What is Google Docs?
Google Docs is part of the ever-growing bank of free, helpful services offered by Google. All you need to use Google Docs is an email address - and if you don't have one, the company's free Gmail can help with that too. It's basically a free online filing cabinet. Just upload your documents and save, Google will keep them safe and available to you whenever you need. You keep your paper documents neatly filed and organized, why not do the same for your digital documents?
Why use Google Docs?
Do you access multiple computers? Maybe you use a desktop at home, a laptop or netbook on the go, and various other computers at school or in the workplace. If this sounds like you, chances are your documents are scattered across multiple computers too. For years, the simple answer has been to carry a USB thumb drive on your key chain or in your bag - just plug in for access to the documents saved on the drive. Convenient, but not 100% successful. If you forgot or lost your USB drive, guess where that left your hard work? Lost, that's where.
Google Docs on the other hand, doesn't make you buy or carry around an extra accessory. If you forgot to print out your term paper, just access your Google account and print it out from Docs - you'll never have to worry about handing in work late again. All you'll need is an internet connection, so it's just as accessible as using a portable hard drive (if not more).
Features and Usage
You can edit your documents from within Google Docs, making it easy to take work or school projects with you wherever you go. There are options available that allow you to set permissions for documents too, so if it's a group project you can work online with your partners - and chat through Google while you do it. When the project is done, you can email it to the necessary parties from within Google Docs too. This seems like it would be a great way to collaborate while telecommuting or co-authoring a story or blog post with a friend. I can't think of another way out there for two or more people to access and alter a document or spreadsheet together in real time.
Google Docs could be a way to help keep records for your home or business. If you've got access to a scanner, you could scan in receipts and other pertinent documents to keep on hand such as contracts or tax records. Depending on the document, a digital copy may not be a legal substitute for the original, but it'll still keep them at your fingertips for reference. Accidents do happen and paper copies are lost or ruined all the time - this way you'll have a backup just in case.
Maybe your computer is pressed for space. Netbooks are economical alternatives to laptop computers, but their hard drive space is very low. Using Google Docs to save your documents and then deleting from your hard drive after upload could help you save valuable space for free.
I personally use Google Docs as a storage center for my writing efforts. When I'm finished writing this article, I'll go ahead and upload it to Google Docs. That way if I ever have an issue with my computer again, my work won't suffer because of it. I'll be able to keep my whole bank of articles online - and keep track of when and where each article was submitted. You never know when you'll need to refer to something again, might as well be prepared.
As mentioned above, Google Docs is free to use - but within reason. You get 1024MB of storage free, and you can purchase more storage if you need it. The least expensive upgrade offers 20GB of storage space, for $5 per year. There are options for 80GB ($20/year), 200GB ($50/year), 400GB ($100/year), and 1TB ($256/year). If you're currently using a dedicated web server just to hold text documents or spreadsheets, switching over might be a good option. As an added bonus, if you rent 200GB or more you'll get a free Eye-Fi card. These are memory cards that attach to your digital camera, making it online-capable. If you also use Google's free Picasa photo storage (similar to Photobucket, Snapfish, and other photo storage/sharing sites), you can send photos directly from your camera to your Picasa album. That's way beyond anything I personally need at the moment, but it seems like the extended storage and access to Eye-Fi might be really useful to the right people.
Google Docs may be your answer for keeping work and other important documents handy. If you're not using it already, why not give it a try? It's free, you've got nothing to lose but frustration.
Published by Jillian McCoy
I'm a freelance writer and college student based in Philadelphia. Though I'll write just about anything as a "pen for hire," I specialize in short-form content written for the web. Some of my favorite subj... View profile
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