After spending the past couple days talking about Gmail, the focus of 30 Days With…Google Docs today is on things working automatically. There are many features and functions that Google Docs has in common with Microsoft Word, but in Microsoft Word they just worked, and in Google Docs they technically exist, but you have to find them first and manually activate them.
For example, I have already covered the ability to add space before or after a paragraph. In Word, I can modify the default template to use the font I choose, line spacing I prefer, and add an extra space when I hit enter to make it easier to identify separate paragraphs.
In Google Docs, I can choose a font, and I can choose line spacing, and I can add space before or after a paragraph, but I have to do it again every time I write a document. I haven’t yet come across–nor has any reader shared with me–any way that I can edit the defaults so that my documents always use Tahoma with 1.5 line spacing, and I can’t just type and hit enter after each paragraph, I have to manually click the line-spacing drop-down and select the option to add the space on a paragraph by paragraph basis after the fact.
Then, there is cut and paste. If I am quoting from an email I received from a source, or from a blog post, I can copy and paste that text in. In Word, when I paste the text in, I am automatically provided choices for how to format the pasted text–for example using the source formatting, or converting it to match the formatting of the rest of my document, and I can hover over each of the options to see a preview of what the formatting will look like before I decide. In Google Docs, I paste the content and it defaults to the source formatting, then I have to select it, and go to Format in the menu bar and click Clear Formatting to make it look like the rest of my text.
Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in spell-checking. But, Microsoft Word automatically corrects many of the most commonly mis-spelled words as I type, while Google Docs just underlines them in red for me to manually right-click and choose the correct spelling myself. There are some other auto-formatting options in Word that I miss as well. If I type ‘1st’ or ‘2nd’ in Word, it automatically converts the ‘st’ or ‘nd’ to superscript, or if I type a double-dash it automatically converts it to an em-dash.
Google Docs seems like a reasonably capable word processor so far, and I haven’t really found much that I need to do that it can’t deliver. But, there are a wide variety of things that just work in Microsoft Word that I have grown to expect and take for granted, but that require manual intervention in Google Docs that make the writing process more tedious and slow down productivity.