The 30 Days With...Google Docs project has been a worthwhile experiment for me. Despite my complaints, pet peaves, and whining, there were also many things about Google Docs that pleasantly surprised me. Here are the five things I liked most about using Google Docs this month.
1. The Cloud. Having access to my productivity apps and data from virtually any Web-connected device, anywhere, and any time has its advantages. Google Docs provides a relatively consistent experience across different devices from Windows and Mac PCs, to Android smartphones and tablets, and on my iPad and iPhone--although Google Docs from the iPhone had some issues.
2. Collections. It took a little getting used to, but once I familiarized myself, the idea of organizing and categorizing files in collections rather than the files and folders I am used to on my PC made great sense. A file can only exist in one folder (although you could place copies or shortcuts in other folders), but the Google Docs collections let you organize a single file in a variety of ways. For example, a spreadsheet calculating expenses for a golf league can be tagged as a "spreadsheet", "expenses", and "golf" collections so that you can find and work with it in whatever way makes sense to you.
3. Discussions. I do a lot of writing, and after writing comes editing. I appreciate the comments in Microsoft Word--as opposed to just adding comments and feedback inline with the content, but the discussions feature of Google Docs takes commenting to the next level. I am particularly fond of being able to mark a discussion as "resolved" so it doesn't continue to clutter up the document, but having the discussion archived for future reference rather than deleted.
4. Collaboration. Aside from the fact that Google Docs is a Web-based productivity platform, real-time collaboration is probably the most defining hallmark of Google Docs. Whether you are working on a document, spreadsheet, or presentation, the file can be shared with others, and all parties can work with the file at the same time--simultaneously updating it and making changes while chatting with one another on the side. Combining real-time collaboration with Google Docs Drawing app is great for whiteboard collaboration sessions.
5. Power Tools. I was impressed by the tools to dynamically pull in Google search results using things like Google Lookup or Google Finance from within a spreadsheet cell. I can think of a variety of valuable uses for tools like these that let you pull in content and keep it updated as teh information changes.
Tony Bradley is a columnist for PC World (US)