Working in the cloud: Google Docs

"My hard drive crashed and I lost all my email addresses. I've lost my all contacts with my friends," says a colleague to me.

Why were your friends on a hard drive? Keep your friends in the cloud.

"I came to your office, but you were not there," says a statistics student.

Why didn't you check where I was? My location updates are in the cloud.

"Do you have any pictures from that celebration?" asks a friend.

Of course, I keep those in the cloud.

"My home work is on my flash drive. I left the drive at home. Can I turn in the homework tomorrow?" asks a physical science student.

Why are your documents on physical media? Work on them and store them in the cloud. Google docs is a maturing office suite on line that is fairly functional even on limited bandwidth. Working only across a dial-up low bandwidth modem, 24 kbps, I was still able to put together a spreadsheet using data from an activity in physical science today.

When Google docs opens you first have a basic file manager interface. The New button allows the creation of a word processing document, spreadsheet, or presentation.



Working on the spreadsheet is the same as Excel or OpenOffice.org Calc. There is no delay in cursor movement, although some updates may take a few seconds to convert from a function format to the numeric value. Note the use of a SQRT function below.



While the graph options remain far more limited that what Excel and Calc offer, basic graph types can still be created.



There is no support yet for showing a regression line on the graph, but the functions necessary for a lot of statistical calculations are available in the spreadsheet. The most glaring omission for an introductory statistics course is the lack of the TDIST, TINV, and TTEST functions. The NORMDIST and NORMINV would carry a student through chapter eight of eleven in my text.



Files can be exported and saved locally as OpenOffice.org .ods files, Excel .xls files, or as a .pdf file.

There are sharing options that allow one to share a document either with other Google users or simply with the world. My spreadsheet should be viewable by anyone on the planet at:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pXIirREoOItaKkEVl50nBMA
I could have set the sharing to allow others to edit the file, I chose not to. But there are collaborative functions possible via shared editing.

Another option is to publish as a web page, which results in the following:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pXIirREoOItaKkEVl50nBMA

The former looks and feels like a spreadsheet, permitting spreadsheet like selection of columns or rows. Javascript is undoubtedly deeply involved. The later URL is a "static" HTML table and even an older browser should be able to render the page.

From an IT standpoint the only load is a bandwidth load. Google Docs requires only a functional, modern browser and a network that is up and running. The documents, viewable spreadsheets, and web pages are all stored in the cloud. Technically, on some server that Google has to maintain, not our IT crew.


The network is the computer when everything is in the cloud.
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