Google Docs for Android Review

Google Docs for Android Review

Google is famous for many of its products being in a nearly perpetual beta state. Come to think about it, Gmail was in beta for what seemed an eternity before Google decided to finally push it into a final version along with Google Calendar, Talk and... Google Docs. But while we have native Android apps for Gmail, Calendar and Talk, Google Docs was the only one left accessible exclusively through your browser. Yesterday it all changed. Kind of.

Google Docs went native for Android for the sweet price of zilch dollars and we took it for a spin to see if it can manage to address the even more perpetual problem of a free office suite for smartphones and tablets. To put it in a nutshell right from the start: it doesn't, but it's a big step towards it.

First of all, Google Docs does:

1. give a native shell to a cloud based service.

2. support text document and spreadsheet viewing and editing. Powerpoint presentations can only be viewed.

3. add text-recognition from images. It's not the most accurate you can get, but it's a start.

4. support multiple accounts.

5. allow quick and easy sharing.

It doesn't:

1. allow you to download documents locally. That means that you absolutely need to have an Internet connection to access your files.

2. allow deleting files.

3. update spreadsheets with formulas when you enter new data.

4. offer any kind of password protection.

Google Docs for Android grants you viewing and editing texts and spreadsheets, but that redirects you to the mobile website, so offline editing is a no-go – you must have an Internet connection to access your docs. Hopefully, this will change in future versions as the application states that it keeps cache of up to 150MB, but it's the biggest drawback of the app currently – basically turning it into a little more than a wrapper for the mobile website. And dealing with the Google Docs website when viewing or editing unfortunately translates into sluggishness of the whole process.

What got our attention the most however was the optical character recognition (OCR) software that comes bundled in the app. A rather intelligent algorithm extracts printed text from an image so you can easily manage and edit it on the go. It's not perfect in any way (printed text from the web was often interpreted incorrectly replacing various characters like “l” or “:” with “i” for once), but it might be a worthy alternative to scanning for printed text if you invest some time in editing afterwards.

Finally, while it's far from a full-fledged office suite replacement mostly because of the sluggishness of the web interface, it's a start and a promise. If Google manages to update the app with a quick and intuitive native office client, Android can claim one serious advancement over all the rest operating systems out there.

Download: Google Reader on Android Market


1 Comment

1. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Is that a Motorola Cliq you used for the test phone? I suspect that the app will be updated on a timely manner; all of Google's apps get about one update per month, and they almost always include new features and improve on old ones.

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