Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Writely Becomes Google Docs & Spreadsheets

By Dennis D. McDonald

I have been working on a proposal over the past few days using Writely; the sponsor is traveling constantly and I need regular feedback. I learned yesterday that last night a Writely “planned outage” was anticipated so I rushed to make necessary modifications to the document before I emailed the sponsor to say a new version was available for inspection.

I need not have worried. The planned time, midnight Eastern time, came and went without a hiccup. One moment I was using Writely. The next moment I was using “Google Docs & Spreadsheets” and Writely was no more. My proposal was still there and nothing was lost (I admit I had downloaded a backup right before midnight, being the paranoid soul that I am).

The new Google Docs interface is well organized and I am indeed impressed. I’ll be using this a lot. The price is right, the application’s functionality is well balanced, and I can work on the same document from my Windows and my Macintosh computers.

Plus there are the sharing, collaboration, and version comparison features on top of basic word processing and its ability to save documents in a variety of forms. Output formats include OpenOffice, PDF, Word, HTML, and RTF; I don’t see a “plain text” output feature.

My only two complaints:

  1. The menu icons aren’t resizable. I wear reading glasses and I’m accustomed to adjusting text sizes up and down in my browser (Firefox). Some of the icons are confusingly similar. It would be helpful to be able to display them at double or triple their original size.
  2. Google keeps trying to get me to sign in using my Google account. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep using my Yahoo account ID. that’s how I originally set up the Writely account. I don’t use Google’s email service and I have to repeatedly delete a (presumably) cookie-controlled pre-filling of the Google Docs sign-in form with my Google mail ID that I never use for email. It’s a minor annoyance but I do fear that Google might someday require me to sign in with the Google ID in order to obtain all potential features; we’ll see what happens.

Copyright (c) 2006 by Dennis D. McDonald.

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