Glitches in Google Docs

I like Google Docs (Drive). I used it to compose this post. Even though I write almost entirely on my own computers, use Dropbox, and have plenty of options for word processing and text editing, I just enjoy using it. It makes sense.

I’ve been using Google Docs for as long as the public has been able to; in fact, I used Writely a little before Google bought it out.

The text editor is great for short, simple documents, especially if you’re collaborating. The spreadsheet is just an awesome alternative to Excel. And who doesn’t like not having to Save?

All that being said, there are problems with G-Docs document writer. It’s not fully compatible with MS Word. And sooner or later, most of my documents will get exported to Word for advanced formatting and layout, before publication.

G-Docs exports OK in rtf and odt, but not in doc (I use Word in MS Office 2003 Pro). If I export to doc and open the file in Word, the spelling checker in Word won’t work. I’ve tried it in Win7 and XP, using Chrome and Firefox (not that the browser should matter.)

There must be an artifact in the G-Docs document template which conflicts with MS Word. The spellcheck won’t work, even if I copy-paste into Word from Google or open a new Word file and paste in from the original Word export.

There are 3 workarounds:

  • Paste into Notepad, then copy and paste again into Word (and lose all your formatting).
  • Export to rtf then open in Word.
  • Export to odt, open in LibreOffice or OpenOffice, then save as doc.

I’ve noticed other problems with line and paragraph breaks, and paragraph formatting, when exporting to Word. Tables almost always get messed up, and must be formatted again. And when I pasted this blog text from G-Docs into my blogging software for upload, the text was one big glob, no line breaks. So I pasted into Notepad first, and that worked fine.

The release of Drive has revealed more glitches, such as the fact that folders created in the desktop app may never show up online. But it seems to be fine to create folders online, then use them on the desktop.

I know, this has to be the epitome of First World Problems. But geek is as geek blogs. (Now that’s a sentence that my Grandfather wouldn’t recognize as English.)

Google docs – Drive – is surpassingly cool. I hope in time Google will iron out the kinks, so that it grows into a platform worthy of trust and respect, not just admiration.

2 thoughts on “Glitches in Google Docs

  1. They haven’t fixed the glitches, and I’m about to drop Drive like a bad habit. It’s screwing up my thesis. So frustrating. Technology is supposed to make my life easier… right? Who can I complain to that will actually DO SOMETHING?

  2. Jennifer, thank you for your comment. First, let me assure you that Google doesn’t care. They try to accommodate the greatest common denominator. If they cared about a minority of users, they wouldn’t be killing Google Reader. So they certainly don’t care that some of us are still using Word 2003.

    Since I posted this piece last summer, I’ve noticed that Google has changed the Download As options for text documents. It no longer says you can download as Word .DOC; it says download as Word .DOCX, which as we know is not compatible with Word 2003. So they’re assuming that everyone is now using Word 2007 or later versions.

    I’m assuming that you’re using Word 2003, along with G-Drive. And that you don’t have the money to buy a later version or have the better judgement not to spend your money that way. I’m with you. There are a few options for us.

    1. Use LibreOffice or They’re free alternatives to paying $150 – $400 for a new MS Office. Google them, or Bing them. 🙂

    2. When downloading from Drive, select Rich Text (RTF) instead of docx. This *should* keep most of your formatting, and Word 2003 will open RTF on your computer.

    3. As you say, drop Google Drive like a bad habit. I probably won’t, but I’m moving away from MS Office.

    4. I do a lot of my writing these days in plain text. Good old TXT. After all, you don’t really need to keep a document formatted with heading fonts, body fonts, etc., while you write, right? We need something to save our words, sentences, and paragraphs. And if we wait until we’re read to prepare the work for publishing, we can use simpler, more compatible software. Check out WriteMonkey.

    5. If you have time to try something really new and powerful for a long document like a thesis, check out a program called Scrivener. It’s awesome. It costs a little after a trial period. Don’t skip the tutorials, they help.

    I hope this helps. Good luck!

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