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What new features are coming to Google Docs?

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Today we all got a sneak peak at many new features being developed for Google Docs.  Five members of the Google Docs team - Scott Johnston (product manager), Jeff Harris (product manager), Ronald Ho (product manager), DJ Lee (engineer), and Teresa Wu (community manager) - spent six hours on Reddit.com taking hundreds of questions, and answering as many as they could.

Below are the highlights (at least in my opinion) from the information they shared (the indented text sections are selected quotes from the Google Docs team).

Offline access for Google Docs:

You're going to see offline start to roll out later this summer. We used to have offline with Google Gears, but it became pretty clear that plugins weren't the right approach. We've been reimplementing offline using HTML5 standards like AppCache, File API, and IndexDB.
We're some of the first webapps that are really putting those standards to the test, so it's taken a while to iron out the kinks.
Well, we will launch in whatever incremental pieces make sense. But the long term direction is if you access a Doc URL while offline, it should open the local copy of the doc and let you edit. When you go online all your edits get synced in the background. You should also be able to see a list of your docs while offline.
We'll need to work through all the tricky problems with how to merge conflicting edits. It's fun stuff.

Increased embedding options in Google Docs:

Embedding is pretty important part of docs, you can embed youtube videos in our presentation editor and in Google Sites. Look for more coming up!

Improvements to Google Presentations:

Better presentations: you're going to see some really nice upgrades to the preso editor
Yep - better presentation imports and tablets are big focuses for the next year. You're totally right that they aren't great yet. You should see some big progress later this summer
More themes are on their way as we upgrade presentations.

Ability to link to another slide in a slideshow (non-linear presentations):

Yep - we have an intern who is going to work on that exact feature. Stay tuned.

Increase Cloud Print integration:

Yup, makes sense to have it integrated everywhere, it's a pretty awesome service. In Docs we currently have CloudPrint integrated in Chromebooks and also on mobile devices (for printing documents and spreadsheets).

Ability to put documents into folders from the document:

For sure. The plan is to let you set folders from the header of the document itself

Improved file organization:

Yup, this is something we've heard frequently, and we're working on changes to the UI to make file organization much simpler.

Improved page numbering and formatting:

Improvements to page numbers and formatting are on the roadmap, too.
Better styles is being worked on. Super important. We will add page numbers too ... we needed to wait until after the visual pagination launch a few months ago.

Merge rows vertically in Google Spreadsheets:

This is one of our top-requested features in Google Spreadsheets, and we hope to have good news to share on this soon.

To see the full text of the conversation on Reddit, go to:

Personally I am happy to see all of the items listed above, but a few really stand out as important for schools:
  • Improvement to Google Presentations - In our school PowerPoint is still a mainstay for most teachers ans students.  Google Presentations works, but is lacking many features that PowerPoint has, and it has not seen an update in a long time.  It is great to see that Presentations is finally going to get some love.  This will really help in our continued transition to Google Apps.
  • Improved page numbering - Probably the biggest complaint from our middle school and high school teachers about Google Documents has been the lack of options with page numbering.  This is critical for the students to be able to create properly formatted research papers, and will be a very welcomed improvement.
  • Offline access to Google Docs - Although I am not completely sure how this will work just yet, I am glad that staff and students will have some sort of offline access to their cloud files.  Problems with an un-named ISP have caused our district to lose several days of connectivity over the past several months, which does little to encourage the use of web-based services.
Thanks so much to the Google Docs team for taking the time to answer so many questions today (even if they did not answer the two questions I posted) and for all they have done for schools through the creation of Google Docs!

By Eric Curts - June 13, 2011



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