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Google Rebuilds Docs Platform 194

Posted by Soulskill
from the further-encloudificating-your-grocery-list dept.
mikemuch writes "In addition to offering faster, desktop-like performance, better imported document fidelity, and more features found in standard Office apps, Google's new infrastructure for its web-based office suite will enable the company to more easily update the apps. A side effect (or benefit, depending on where you sit) is that the new platform will ditch Gears in favor of HTML 5. For a while starting May 3 there will be no offline capability whatsoever. Collaboration is a big focus, with a new chat sidebar and real-time co-editing. The new Docs and spreadsheet apps will be opt-in previews, but a new drawing app is launching fully. Both go live later today on the Google Docs site."
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Google Rebuilds Docs Platform

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  • Slashvertisement? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by teknopurge (199509) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:02PM (#31820676) Homepage
    Does anyone else think the submission sounds like an ad copy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by poetmatt (793785)

      Nah, not really.

      it's something used by tons of people, and switching to HTML 5 here is a good deal *and* significant for cross platform use.

    • by Layth (1090489) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:08PM (#31820764)

      A news website, with a summary that sounds like a press release.. nothing wrong here.
      Not a marketing guy, but as I understand it a press release is different than normal advertising copy - it's news (in this case, news for nerds)

    • Does anyone else think the submission sounds like an ad copy?

      Welcome to the modern world of press releases :)

    • by R.Mo_Robert (737913) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:37PM (#31821178)

      Indeed. If I were a small company like Google, I'd be really hoping that Slashdot could provide some much-needed publicity.

    • Sure. And it works too. Tomorrow I'll fire my IT department.

          Not really. I don't have an IT department.

              But if I had, I'd fire them. For real.

                  And I'm seriously thinking about asking my boss to ask her boss to fire our IT department. Though not tomorrow.

      The day after tomorrow. I actually think I'm bloody well going to do it. What a bother.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Does anyone else think the submission sounds like an ad copy?

      So?

  • by Timosch (1212482) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:04PM (#31820704)
    "faster, desktop-like performance..." - Google will love this...
  • HTML5 Features (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WankersRevenge (452399) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:05PM (#31820720)
    It's funny that people are so fixated over the video tag discussion that a lot of the other outstanding features of HTML5 are being overlooked. There's offline storage, javascript threads, and even in browser form validation. The awesome thing is that a bunch of these features are already implemented in various browsers. It's just a matter of including a simple javascript sniffer to determine if a client supports it or not. You can dig into the features over here [diveintohtml5.org].
    • Re:HTML5 Features (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nadaka (224565) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:50PM (#31821450)

      I am just pissed off that no one seems to want xhtml2. It is generally better than html5 in most ways, though it could use a few minor features from html5.

      • Re:HTML5 Features (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:00PM (#31821594) Journal
        In a world where 99% of everything is broken, strictness isn't really a virtue...
        • Re:HTML5 Features (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Nadaka (224565) on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:15PM (#31821806)

          On the contrary, in a world where 99% of everything is broken, strictness really is a virtue. Strictness allows people to realize what isn't broken in an endless morass of crippled partial implementations. Eventually, things can be fixed. Computers and the internet do not have to be something for which everyone has resigned to being broken.

          "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not only because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. "

          • You have to make the important distinction between what you create and what you deal with.

            If you are creating, and you have the choice, strict correctness is an excellent thing to aspire to and, ideally, achieve. If you are dealing with other people's(often broken) stuff, strictness is a bug(being able to test, at your option, for brokenness or correctness is all well and good); because it prevents your stuff from working with the vast majority of the world.

            To use your Apollo analogy, building launch
          • by Fastolfe (1470)

            Strictness allows people to realize what isn't broken in an endless morass of crippled partial implementations.

            Yes.

            Eventually, things can be fixed.

            Realistically, this is the part that never happens. From the perspective of a business, paying someone to generate web content, producing strictly-conforming XHTML content is more expensive than HTML tag soup, and browsers render them exactly the same way. Why should a business go the more expensive route? Are you really suggesting that the costs of not moving to XHTML are worth what we paid to send men to the moon?

            Computers and the internet do not have to be something for which everyone has resigned to being broken.

            As a software developer, my job is to make my software robust in its interactions with

          • Man, it's a good thing we shot that guy in the face. Imagine humanity living together in peace, exploring the cosmos and improving the standard of living cooperatively. *SHUDDER*

      • by lwsimon (724555)

        As a once-full-time-web-developer, I dropped XHTML in 2006. I went back to HTML 4.01, which was generally well supported, and stayed there. The rest of the web development world caught up a couple of years later.

        What does XHTML2 offer that HTML5 doesn't?

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          Vastly better forms (XForms).

          It does not pollute css style classes with semantic meaning. Instead it uses a separate role attribute that is more flexible and retains separation of concerns.

          It uses xml events and DOM.

          Strictness, I see it as a virtue, some don't (sometimes for valid reasons, sometimes not).

          Continuing the trend of separating of document structure from style.

          There is more but I got some work in that I need to deal with.

      • by Dynedain (141758)

        The problem with XHTML (which overall I like much much more than HTML 4.01 because of its strictness) is that some very useful things for websites were intentionally excluded, with no reliable alternatives.

        Two examples:
        1) target attributes for anchors. In XHTML 1.1, there is no way to indicate whether a specific link should open in the same window vs. a new window as target is not permitted unless you are using framesets.

        2) Required alt tags for images. Sometimes an image is used for purposes other than a p

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          1: totally agree with you here. There are javascript workarounds, but it isn't nearly as clean of a solutuon.

          2: images used for styling do not need to be included in tags, they can be loaded from the stylesheet.

          • by Dynedain (141758)

            2: images used for styling do not need to be included in tags, they can be loaded from the stylesheet.

            Not necessarily. Often that can require additional markup to provide the necessary containers for CSS to do its work. Or, it can be that the images need to be insertable/configurable by non-coders with no CSS experience, which can require injecting the image into the markup. I've worked with several content management systems where I had no control over certain key page elements because their markup was loc

    • There's offline storage, javascript threads, and even in browser form validation. The awesome thing is that a bunch of these features are already implemented in various browsers.

      I feel the opposite. It's a whole list of things I have to remember to turn off.

      I'm hard pressed to think of a site where I like the javascript. Geolocation and offline storage: yeah more ways of being tracked. Browser form validation: that one may be useful, but I'm not sure why yet.

      Even the video tag... I can turn Flash off e

    • by ckaminski (82854)
      Seriously? Javascript threads are a BAD IDEA.

      It's bad enough I have 100 tabs open, each with an AJAX-y background javascript thread running pulling updates. What I really want is a browser managed threadpool that restricts that to a sane number. Seriously, I can get firefox to routinely suck down 25% of my CPU just sitting doing nothing (with 168 tabs)... if you consider that nothing.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      They're awesome features... If only they were standardized.

      For instance, the offline storage. I recently looked into it because it sounded like it was going to be really great. Then I find out there a huge push to get functionality removed and have a more basic offline storage system instead. Seriously? Ugh.

    • It's not so much about client features, as it is about the whole model. I want my suppliers to take care of my ASS: availability, safety, security. All the cloudy things really don't, I can't get neither apps nor data if I get disconnected, there's no guarantee my data won't be lost, nor easy ways to make backups, and no guarantee at all that my data won't be stolen by some 3rd world subcontractor's trainee.

  • by Stan Vassilev (939229) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:26PM (#31821014)

    If "real-time collaboration" and "side chat bar" sounds familiar, it's Etherpad:

    Etherpad.com [etherpad.com]

    Google bought the company few months ago in order to improve their Google Wave and Google Docs offerings, and I'm happy to see these efforts come to fruition. Google left the Etherpad.com service up for some more time. The end of that grace period is April 14-th (2 days from now), so you have 2 days to go and check what the new Google Docs will probably feel like. Make sure to check out the timeline replay feature, downright eerie and good fit for Google's pattern of Ubiquitous Tracking of Everything, I think.

  • JavaScript (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vahokif (1292866) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:31PM (#31821080)
    I don't get why we're still using JavaScript for everything. What we need is a bytecode-based platform like Java or .NET but completely open and managed by W3C, totally integrated in the browser instead of a plugin and with a minimal standard library that only does math, DOM, etc. It would sure as hell beat crazy hacks like compiling other languages to JavaScript.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dingen (958134)

      Why?

      There are loads of Javascript frameworks out there to basically give developers any functionality they might require. Speed isn't the issue anymore since Javascript engines have become multithreaded bytecode interpreters and as of late even offering hardware acceleration.

      What's wrong with Javascript?

      • Re:JavaScript (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Vahokif (1292866) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:49PM (#31821436)
        What's the point of using an interpreted language when you could compile to, download and execute bytecode much more efficiently?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Joe Random (777564)

          What's the point of using an interpreted language when you could compile to, download and execute bytecode much more efficiently?

          Please define "much more efficiently". Sure, it's more efficient from the computer's standpoint to run native code, but that's only part of the equation. From the user's standpoint, running something like this as a web service rather than a stand-alone executable means not having to install, never having to upgrade, and automatically having their documents available from any other computer that has an Internet connection. Yes, it may be slightly slower, but that slowdown may be well within tolerable limi

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Vahokif (1292866)
            What are you talking about? It'd still be in the browser, just bytecode instead of JavaScript.
        • by dingen (958134)
          What's the point of changing how everything works?
        • Re:JavaScript (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:47PM (#31822300)


          What's the point of using an interpreted language when you could compile to, download and execute bytecode much more efficiently?

          Because while Javascript sucks, is bandwidth-intense and slow, it is the only Turing-complete, client-side, barely-cross-platform Web programming environment that Microsoft has implemented and which Microsoft is still forced to keep around on all default installations of Windows/Explorer.

          You are perfectly right that bytecode environments are much better choices technically, but they are worth nothing to Google as long as Microsoft keeps them out of their default browser installs.

          [ Note that on platforms that Google is able to influence in their entirety they are using bytecode solutions aggressively - see Android. ]

          Microsoft adopted (and extend) Javascript because it wanted to kill Netscape so badly. Once they achieved that they couldn't kill Javascript anymore because 1) half of the web ran on it 2) they were lying low after the bloody [and illegal] battle with Netscape raised the interest of various [civil] law enforcement agencies 3) Microsoft thought they made Javascript incompatible enough and did not really realize how it still enabled Google's cloud apps - until it was too late.

          Microsoft tried to hold out with a sucky Javascript engine as long as it could, but they eventually had to give in.

          It's kind of ironic that this small domino started 10 years ago by Microsoft caused the increasingly apparent demise of Microsoft Office.

          It will take another 10+ years for the process to be complete (the 100+ billion business that Microsoft has become has a lot of inertia) but it will happen - the world generally strives to optimize out the overhead of that 100+ billion dollars tax that Microsoft has become by today.

        • by iserlohn (49556)

          Bad javascript is barely legible but it still beats good bytecode any day.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Well I used to think that. There's one problem I encountered, which is that gzipped, optimized JavaScript is mindblowingly concise compared to most other forms of compiled code. You can fit a staggering amount of functionality in only a kilobyte of this stuff.

          This may sound absurd, but try it for yourself. Write a piece of JavaScript to do something generic and non-platform dependent like calculate MD5. Run it through the Closure Compiler [appspot.com] which is the same tool that Google uses to optimize and check its Jav

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      You mean like flash? no. Binary streams no not make sense in the human readable document format that is the web.

    • They're the ones who want to keep JavaScript and HTML for everything. Don't let them screw the pooch again.

    • . What we need is a bytecode-based platform like Java or .NET but completely open and managed by W3C

      W3C does a great job with it's standards. Why, I hear [insert your favorite browser] is so compliant it will pass the ACID3 test any day now! (Sarcasm does not apply if you use Safari, Opera or one of the several Linux browsers that actually do.)

      • by Vahokif (1292866)
        It's not the W3C's fault that browsers only follow their standards 10 years after they're released.
        • It's not the W3C's fault that browsers only follow their standards 10 years after they're released.

          One, that means they don't have the power to be worth entrusting new standards to.

          Two, it is their fault. They allowed Microsoft and Netscape to add to their standards, resulting in an attitude of whatever. They release overly complex standards knowing that the earlier ones aren't being adhered to. They allow themselves to be pushed around by certain companies, ensuring that other companies have a vested in

          • by Vahokif (1292866)
            Standards bodies only enforce standards someone claims to follow but doesn't. That's not the case here.
    • by hoggoth (414195)

      Hey that's a great idea. Let's call it "Java"...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      It would sure as hell beat crazy hacks like compiling other languages to JavaScript.

      Yes, it would have made much more sense to come up with a decent IDE for web javascript development than to do wacky hacks like that. But since they work, they'll stay with us for quite some time. In the mean time, various agencies have proven that JavaScript does not have to be slow. With some additional help, it can surely be even faster.

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:57PM (#31821550)

    I thought off-line storage was a big part of HTML5? Hell we're even using it now with our iPhone apps. There are a lot of things I like about google docs. It's great because we have a Joint Venture with a company in San Francisco where we're based out of St. Louis. We can edit in real time using Skype for voice and then see what people are editing in a text document or spreadsheet.

    But Microsoft Office and iWork are both on my MacBook Pro. Why? Because sometimes I'm on an airplane and need to finish up that presentation for tomorrow or write a report, etc.. Or I'm riding in a car doing the same through the backwoods where the cell towers don't go. Until I can, Google Docs will not be replacing Office or iWork as my everyday office tools.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brandee07 (964634)

      The reason there's no Offline capability in the new GoogleDocs is cause it's not ready yet. They say, in so many words, that they plan to have the HTML5 Offline Mode up and running soon. Until then, use the Old Version + Gears.

      This may not have been a good idea, but it is very Google-esque to roll out a new product with features missing.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:11PM (#31821758) Homepage

    I recently took part in a collaborative project, resulting in a published book, which was done by means of Google Docs.

    I was underwhelmed. I used only the "document" (word processing) tool. There were scores of little clunky things about the user interface, many puzzles and problems involving document exchange and permissions, and the "feature-completeness" of the application was maybe late 1980s.

    But what really got me was that the basic editing operations were unreliable. I would insert a 12-point subheading above a 10-point text paragraph and the whole paragraph would change to 12-point text, stuff like that. Two sections might both show normal single-spaced line spacing within the editor, yet the final PDF output would render one of them as single-spaced and the other as double-spaced.

    After a while I thought perhaps it was an incompatibility with Safari, although Google does not suggest any such thing, and switched to Firefox. There were still continual problems of this kind, popping up randomly; perhaps not as often and perhaps not exactly the same as under Safari.

    If this were running locally under Windows or Mac OS, people would roll on the floor laughing at it. Apple's TextEdit or Microsoft's WordPad would blow it out of the water. If this is the best Web 2.0 can do, local PCs are safe.

    The thing is, the press writes about them as if Google Docs were a full-featured, commercial-quality applications... as good a substitute for Word as, say, OpenOffice. It isn't. Under some conditions I guess the collaborative features make it better than nothing (the book got finished).

    No doubt the marketers will spin it out endlessly by with continuous frank acknowledgement that whatever is the actual Google Docs you can get now IS a joke, it is the NEXT one that will be desktop-application quality--just as the next version of Windows will be secure and easy to use. We will see. But the current Google Docs, if considered as a serious alternative to a locally-hosted application, is a joke.

    • Under some conditions I guess the collaborative features make it better than nothing (the book got finished).

      So... the emperor has some clothes, then?

      I mean, collaborative is one thing Word just isn't. Google Docs is essentially a collaboration tool.

      Obviously the formatting features don't match up with the ones in Office, but you're replying to an article about a complete rebuilding of Google Docs to make it faster, more collaborative and, yes to add new features.

      FTA:

      formatting options like a margin ruler, better numbering and bullets, and more flexible image placement

    • I think you'll find the point of the rewrite was to solve all these issues. Read the article - Docs no longer relies on your browser to do things like correctly positioning bullet points. It does it all itself.

      Full disclosure. I am a Googler and we've been using this new version of Docs internally for a while. It is a significant improvement. The old Docs was basically a wrapper around your browsers HTML editing feature that auto-saved every few seconds. The new Docs is a real word processor that understands things like page breaks natively. It is fully consistent in every browser and features the real-time collaboration you saw in Wave. I enjoy using it a lot more.

    • Well the collaboration features are worth more to me than the polish of MS Word (the same polish that overwrites styles for no reason and crashes documents with tables in the header I guess ;)

    • Google Docs is free. Free as in beer. And it runs on every OS. Making a comparison to OO is fine, and valid. OO is definitely superior for ONE user on ONE machine. However, it's bloated, requires java, and has dozens of other aspects that I don't like at all.

      That said, I'd use either in place of paying for Microsoft Office. I really can't understand anybody's preference to MS Office over Open Office. I've made all of my students turn in their work in Open Office format. I've had 2 complaints over hu

  • Last time I looked at Google Docs, I couldn't create a new style or modify the properties of an existing style. So it seemed to me that it was quite useless as a word processing app. Like Wordpad but slow.

    The possibility to collaboratevily edit a document is really cool. But the situations in which this one feature outweighs the disadvantage of having to use some slow Wordpad alternative are quite rare for me. Last time I had a use for a shared doc it was spreadsheet over a year ago.

  • How does Google docs handle access to shared resources? In my mind I see "official" logos approved by the marketing department, or spreadsheets and diagrams put out by the finance department. In the current model, resources are kept in file shares and access is controlled by security tokens issued at login. What is Google going to do to offer similar functionality in the cloud? How are they going to provide controlled access to often used resources? Another example might be a document template (ie. a p

  • I am really surprised they still haven't implemented revision tracking in their document editor. I don't have to generate many office-type documents, but a few months ago I was working with two other (non-techie) co-workers on a somewhat generic "statement of purpose" document. My first thought was to use Google docs to make it easy; but then we discovered this shortcoming. For a system that's ostensibly about collaboration, this seems like a huge oversight.

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