Google's ego took a mighty blow when Wave failed to live up to the hype, but the Internet giant is far from giving up on collaboration. This year it appears the company is making a fresh start with a few tools and features that suit the enterprise just fine.
Simpler File Navigation
When Big G added the upload-any-file feature to Google Docs, it was only a matter of time before users would need an organizational tool. That need was answered in January with a refresh to the documents list, making it easier to find, explore and share Web-based files.
New filters allow users to narrow a search by type, visibility state, and other criteria, while priority sorting has been added to all views. Priority sorting is like Gmail’s Priority Inbox (another newbie), taking in a number of a usage statistics in order to put the most relevant files at the top of the list. Other sort orders like Last Modified Date or by Name are also available:
The visually inclined will be happy to know that this update includes a preview panel which displays thumbnails and sharing settings, or a full screen slide-show viewer if you’re into that kind of thing. If the file is a video, you can start playing it directly from the preview panel as well.
Another new option called Home is a customizable view of a user's most-often accessed content. Google generates this list automatically, and unwanted files can be removed from the viewer (but not from the repository) with a right click.
Further, Collections have replaced Folders in the left navigation bar. "Collections are designed to combine the best features of labels and folders," said the company. "A file can live in multiple collections, just like with Gmail labels. Collections can also be stored hierarchically, just like folders on your desktop. And of course, collections can be shared, just like you can share docs."
The cherry on top is an overhaul to the back-end, making the whole Docs experience a shade snappier.
Google Discussions adds a comment feature to Google Docs that includes ownership and editing rights. The tweak encourages collaboration through the integration of structured discussions, a unified discussion stream, time stamps, profile pictures, @mentions and e-mail notifications.
Should the stream get too big, comments can now be resolved instead of deleted. This is great for conserving screen real estate without losing information that you might want to access later:
The feature, which comes from the jilted Wave platform, has been utilized behind the Google curtain for several months now. "We've...seen it make the feedback cycle shorter and get more people involved," said Google Software Engineer Nick Cooper. "The combination of added structure and intuitive e-mail integration have really given life to the discussions that surround our documents, and we're excited for this new feature to do the same for you."
Google Cloud Connect
Because Google really, really wants you to know how great their workplace tools are, they've released a tool called Cloud Connect. The plugin aims to bring Microsoft users over to the G side by syncing Office with Docs, essentially keeping both the cloud and local files the same.
This year the tool moved from limited beta to general release in hopes of taking Microsoft down a peg or two.
- Simultaneous editing for Word, PowerPoint and Excel files when using Microsoft Office.
- Google Docs sharing URLs for each Microsoft Office file.
- Revision history for Microsoft Office files, stored in Google Docs.
- Offline editing with smart synchronization of offline changes.
- No Microsoft Office upgrade or SharePoint deployment required.