Google Docs

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Google Docs

Google Docs homepage (April 2012)
Developer(s)Writely Team (originally)
Google Inc.
Written infront end: JavaScript
back end: Java[1]
Operating systemWeb-based application
PlatformInternet Explorer 9+[2]
Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
Available inMultilingual (53)[3]
TypeOnline spreadsheet, Presentations, Word processor, Drawing application, Form creator
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Google Docs

Google Docs homepage (April 2012)
Developer(s)Writely Team (originally)
Google Inc.
Written infront end: JavaScript
back end: Java[1]
Operating systemWeb-based application
PlatformInternet Explorer 9+[2]
Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
Available inMultilingual (53)[3]
TypeOnline spreadsheet, Presentations, Word processor, Drawing application, Form creator
An example of a document in Google Docs

Google Docs is a freeware web-based office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. It was formerly a storage service as well, but has since been replaced by Drive.[4] It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users live. Google Docs combines the features of Writely and Spreadsheets with a presentation program incorporating technology designed by Tonic Systems.

Data storage of files up to 1 GB total in size was introduced on January 13, 2010, but has since been increased to 15 GB. Documents using Google Docs native formats do not count towards this limit.[5] The largely anticipated cloud storage feature by Google is said to be replacing most of Docs' features in 2012.[6] Google Drive, an extension of Google Docs, was opened to the public on April 24, 2012.


Writely's beta logo

Google Docs originated from two separate products, Writely and Google Spreadsheets.

Writely was a web-based word processor created by the software company Upstartle and launched in August 2005.[7] It was written by Sam Schillace, Steve Newman (both of which had previously worked on FullWrite and Claris Home Page), and Claudia Carpenter. They were trying out the then new Ajax technology and the "content editable" function in browsers, and intrigued by the idea of making a simpler version of Microsoft Word online.[8]

Spreadsheets, launched as Google Labs Spreadsheets on June 6, 2006,[9] originated from the acquisition of the XL2Web product by 2Web Technologies. Writely's original features included a collaborative text editing suite and access controls. Menus, keyboard shortcuts, and dialog boxes are similar to what users may expect in a desktop word processor such as Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer.

On March 9, 2006, Google announced that it had acquired Upstartle.[10] At the time of acquisition, Upstartle had four employees.[11] Writely closed registration to its service until the move to Google servers was complete.[10] In August 2006, Writely sent account invitations to everyone who had requested to be placed on a waiting list, and then became publicly available on August 23. Writely continued to maintain its own user system until September 19, 2006, when it was integrated with Google Accounts.[12]

Meanwhile, Google developed Google Spreadsheets using the technology it had acquired from 2Web Technologies in 2005 and launched Google Labs Spreadsheets[9][13] on June 6, 2006 as the first public component of what would eventually become Google Docs. It was initially made available to only a limited number of users, on a first-come, first-served basis. The limited test was later replaced with a beta version available to all Google Account holders, around the same time as a press release was issued.[14]

In February 2007, Google Docs was made available to Google Apps users.

In June 2007, Google changed the front page to include folders instead of labels, organized in a side bar.

On September 17, 2007, Google released their presentation program product for Google Docs.[15]

On July 6, 2009, Google announced on their official blog that Google Docs along with other Google Apps would be taken out of beta.[16]

On January 13, 2010, Google announced on their official blog that Google Docs would allow any file type, including 1 GB of free space and $0.25/GB for additional storage.[17]

On March 7, 2010, DocVerse, an online document collaboration company, was acquired by Google.[18] It allows multiple user online collaboration on Microsoft Office compatible document formats such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.[19] Improvements based on DocVerse were announced and deployed in April 2010.[20]

In June 2010, it was reported that access to Google Docs had been blocked in Turkey.[21] A Google employee confirmed the problem saying that it "appear[ed] to be linked to the ongoing ban on YouTube."[22]

As of September 29, 2011, Google Docs supports offline viewing through an opt-in beta HTML 5 web app.[23]

On April 26, 2012, Google launched Google Drive, which supplants Google Docs. It combines all of the Docs features with improved storage functionality.[24] This also incorporates the Google Docs service into Google Drive. Google Docs' URL now redirects to Google Drive.

On March 11, 2014, Google launched Add-ons which allow users to interact with applications directly alongside Google Docs’ spreadsheet and word processor apps.[25]


Google Docs is Google's "software as a service" office suite. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations can be created with Google Docs, imported through the web interface, or sent via email. Documents can be saved to a user's local computer in a variety of formats (ODF, HTML, PDF, RTF, Text, Office Open XML). Documents are automatically saved to Google's servers to prevent data loss, and a revision history is automatically kept so past edits may be viewed (although this only works for adjacent revisions, and there is currently no way to find and isolate changes in long documents). Documents can be tagged and archived for organizational purposes. The service is officially supported on recent versions of the Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome browsers running on Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux operating systems.[26]

Google Docs serves as a collaborative tool for editing documents in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users simultaneously. Users cannot be notified of changes, but the application can notify users when a comment or discussion is made or replied to, facilitating collaboration. There is no way to highlight changes made by a particular editor in real time during a writing session, nor a way to jump to the changes made. However, an editor's current position is represented with an editor-specific color/cursor, so if another editor happens to be viewing that part of the document they can see edits as they occur. Also, the revision history included in the service allows users to see the additions made to a document, with each author distinguished by color, but the entire document must be manually searched to find these changes. The revision history feature only displays one edit at a time, i.e. only adjacent revisions can be compared, and users cannot control how frequently revisions are saved. The application supports two ISO standard document formats: OpenDocument (for both opening and exporting) and Office Open XML (for opening only). It also includes support for viewing proprietary formats such as .doc and .xls.[27][28]

Google Docs is one of many cloud computing document-sharing services.[29] The majority of document-sharing services require user fees. (Google Docs is free for individuals, but has fees for business starting at $5/month.)[30] Its popularity amongst businesses is growing due to enhanced sharing features and accessibility. In addition, Google Docs has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity among students and educational institutions.[31]

Google Cloud Connect is a plug-in for Windows Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 that can automatically store and synchronize any Microsoft Word document, PowerPoint presentation, or Excel spreadsheet to Google Docs in Google Docs or Microsoft Office formats. The Google Doc copy is automatically updated each time the Microsoft Office document is saved. Microsoft Office documents can be edited offline and synchronized later when online. Google Cloud Sync maintains previous Microsoft Office document versions and allows multiple users to collaborate by working on the same document at the same time.[32][33] Google Cloud Connect was discontinued on April 30, 2013; former users are advised to migrate to Google Drive. [4] This solution is, however, only available to paying users of Google Drive.[34]

Google Spreadsheets and Google Sites also incorporate Google Apps Script to write code within documents in a similar way to VBA in Microsoft Office. The scripts can be activated either by user action or by a trigger in response to an event.[35][36]

Google Forms and Google Drawings have been added to the Google Docs suite. Google Forms is a tool that allows collecting information from users via a personalized survey or quiz. The information is then collected and automatically connected to a spreadsheet with the same name. The spreadsheet is populated with the survey and quiz responses.

Google Drawings allows users to collaborate creating, sharing, and editing images or drawings. Google Drawings contains a subset of the features in Google Presentation (Google Slides) but with different templates.

On May 15, 2012, Research tool was introduced in Google Docs.[37] It brings the web’s wealth of information to the users while they're writing documents.

In June 2012 Google acquired Quickoffice.[38]

On 28 June offline editing was made available to Google Docs. The capability was announced at Google I/O by Clay Bavor, director of product management for Google Apps.[39]


With the launch of Google Docs, 1 GB of storage was included for free. On 24 of April 2012, the free storage increased to 5 GB.[40] Since then, the storage service of Docs has become Google Drive, which shares storage space across all services and provides 15GB of space to free users.[4]

As of March 2014, additional storage costs per month are: $1.99 for 100 GB and $9.99 for 1,000 GB.[41]

File limits[edit]

Individual documents may not exceed 1 GB as of 13 January 2010 (2010-01-13), embedded images must not exceed 2 MB each, and spreadsheets are limited to 256 columns, 400,000 cells, and 200 sheets.[42] In September 2009, an equation editor was added which allows rendering in LaTeX format. However, Google Docs lacks an equation numbering feature. A simple find and replace tool is available; there was no ability to do the search in a reverse direction in the original release, but a later version allowed reverse search and reverse replace. Files uploaded, but not converted to Google Docs format, may be up to 10GB in size.[43]

Supported file formats[edit]

Users can upload files of any format. Google Docs supports 15 file formats for viewing:[44]

Data safety and privacy[edit]

In a cloud environment, data security issues and national interests mean that on-line document storage and processing can be unsuitable for use by governments or commercial organisations, especially so where sensitive data or confidential data is being stored, edited or shared on systems and infrastructure that are outsourced and shared with many other organisations, individuals, users (e.g. the Internet).[45][46]

Mobile access[edit]

The Android Google Docs app, which is available for free on the Google Play Store,[51] allows users to view, edit, and create Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Android Google Docs app can also take a photo of a document, sign, or other text and use optical character recognition to convert to text that can be edited.[52]

The iPhone and iPad Safari Browser also allows users to view documents, spreadsheets, and presentation and to edit and create Google Docs documents and spreadsheets.[53] Furthermore, the Google App for iPhone and iPad allows users to view and edit Google Docs files.

Most other mobile devices can also view and edit Google Docs documents and spreadsheets using a mobile browser.[54] PDF files can be viewed but not edited.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Strickland, Jonathan (2008-06-02). "HowStuffWorks "Back End of Google Docs"". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  2. ^ Google Apps Says Goodbye To Internet Explorer 8, Pulls Support For the Browser | TechCrunch
  3. ^ "Docs Blog: Translation and undo smartquotes in documents". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  4. ^ a b "Google Drive". Google. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  5. ^ Google Docs size limits
  6. ^ Cask J. Thomson (2012-02-12). "At Last: Google’s new ‘G-Drive’ to take on the Cloud Storage Market". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  7. ^ Emily Chang - eHub Interviews Writely
  8. ^ Google Docs began as a hacked together experiment, says creator. The Verge (2013-07-03). Retrieved on 2013-11-29.
  9. ^ a b Google Press Center: Google Announces limited test on Google Labs: Google Spreadsheets
  10. ^ a b Official Google Blog: Writely so
  11. ^ - Google Acquires Online Word Processing Company
  12. ^ The Writely Blog: Google Account Sign-in LIVE
  13. ^ Official Google Blog: Its Nice to Share
  14. ^ "Google Announces Google Docs & Spreadsheets". Official Google Press Release. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2008-10-18. 
  15. ^ Attila Bodis (2007-09-17). "Our feature presentation". Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  16. ^ Matthew Glotzbach, Director, Product Management, Google Enterprise (2009-07-07). "Google Apps is out of beta (yes, really)". Official Google Blog. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  17. ^ Google Docs any file type
  18. ^ Google buys DocVerse
  19. ^
  20. ^ A rebuilt, more real time Google documents
  21. ^ "Turkey bans Google Books, Google Docs, Google Translate...". The Register. 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  22. ^ "Has Turkey blocked Is anything being done about it?". Google Docs Help Forum. 2010-06-04. 
  23. ^ "Google Docs Offline". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  24. ^ "Google Drive". Google. Retrieved 2012-04-29. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Getting to know Google Docs: System requirements". Retrieved 2009-06-12. 
  27. ^ Google Docs Tour
  28. ^ List of supported file types
  29. ^ PC World: Should you move your business to the cloud?
  30. ^ Google docs Pricing
  31. ^ Firth, Mark & Mesureur, Germain. "Innovative uses for Google Docs in a university language program", The JALT CALL Journal. Retrieved on 2010-06-30.
  32. ^ Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office available to all
  33. ^ Mashable: Now Anyone Can Sync Google Docs & Microsoft Office
  34. ^ Google Cloud Connect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2013-11-29.
  35. ^ Meyer, David (August 20, 2009). "Google Apps Script gets green light". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  36. ^ Finley, Klint (October 22, 2010). "Google Apps Now Offers Business Process Automation on Google Sites with Scripts". ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  37. ^ "Find facts and do research inside Google Documents". 
  38. ^ Warren, Alan (June 5, 2012). "Google + Quickoffice = get more done anytime, anywhere". Google Blog. Blogger. Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  39. ^ "Google Docs now work offline". 
  40. ^ "Google Drive release imminent as Docs storage hits 5GB worldwide – Tech Products & Geek News". 2012-04-24. Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ "Google Docs Help: Size limits". 
  43. ^ "Google Docs size limits". 
  44. ^ "About the Google Drive viewer - Google Drive Help". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  45. ^ a b "China Google hackers' goal: Spying on U.S. Govt". CBS News. 
  46. ^ a b Google software bug shared private online documents, AFP, 10 March 2009
  47. ^ Sanger, David (June 3, 2011). "Hacking of White House E-Mail Affected Diverse Departments". NYTimes. 
  48. ^ Shachtman, Noah (March 14, 2012). "Google Adds (Even More) Links to the Pentagon". Wired. 
  49. ^ Shachtman, Noah (July 28, 2010). "Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future' of Web Monitoring". Wired. 
  50. ^ Shachtman, Noah (February 4, 2010). "‘Don't Be Evil,' Meet ‘Spy on Everyone': How the NSA Deal Could Kill Google". Wired. 
  51. ^ "Google Drive - Android Apps on Google Play". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  52. ^ Introducing the new Google Docs app for Android
  53. ^ Appsafari: Google Docs
  54. ^

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]