Two Ways to Export Your Google Docs

Google Takeout supports a new service: Google Docs. Now you can use the same interface to batch export your documents.

I tried both Google Takeout and the built-in feature from Google Docs that lets you download your documents. Even if they have the same purpose, they’re quite different. The Google Docs feature is more flexible: you can choose to download only spreadsheets or presentations and skip all the other documents. You can also skip the files uploaded to Google Docs and not converted to a Google Docs format (for example: PDF files, archives and video files). Google Takeout has a “configure” feature, but you can’t skip one or more document types. Another subtle difference is that Google Takeout lets you export only the files that you own, while Google Docs exports all the files from your account.

How to export all your files from Google Docs? Just go to the Google Docs homepage, select one or more documents, click “More” and then “Download”, click the “All items” tab, pick your favorite formats and click “Download”. The process is not that intuitive and you shouldn’t have to select a file to see the download option.

{ via Data Liberation Blog }

How to Save Offline Google Docs

As promised, Google started to roll out the offline version of Google Docs, but don’t expect too much. Much like the offline Gmail and offline Google Calendar, Google Docs works offline only if you use Chrome and install an app from the Chrome Web Store.

When you’re offline, Google Docs shows a simplified interface that only lists the documents and spreadsheets that are cached. You can only view them, so most of the features from Google Docs menus are disabled.

Just like the offline Gmail, Google Docs uses a different interface that can also be accessed when you’re online if you go to: “Offline access is available only for documents and spreadsheets. When you have Google Docs open and have an Internet connection, your most recently opened documents and spreadsheets will sync and become available offline. Presentations, drawings and other items are not currently available offline,” explains Google.

Another downside is that you can’t edit your documents and spreadsheets, a feature that was available in the Gears implementation.

Right now, offline Google Docs is very limited and can only be used to access some of your documents and spreadsheets. It’s interesting to notice that the apps powered by Gears were a lot more powerful and worked in other browsers: Firefox, Safari, IE. Maybe Google shouldn’t have deprecated Gears and disabled the features that used Gears until the HTML5 implementations were good enough.

New Customize Google Docs Interface

If you switched to the new Google Docs interface and wondered why there’s so much whitespace, I have a good news for you: Google Docs has two new options for adjusting display density. Click the new settings drop-down and select one of the three options: comfortable (the default option), cozy and compact (similar to the old interface). My favorite option is “cozy”, which is both clean and compact.

Another change is that the details pane is no longer a sidebar. If you want to find more information about a document, select it and click “Details”. Google Docs will display an overlay that includes a large thumbnail, sharing information, the list of collections where you placed the document and some other information.

There’s also a button for sharing the selected documents and some new icons for documents, spreadsheets, drawings, presentation and other files.

{ Thanks, Tom. }

Offline Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs

As promised, Google brought back the offline mode for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs. The updated apps use HTML5 features and no longer require the Gears plugin.

For Gmail, Google chose the easy way out and tweaked the tablet interface. You can only use it in Google Chrome after installing this app from the Chrome Web Store. The app lets you archive and label email, compose new messages and read the messages you’ve received, but it doesn’t have all the features from the standard version. The interface is more suitable for tablets, so this is more like a temporary workaround instead of a definitive solution.

Offline Google Calendar and offline Google Docs aren’t yet available to everyone and will be rolled out in the coming days. Google says that the offline mode is built into the apps, just like the Gears version. “Google Calendar and Google Docs let you seamlessly transition between on- and offline modes. When you’re offline in Google Calendar, you can view events from your calendars and RSVP to appointments. With Google Docs you can view documents and spreadsheets when you don’t have a connection. Offline editing isn’t ready yet, but we know it’s important to many of you, and we’re working hard to make it a reality. To get started using Google Calendar or Google Docs offline, just click the gear icon at the top right corner of the web app and select the option for offline access,” explains Google.

I don’t see the offline settings for Google Calendar and Google Docs in my account, but offline Gmail is disappointing. It only works in Chrome, it has a different URL (, the interface is optimized for iPad and Android tablets and it’s very limited. Hopefully, Google will add support for offline access to the regular interface.

New The Google+ Bar

A page from the Google+ help center explains the purpose of the new Google navigation bar:

The Google+ bar, which appears at the top of Google products, is your connection to Google+. You can share what’s on your mind, view your Google+ notifications, access your profile, or jump to a variety of other Google products. For instance, to get to Google+, all you have to do is click +[your first name].

When you’re signed in and look at the Google+ bar, you’ll see your full name or email address displayed with a photo or avatar next to it. This helps you identify which account you’re currently signed in to. You can sign in to multiple accounts at once and switch between them using the Google+ bar.

One of the most interesting feature of the bar is notifications:

When you receive a notification, the notification area in the Google+ bar will turn red and show the number of new notifications. If you click the notification area in the Google+ bar, you’ll see a summary of your recent notifications. When you click a notification, a preview of the event that generated the notification will appear in the drop-down menu. You can take action on each notification right from the notifications menu, like commenting on a post or adding someone to a circle.

The navigation bar has been morphed into the Google+ bar and it should be more useful. Maybe at some point the bar will include notifications for Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs and other Google services.

Now Google Docs Tests Offline Support, Powered by HTML5

Google Docs team promised to bring back offline support this summer, but some traces of the new offline interface are already available. “I logged into Docs today and saw this! It’s not yet functional, but an exciting sign! The code is being pushed,” says Owen, a reader of this blog.

Angelo “saw a black bar flash up on screen quickly when loading the DocList of [his] Google Apps account”. After a few refreshes, he managed to see the bar that lets you switch to the offline mode. Unfortunately, Google Docs doesn’t work offline, at least not yet.

In a recent Reddit thread, a member of the Google Docs team said that “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.”

{ Thanks, Owen and Angelo. }

How Google Docs Killed GDrive

In The Plex“, Steven Levy’s recently launched book about Google, has an interesting story about GDrive, an online storage service developed by Google. People first found about GDrive from a leaked Google document, back in 2006. GDrive (or Platypus) turned out to be a service used by Google employees that offered many impressive features: syncing files, viewing files on the Web, shared spaces for collaborating on a document, offline access, local IO speeds. But Google wanted to launch GDrive for everyone.

At the time [2008], Google was about to launch a project it had been developing for more than a year, a free cloud-based storage service called GDrive. But Sundar [Pichai] had concluded that it was an artifact of the style of computing that Google was about to usher out the door. He went to Bradley Horowitz, the executive in charge of the project, and said, “I don’t think we need GDrive anymore.” Horowitz asked why not. “Files are so 1990,” said Pichai. “I don’t think we need files anymore.”

Horowitz was stunned. “Not need files anymore?”

“Think about it,” said Pichai. “You just want to get information into the cloud. When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there’s never a file.”

When Pichai first proposed this concept to Google’s top executives at a GPS—no files!—the reaction was, he says, “skeptical.” [Linus] Upson had another characterization: “It was a withering assault.” But eventually they won people over by a logical argument—that it could be done, that it was the cloudlike thing to do, that it was the Google thing to do. That was the end of GDrive: shuttered as a relic of antiquated thinking even before Google released it. The engineers working on it went to the Chrome team.

In 2009, Google Docs started to store PDF files and one year later you could store any type of file in Google Docs. The service still doesn’t offer a way to sync files. Even if GDrive was never released, Google Docs inherits most of its features. The main difference is that you no longer have to worry about file formats because you can open and edit documents in Google Docs.

{ Thanks, Kristian. }

Google Docs Adds Pagination and Native Printing

After two months of testing, Google Docs added a very useful feature: pagination. Google Docs adds “visual page breaks while you’re editing your documents, so now you can see how many pages of that report you’ve actually finished. Headers now show up at the top of each page instead of just at the top of your doc, manual page breaks actually move text onto a new page and footnotes appear at the bottom of the pages themselves.”

If you use Google Chrome, you’ll see an important change when printing a document: it’s no longer converted to PDF. “We’ve worked closely with the Chrome team to implement a recent web standard so we can support a feature called native printing. (…) With native printing, you can print directly from your browser and the printed document will always exactly match what you see on your screen,” explains Google. Until now, Google converted the document to PDF and you had to download the file and print it using Adobe Reader or a similar PDF viewer.

Google Docs looks more and more like an advanced word processor. You no longer have to use workarounds for basic features like pagination and printing.

Google Upgrading Documents to the New Google Docs Editor

Last year’s update of the Google Docs word processor had an important flaw: no backwards compatibility. You couldn’t open your old documents in the new editor and you couldn’t even upgrade your existing documents to the new format. Even if it’s not obvious, Google Docs has two word processors that handle two incompatible native formats.

The bad news is that Google can’t provide a smooth upgrade path. The changes are so profound that the new Google Docs editor can’t import your old documents properly. If you open a document created using the old Google Docs editor, you’ll notice a message informing you that the document can be previewed in the latest version of the editor. After previewing the document, you have the option to update the document.

Unfortunately, if you update the document, you’ll lose the revision history and some formatting options that were available in the old Google Docs.

“When you preview your upgraded document, you may notice that the formatting looks different. Older documents were basically webpages. To use them in the new version of Google documents, they need to be converted to a traditional word processing format. This conversion can be imperfect. It’s not possible to edit the HTML of your document or use CSS after you upgrade,” explains Google.

Another drawback is that you need to manually update each document. To make sure that you won’t miss some features that were available in the old editor, Google didn’t provide an automatic conversion option. Most people won’t bother updating their documents and Google will be forced to keep the old Google Docs editor forever.

{ Thanks, Bogdan. }

Google Docs Brings Back Details View

The latest design refresh of the Google Docs homepage added many useful features, but also made some controversial changes. Google decided to hide useful information like the last modified date and the list of collaborators from the list view because it was available in the sidebar.

If you missed the old interface, you can now switch to the details view and see some additional information next to the filename.

There’s also a small icon that lets you temporarily hide the sidebar. For some reason, Google Docs doesn’t permanently hide the sidebar when you click on the arrows.