At the end of April, 2014, Google announced that it was introducing standalone apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets, with the arrival of Google Slides imminent. The apps can be downloaded for free from the App Store and on Google Play, supporting both iOS and Android devices. Previously, the Google Drive app bundled all of these products together under one roof, but Google took the decision to offer them individually. What does this mean for users and will there be any significant changes to look out for?
Why Google Made the Change
At first consideration, it might seem a bit strange to split the three apps from the Google Drive portfolio, but in fact there were a number of good reasons why Google took the decision to introduce them as individual apps. One of the biggest influences relates to how we use mobile devices these days. With smartphones and tablets becoming increasingly popular, more sophisticated and more accessible in terms of the products and apps that they offer us, there is a growing need for users to be able to have complete functionality of apps whilst on the go. Previously, the Google Drive app allowed individuals to store and manage files, but it was not user-friendly in terms of working on the go. The new standalone apps have addressed this issue. If you need to create a document, then using the new Google standalone Docs app means that you can access documents, edit them, share information or create new ones wherever you are. It has offline support, which means that you can use the app and make changes to it without the need for having an internet connection. This means that you can do whatever you want when you are on the road or out and about. You might have a brilliant idea that needs documenting, or you might want to edit an idea you have got stored in the app. Whether you want to pen your first novel, design your own phone case, share information about the phone cases or store information about a conference you have just been to, there are endless scenarios where using Google Docs spontaneously offline could prove invaluable. Another possible reason that Google chose to split its individual products within the Google Drive suite was in response to the introduction of Microsoft's launch of its Office suite for iPad. This was a profound success and hugely popular. Google, no doubt, is keen to keep up with the competition, and this new change is seen as a way to maintain momentum in both the iOS and Android markets. A strong influencing factor why Google took the decision to introduce standalone apps could also be due to the fact that it makes it easier for users to find the information they need or want in a focused and streamlined approach. In Google Drive, the user would have to search for individual documents or spreadsheets within the entire suite, but the new apps make searching a lot easier and quicker, enhancing the user experience. If a user only needs Google Docs, then it is not obliged to download Google Sheets or Slides, for instance. It can focus on what is most relevant to the individual's needs. Making any updates to the standalone apps will inevitably be much easier if they are separated, without the need to download changes to what was once the entire suite.
What Changes Can You Expect?
Many people might be speculating about the changes that have been made to the new apps. In essence, there actually have not been any drastic functionality changes between the Drive-integrated apps and the new standalone versions. They offer the same user interface and features for viewing, editing and sharing, but they are smaller and lightweight versions, making them ideal for less powerful tablets or smartphones. They are also kitted out in different colour schemes. The main feature to enhance the new standalone Google Docs is the ability to work offline, eliminating the need for an internet connection. Working offline is straightforward, and involves opening the document, clicking the 'i' button and switching the 'keep on the device' button to on. The document that you want to edit is then downloaded and stored in an encrypted folder. The next time you use the internet, the documents will sync up. When you open the new apps, the most recently edited files will be shown, making it easier to retrieve the last items you were working on without the need for scrolling. Google Docs is able to work fluidly and can be synchronised with other devices. Work is saved as it is typed, so there are no problems with it getting lost. OCR technology is incorporated into the app, meaning it can convert picture text into words that can then be transferred to another document. There will be a Google Drive button at the side of the standalone apps, so you can tap on this to access any documents you have stored in the cloud on the main suite. If you are already familiar with using Google Drive, then the new standalone Google Docs app will be straightforward to use. No doubt as time goes on and updates are made, the standalone apps may incorporate new and additional features.
What Does This Mean If You Already Have Google Drive?
If you continue using Google Drive for creating or editing documents and spreadsheets, then you will be prompted to download the new standalone versions. You will still be able to use Drive for viewing, organising and storing your documents, spreadsheets or presentations or photos, but not for editing purposes. It is likely it will function similarly to Dropbox, in that you can view lots of different files but will need to rely on other apps for editing functions.
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