When Google Docs Bite You In The Ass

Ever since I reinstalled my home PC with Vista a few months back I've been trying a little experiment of running it without Microsoft Office. I've heard some great things about Google Docs and since I almost never actually use Word or Excel, seeing as most of my life is spent inside of either Delphi, Visual Studio or E, I figured I'd save myself the price of an upgrade to Office 2007.

For the most part it's been fine, not great, not earth-shattering but workable and I've never had reason to complain until this weekend when my wife innocently asked me to print some quiz questions for a baby shower she was hosting. No problem, jump into Google Docs and type the questions and since my wife had put so much effort into making everything look polished I figured I'd do the same with the quiz.

The first head of Cerberus rears it's ugly mug with a slobber covered dog tag saying "Fonts". There are literally thousands of amazing fonts, created by true craftsmen, all designed to convey a certain feel to the printed word and I have access to none of them. Typographers out there, you must hate Google Docs with a passion. I always knew this was an issue in the back of my mind but running into it when you need it most goes beyond annoying.

Second issue that smacked me around was the the amazing suck of printing. Print preview is a true joke in Google Docs, it gives you no sense of how your text will look on the printed page thus making it impossible for me to see if my ten questions were nicely centered in the middle of the page. When I finally did print I laughed at how professional documents look when the bottom of the page has a url splashed across it. That is sarcasm for those that don't know. What I get from the whole printing aspect of Google Docs is that you shouldn't. If you ever need to actually print something, which those crazy space monkeys at Google must never do, then Google Docs is definitely not for you.

The third issue with Google Docs actually came tonight when a client sent me an Excel document that I needed to deal with and I clicked on the handy link inside of GMail that says, "Open as a Google Spreadsheet", only to be greeted with nothing. By nothing I mean a blank white pristine white sucking rectangle of space, that when I squint and read between the lines says, "Don't Use Google Docs". I tried it in IE7, I tried it in Firefox, I tried clearing my cache, I logged out and back in. Nothing. I need to deal with this document now, not when Google decides to fix the issue.

All of this combined means I'll probably pony up the cash to get Office 2007 but more importantly I'm now just a little more informed about Google Docs and it's limitations and uses. I did manage to live without Word or Excel for quite a few months with never running into any issues but if you don't use something often you probably won't hit many roadblocks. In Google Docs current state it's great as a temporary fix but like any temporary solution it will fail at some point and probably when you need it the most. Of course if you don't care about typography, layout, printing or reliability then Google Docs is great.