Google Docs Updates: A Look Inside

Google Docs Gets A Refresh

Google this week revamped the underlying architecture for its Google Docs cloud-based office productivity suite.

The updates, which have been viewed by some as the latest shot across the bow of Microsoft, add new levels of functionality in the roughly three-year-old cloud offering from the search giant. The retooled Google Docs, which tie together word processing, spreadsheets and other document-creating and editing offerings online, comes just weeks before Microsoft is expected to start shipping Office 2010, its latest productivity application version that adds cloud-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

As Google and Microsoft both ready for cloud combat, here's a look at some of the new features and functions Google has added to Docs.

Collaboration And Chat

Google's Docs add new layers of collaboration and chat within documents. According to Google, up to 50 users can now work together at once and see each others' edits as they happen in real-time, character by character, in the cloud. The feature uses an instant messaging-style window. Here users chat and edit a resume in Google Docs.

Comments In Documents

The changes to Google Docs also enhances the ability to comment on documents, identifying who said what when teams are collaborating.

Spreadsheet Collaboration

Users can also collaborate in Google Docs spreadsheets, Google's cloud-based answer to Excel. Google has added a formula editing bar, drag-and-drop columns and other features that weren't available in Google Docs spreadsheets before. Spreadsheets also now feature real-time presence and side-bar chat.

Spreadsheets Auto-Fill

The new functions added to Google Docs spreadsheets include auto-fill, a feature missing from previous versions of Google Docs, but a fan favorite of Microsoft's Excel.

Drawings Editor

Google Docs also added multi-user editing to drawings, enabling users to build flow charts, schematics and other diagrams in a collaborative cloud-based work environment. Like the other new collaboration offerings in Google Docs, the drawings collaboration features a chat window that lets simultaneous users communicate with each other.