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Google Docs: Free and efficient

A column by Mike Toth

June 23, 2010 - You may have heard about a company called Google, you know the one that allows you to find anything about anything on the internet. Well, they also offer many services for free. One that I would like to bring to your attention is called Google Docs.

Google Docs, at its core, is an online version of the famous Microsoft Office suite. You can create documents, spreadsheets, databases, and presentations just the same as Office with one big difference: you get to keep your $100. What I mean is that Google offers their Docs for free. You simply sign up for a Google account, you select what kind of item you want to make, document, spreadsheet, etc and then you start working on it. Its really that easy.

Once you finish working on your new document, you can email it or save it in one of several popular formats like .doc (Word) or .PDF (Adobe). You can also work on a previously created object by uploading it. Docs will convert just about any format and allow you to work on it using your Docs software.

Now, I feel I should clarify something. First, there is nothing you download onto your computer, it's all saved online at Google. Second, you have to be online in order to use this. They are working on making it available offline but that might be a little bit. Given the ubiquity of wifi hotspots, home wifi networks and mobile broadband, this restriction shouldn't be all too bothersome.

I've been using Docs for some time and I love it. I can work on a document on one computer then go to another computer and finish it. I don't have to worry about losing the document since Google has it covered for me. The documents don't take up valuable hard drive space. A nice feature which I am using more is the ability to upload any type of file to my docs account and leave it there, just like a free backup service.

All in all, this is a great service. There is no real discernible difference between Docs and Office. The formatting works and the buttons are basically the same. This is a great program to try out. It would recommend giving it a try before you delete Office, it might take some getting used to. It is completely worth it, especially given the money you can keep.

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