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Open up Google Docs?

I’ve found myself using Google Docs more and more. It’s about a Bronze Age word processor at this point, but it makes collaborating easy, I like being able to get at my work from anywhere (even when offline), and the continuous backup and versioning is comforting.

But, not only is Docs way under-featured and butt ugly, Google is fixing it up really slowly.

What would Google have to do to enable The Community to enhance it?

We presumably (i.e., I don’t know what I’m talking about) could write an enhanced system that uses Google Docs for storage, but that slaps a new UI on it and adds features. In fact, maybe this is something that Adobe’s beautiful Air-based word processor, Buzzword, should be (or is?) looking at.

Even better: Google could make Google Docs as amenable to add-ons as Firefox is. Of course, I have no idea how hard that would be, and what the possibilities of terminally screwing up your docs might be.

At the very least, while Google Docs is getting better at allowing us to redefine existing HTML elements, to create new classes, and even to create new elements (albeit without giving us a UI to use these classes or elements, other than entering into HTML editing mode), letting us attach CSS style sheets seems like an obvious and non-destructive improvement.

But, IDKWITA (I don’t know what I’m talking about … and why isn’t that a standard Web acronym?), so there may be obvious technical issues mooting all of the above. But I’m sure that won’t mute you from telling me what I’m missing.

Please. [Tags: ]

Marco Barulli at Clipperz (a password manager) blogs about what it would take to get more freedom and privacy from the providers of Web apps. He has a three-part solution…

4 Responses to “Open up Google Docs?”

  1. The plug-in thing could be very easy to do. Wikipedia, for instance, allows custom javascripts for each authenticated user that only they see in their sessions. The page can be edited just like any other Wikipedia page, and you can include JavaScript that other users have written. These typically add functionality like leaving quick messages or validating the citations on a page.

    Presumably you could use the Google Docs data API to do this. It would require Google to permit a certain amount of user session customization, but the major back end piece, the JavaScript data API, is there.

  2. I used to use Google docs much more, back when it was still called Writely (I guess before Google bought it?), but lately I find I can’t use it for some things because of all the stuff that’s embedded or something, if that’s what it is. (I like your acronym: IDKWITA, thx!)

    For example, I have to send the articles I publish in a local monthly mag to the editor using a .doc file. If I first write my article in Google docs and then try to save it as a Word file, it does all sorts of weird stuff — and vice versa. The formatting is inconsistent.

    It has also become useless if I want to scan a print article and then save it as a PDF. Not sure why. Drives me up the wall. I just use OpenOffice instead.

    It’s almost as if Google has added more bells & whistles, and somehow in the process made it *more* difficult to move whatever you’ve created from one format to another.

    Not sure if making it open would help, but at this point it couldn’t hurt, methinks.

  3. IDKWITA — I think that should definitely become more popular.

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