-and-drop support has skipped the usual Gmail Labs trial period and gone straight to standard feature (the feature is also already available for Google Apps for your Domain users).
To see drag-and-drop in action, just grab a file off your desktop and drag it into a Gmail compose window. The area above your message, where attachments are shown, will change to say “Drop files here.” Drop the file in the target area and it will automatically be uploaded and attached to your message.
For now, the new features are limited to Firefox 3.6 and the latest version of Chrome, but Google says it’s working on support for other browsers. However, that’s an odd thing for the company to say given that the only real way to use HTML5 drag-and-drop is if the browsers themselves have added support (again Internet Explorer 8 is left behind since it doesn’t support drag-and-drop — unless you’re running Google Chrome Frame).
Curiously, Safari 4 supports the HTML5 drag-and-drop API, but for now, the feature won’t work in Gmail if you’re using Safari.
It’s always been easy to export individual documents from Google Docs. But if you had a lot of documents to export, it was a time-consuming task — the web app only let you export one document at a time.
Thankfully, Google Docs has added a batch export tool that allows you to export all your documents at once as a downloadable Zip file. There is a single download limit of 2GB, but given the small size of most Google documents, 2GBs should cover just about everyone. If you do have more than that, it will split the download into chunks, a small price to pay for an easy export tool.
This development was ushered by Google’s Data Liberation Front, the group within the company that is working with each individual Google web service to build easy tools for users to get their data out, either to back it up or to take it elsewhere. In an interview earlier this year, Data Liberation Front lead engineer Brian Fitzpatrick told Webmonkey this export tool was in the works.
Getting to the new options is a little awkward. The new “Export all” tool lives in the Export dialog box. That means you’ll need to first select at least one doc, then head to the More Actions menu and choose Export. That will bring up the Export dialog, at the bottom of which you’ll see the new “Export all your files” option.
If it’s just single documents you’re after, the old tools still allow you to browse through your documents and check which you’d like to download. But if you want everything at once, well, now you can get it.
Google Docs has also added a new tool that makes it easy to e-mail a document to anyone, even if they aren’t a Google Docs user. Just select a document, click “Share” and select “Email as attachment.” You can pick from common file formats (PDF, MS Office files, etc.) and then just compose your message.
There’s nothing quite so intimidating as the vast, pure whiteness of the blank page. To help you get past that frightening expanse of nothingness office apps have long included templates designed to make your docs look better, but also to help avoid the emptiness of starting.
However, while Google Docs can match most of the features of desktop apps, templates were one place it fell flat — there were a handful of templates, but for the most part they were ugly.
But there are now over 300 templates to choose from, many of which are actually quite nice designs (the dreaded Comic Sans themed template is nowhere to be seen). The new interface allows you to sort through templates based on kind or category. If you see something you like, you can preview it and then click the “Use this template” button to add it to your own documents.