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This is the website for Team Fresh City, part of the HFID class in Fall 2009.

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01 Dec - 31 Dec 2009

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« Inspirational Designs… | Home | Inspirational Designs… »

Inspirational Designs: Google Docs

01 10 09 - 09:02 Google Docs was a natural choice for a concentrated Inspirational Design.  It could be the most popular collaborative paper writing tool.

Google Docs was a clear choice for an inspirational design because it is currently the most popular and well known document composer, specifically for collaboration.  Its goal is to provide a word processor in which multiple collaborators can write and edit a paper together, in the same version.  However, due to its design implementation, it is not necessary the best tool for the job.  On the positive side, Google Docs manages collaborators and changes.  The home screen of Google Docs is shown below.


 When editing a document, the user is aware of who else is working on the document.  It also simplifies the issue of versions and having to compile different sections and edits.  With Google Docs, there is only one document being worked on/edited at a time, and there is no need to compile multiple versions. These features are something we should definitely consider when developing a new paper collaboration tool.  It is important to know if others are working on a document, and what changes have been made.  The simplicity of one live document can also save time and simplify the editing process. 
Though we may look to borrow some of these positive aspects of the tool, there are many problems that make Google Docs hard to use.  The writing and editing of the document is not “real time” enough.  Two people could be working on the same section simultaneously and not know it.  It will periodically update the document, but not frequently enough to be effective.  Google Docs also has many formatting problems and discontinuities.  Text copied and pasted from other sources will often get jumbled and mis-formatted.  Sometimes it is impossible to change the formatting to the desired settings. The following screen shot demonstrates some of these formatting issues.  Some of the text is arbitrarily a larger font size, with larger paragraph spacing.  It cannot be changed to be the same.

Formatting should not be a hindrance, and a better method would have to be designed for our tool.  Lastly, there isn’t a great version, editing, or source tool incorporated into Google Docs.  The program would be much improved with such tools and features.  A simple comment notepad would allow collaborators to leave notes and comments for each other.  In all, Google Docs was a great first attempt at a paper collaboration tool, but is far from a finished solution.