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Three years after Android first stuck its head over the parapet, Google has at long last graced its smartphone OS with an official app for Documents, the third leg of the Google Trinity after Gmail and Maps. Google Docs    Google Docs The UI (left) is twit-proof, but you can only create documents online (right) The front end …

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Silver badge

Offline functionality

I know google are big into online cloud services but they have to recognize that people do need to disconnect their devices from time to time, when they're out of coverage, abroad, on a plane or whatever.

Therefore I wish they would think a bit more about that aspect when they produce these apps. An example which irks me is the Google Maps driving directions functionality. I want to be able to program a route before I leave and for the app to cache the route and major side roads in case I get a bit lost but not have to stay online the whole time. Docs should also let someone work away offline and sync up later.

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@DrXym (Google Maps)

"An example which irks me is the Google Maps driving directions functionality. I want to be able to program a route before I leave and for the app to cache the route and major side roads in case I get a bit lost but not have to stay online the whole time"

To be fair to them it will cache the route for you and, should you need a detour, you could go online for just that bit of information - no need to have your device on permanently just in case you get lost or need to reroute. You'd probably have to stop (or have a helper) to do so safely but, given the price of the application, it's not too onerous a demand for those (hopefully) few occasions you need it surely ?

I agree about the offline document editing though - at least for non-shared documents.

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Anonymous Coward

"I wish they would think a bit more"

I think they've thought about it a lot. You're confusing what you want with what they want you to have. It's free so they dictate the feature list.

That Google would produce something that did not create an umbilical between the user and the internet is almost heretical.

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Silver badge

Just because it's "free"

Just because something is "free" should not mean I have no input into what I think would make it a better product.

In this case the app is not "free". I may not pay for it with coin but I pay for it with the private information of my wherabouts, routes, stop off points and so forth that my phone sends to Google. This data is used to price their geolocation based ads and probably other things.

Nor does it mean I should stay quiet when it doesn't do what I want it to do. As a user I would be more inclined to use an app which does what I want than one which doesn't. It's obviously in Google's interests to make people use their app more.

It is also obvious that a driving directions app that has an offline mode, or a docs app which possesses an offline mode is more useful than an app that doesn't. One of the main reasons Ovi Maps is frequently praised (despite all the other crap going on in Nokia) is it's free and works offline. If Nokia can manage it then why not Google?

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Anonymous Coward

No offline use? No use.

Could use more details about this "no offline use" - does it really not work at all if you have no connection? What the hell use would that be in a mobile device? Its ok for machines permanently wired into broadband, but given the spotty nature of 3G connections as you move about, I can't see this as workable.

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Unhappy

App Of The Week?

I don't normally post comments of this type, but 75% for an App Of The Week?? And it's a Reg Recommended app too??

Surely there must be apps that score higher than this, or are all apps above 75% immediately recommended? If it really is worth having I'd expect something upward of 85% at least.

Is it just me?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: App Of The Week?

All App of the Week winners are Recommended, because we think they are good and/or show potential, and are worth trying.

The score shows how close to being just right the app is, but a low(ish) score doesn't mean it's not worthy of your attention.

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Linux

Ultimately this isn't even an app!

I see where Google Docs is heading. It's a file system for Chrome OS and Android. Also it looks to me to be more thin-client than app. The functionality being more on the web side of things. As there are indeed other "apps" on the market which synch with Google Docs but otherwise use local storage.

I'm not criticizing the "App of The Week" decision. I'm just sayin.

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Could do Beta

Hardly good enough to be called Beta software but extremely useful nevertheless.

Having access to all my docs on the road is a real boon. I should mention the Microsoft Office add-on i use in conjunction with Google Docs in Chrome on my PC. In effect this is the essential other half of the overall app.

But Google Docs on Android is a long way from self-sufficiency in the editing stakes. Selecting text for copy and paste is still pretty much impossible even on a large screen with Android 2.2 However a large part of the usability is down to Android itself. So i have to look forward to not just the Google Docs market updates but the Android firmware updates also (which may never happen on my current device). Things though are obviously heading in the right direct for tablets and development beyond Android 3.

And not forgetting, you'll need a decent keyboard or at the very least hunt down decent on-screen one on the Android market. You'll must have cursor keys of course.

You can never forget all your docs are in the cloud, so even when you can see your doc in the list, in a poor signal area you'll just get an error when you try and load it. I really hope that Google will collaborate with third parties to allow other apps to access the Google Docs file-system. In that way we could see office apps which allow editing of docs in local storage or SD with synchronising to the cloud just as i do at the moment on my PC. I'm thinking of anticipated release of Softmaker's office for Android.

The day was when office software would not see the light of day unless the user experience was all-around acceptable. Google clearly do things differently and we, the end users, clearly hands on in the development testing!

Hey brave new world.

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Is this a title?

Why do you need cursor keys with a touch screen? If you have a physical keyboard then sure, but with an onscreen keyboard?

I'm not an Android user but GoodReader on iOS devices has full read access to the google docs so there is obviously some API for getting to them - maybe writing isn't exposed yet though.

Editing a spreadsheet google doc on iOS using the Google app/web browser was a painful experience and from the screenshot in this article it looks to be the same on Android - things can only get better yeah?

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Delete function ...

... was added in an update i got yesterday. The tea making is yet to come :-)

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@ Jim 15

Well spotted that man! That will teach me to update my apps more frequently.

Steve - must say that I have no problem with selecting/copying/pasting text within the app or between apps. Yes you have to go into edit mode to copy but that's hardly the end of the world.

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Badgers

@Al Talor

Interesting you say it's working for you. So you've given me hope!

I've got Dell Streak on 2.2 and Sony X10 Mini Pro on 2.1 and i am struggling to select and copy text. I wrote a script earlier in the day for a staged twitter press release on my PC before leaving the office. I quickly found my tweets document and went into edit mode but every time i tried to select text i could not place the cursor at the beginning or the end. Then when i pressed down to get the context menu to copy the whole selection evaporated. Seriously it was driving me mad!

Could the problem be my fingers? Is it just me?

I don't know but one thing to get across is that Google docs represents a whole different approach to rolling out applications. After all when i install MS Office i expect everything to work and it pretty much does. I expect my PC to work just fine when i hit the keys, click the mouse, etc. Smart phones & tabs are forcing us to change our usability expectations and for an old pair of hands like mine that ain't easy!

I'm sure one day these smart devices will get us back to where we were, but for now, hey!

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Gold badge

@ Steve Farr

Smart phones & tabs are forcing us to change our usability expectations and for an old pair of hands like mine that ain't easy!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Not wishing to start a flame-war here, but have you considered the Apple route?

The frustration with my iPad is that there are certain things you just can't do - and no way round them short of jailbreaking (which is a hassle). But what's there mostly works very well. Although I'd say copy+paste is pretty awful. C+P on my Android phone is actually better (when it's working properly, which isn't always).

My new Wildfire was a bit of a shock to the system. It's a lot less polished, a bit harder to use, has some annoyingly buggy behaviour, and I was shocked by the lack of documentation from Google. They appear not to have bothered with an online user manual, because apparently that's up to HTC! But the Exchange sync functionality is part of their OS, and there's precisely one paragraph on how to configure it in the one HTC provide. It took me 4 days, and quite a lot of swearing to get it sorted. I didn't find any useful info on the many Android forums either.

On the upside, if I don't like the rubbish text app that Google provide, I can go and get 10 more, and pick the best of them. I'm free to make a lot of changes. But then even that's not totally true, unless I root the phone, which seems to be as much hassle as jailbreaking on iOS.

I was hoping to upgrade my original iPad to an Android tab, but my experience with the Wildfire has put me off a bit. I think I'd rather lose control for ease of use, in a way I won't accept on my PC.

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Webapp

It's pretty much just a wrapper around their existing Google Docs webapp. Which is nice to see as it fools the uninitiated into using it and realizing that that webapps are just as good as native, once the right API's are available.

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Silver badge

Re: Webapp

A large percentage of apps on iPhone/Android/Ovi are little more than that. Nothing that couldn't be implemented by a properly written mobile CSS definition and used via the browser.

There are some superbly implemented websites out there which show just how much can be done without any need for an (wr)app.

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Pagin DrXym

If you preview all the route via a fast wi-fi/3G connection prior to setting off, the GoogleMap on your phone can cache all the map views and so not need the 3G connection (assuming you've updated the app and turned on the "precache" button.)

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Nice app...

Shames it refuses to install on my Viewsonic G Tablet. and the normal Doc pages does not play nicely with the browser or UI on it. (Running the VeganTab Ginger Edition rom)

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jwb

Will be nice once they finish it

Right now menu just has a refresh item. If you're editing a spreadsheet, you should get the option to insert functions into cells etc.

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Unhappy

Nice but...

Doesn't work with my Google Apps account. Not entirely thrilled at the prospect of moving my docs back to my old googlemail account

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MrT
Bronze badge

It'll get there eventually...

... but until then I much prefer Documents to Go, which is a much more capable app (with Google Docs integration and desktop sync tool as well). The price for Google Docs is right, compared to the Premium version of D2G, but they always seem to offer some deal or other - I think I paid about $9 for the program, but needed something like the Mobile Office suite I was used to using on old WinMo6.x handsets.

But overall, Google Docs is a good start.

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