There is another tool buried in Google Docs that we haven’t yet looked at during our 30 Days With…Google Docs–Drawing. The Microsoft Office equivalent, or counterpart, would be Visio, although Visio is an additional purchase that is not part of the Microsoft Office bundles.
While Drawing sounds like an art program–and it could be used as such to an extent–in the context of Google Docs, or office productivity, it is more about business drawings like flowcharts, organizational charts, or other charts or diagrams for business documents or presentations.
You can open a Drawing as a standalone document type by the Create New drop-down from the Google Docs home page and choosing Drawing. You can also add a Drawing as an element of the other doc types by using Insert on the tool menu and selecting Drawing.
Regardless of how you get there, you will start with a blank Drawing canvas. Across the top is a menu bar with the various tools you can use for you drawing. The menu bar contains the standard collection of lines, arrows, and shapes, as well as the obligatory text box. Using the array of shapes available, and filling in colors with the paint bucket you can create a colorful chart or diagram.
But, it is almost unfair to compare Drawing to Visio. Visio is loaded with templates of scale images and icons to create complex, detailed floor plans, network diagrams, and more. If the template you want isn’t in Visio, you can probably find an appropriate collection of images online somewhere. Visio just makes it easy to crank out professional-looking drawings and diagrams.
There is one area where Drawings stands out, though. It is the Google Docs sweet spot–real-time collaboration. Like other Google Docs types, you can share out a Drawing and enable whole teams of individuals to work on it together online in real-time. Visio is awesome, but it doesn’t have the online collaboration piece.
Granted, it is fair to consider the “you get what you pay for angle”. When you factor in that Visio 2010 Standard is $250, Visio 2010 Professional is $500, and Visio 2010 Premium is a whopping $1000–above and beyond the cost of the core Microsoft Office 2010 software, Google Docs Drawing seems much more impressive by comparison.
In a nutshell, Google Docs Drawing is nice if you need to collaborate in real-time, but overall Drawing compared to Visio is like comparing Microsoft Paint to Adobe Photoshop. It can fill a rudimentary need, but it is not versatile enough for more complex drawing projects.