Wouldn’t it be nice if we could access our files anywhere at any time without having to carry USB drives around? Thanks to Google Docs this became a possibility as long as there was an internet connection in the vicinity. The service provided users with access to document editing software, as well as storage and the ability to share documents with other authors.
Google Docs was born from the merger of Google Spreadsheets and Writely. In addition to features extracted from these two services, Google also integrated technologies from a presentation programme designed by Tonic Systems into Google Docs. Writely was the product of Upstartle, a software company acquired by Google in 2006. The programme was launched a year before and offered users the possibility to create and edit documents online. Registration for the service was closed following the merger announcement, but interested users could still sign up to a waiting list that finally opened at the end of August 2006. The following month, the account creation process for Writely was integrated with Google Accounts.
Google Spreadsheets was available alongside Writely, although its membership was limited. At the beginning of 2007, Google Docs was launched through Google Apps. It was taken out of beta in 2009, and by 2010 Google announced they would support any document format and offer 1GB of free storage. The storage allowance has been extended since then and reached up to 10 free GB.
Google Docs became a popular resource for businesses and educational institutions. Aside from document storage and accessibility, it allowed for real time collaborations and editing. This feature was further improved on in 2010 after Google acquired DocVerse, a project which gave users the possibility to collaborate in the creation and editing of documents in Microsoft supported formats, such as Word, PowerPoint or Excel.
Another extremely useful feature included was the automatic saving of documents, which protected users from any data loss in case the internet connectivity malfunctioned. The Save function was active by default and saved changes to documents in progress.
A history of changes was available to view, although it might have been difficult to retrieve a full history of specific edits for longer documents.
Google also launched Google Cloud Connect, an application which created a link between word processing software on personal computers and Google Docs. Whenever a user saved a document in Word, it would automatically register the changes in Google Docs provided the computer was connected to the internet.
After periods of offline activity, it would automatically synchronise with Google Docs when an internet connection was available. However, the service was shut down in 2013, when users were advised to switch to Google Drive.
Google Drive was launched in 2012 and took over Google Docs, which was fully integrated with the new service. Drive offers all the features of Google Docs with added storage, as well as being a great solution for sharing large documents not supported by Gmail. Indeed, when attempting to do this nowadays, users are advised to perform the action via Google Drive. The Google Docs URL now automatically redirects to Google Drive.