Google has unveiled an update to its cloud-based Google Docs service that will let users of selected mobile devices edit work files. The new service, rolling out over the next few days for English-language users around the world, is compatible with Android-based handsets running Froyo version 2.2 as well as an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running Apple iOS version 3 or higher.
"We'll be adding support for other languages soon," Google software engineer Andrew Grieve wrote in a blog Wednesday. "And as before, we also support editing of spreadsheets from your mobile device's browser."
Untethering Docs from the Desktop
Google's latest move is part of a rising tide of services and applications that promise to bring capabilities to mobile devices that were formerly reserved for the desktop. For example, earlier this week Adobe Systems launched a new Acrobat X platform that makes it possible for subscribers to produce PDFs from anywhere while using any device equipped with a web browser.
Adobe's new SendNow service also gives business workers the ability to track and manage documents right from within any mobile web browser. "There is no longer any reason to tie documents to one machine," the Adobe Acrobat X support team wrote in a blog. "We should be able to get access to and retrieve and view those files reliably no matter where we are and no matter what device we are using at the time -- and this is where the cloud delivers value."
Though small mobile screens are obviously not suitable for full document creation or massive editing tasks, Google, Adobe and other companies believe business users will find mobile-device editing an attractive option whenever they need to put the finishing touches on a doc on the fly or make minor last-minute corrections. For example, it "means that you can work on that important memo while on the bus or train to work," Grieve wrote.
Google also has taken pains to make it easy for supported mobile devices to access the new Google Docs mobile editor and select the document the user wants to edit. "Then, when you're viewing it, press the Edit button to switch to the mobile editor," Grieve wrote.
Spreadsheets on the Go
Released last April, the revamped document editor at Google Docs includes a ruler, alignment features, per-paragraph line spacing, and other familiar file-editing capabilities. However, the upgrade goes beyond standard word-processing features by including a number of collaboration capabilities.
"We added a sidebar that lets you see who else is editing at the same time, and, if you click the sidebar, you can chat with collaborators right next to the document," noted Google software Engineer Olga Belomestnykh in a blog. "And when other editors type, you can now see their edits as they happen character by character."
Also on tap is a lightweight version of Google Spreadsheets called "list view" that gives users the ability to make quick spreadsheet edits from Android handsets, Apple's iPhone, and the Nokia S60. Even better, mobile devices displaying spreadsheets in list view retain the file's normal background and foreground colors, as well as standard borders and text formatting.
Google recommends the new list-view mode whenever mobile users have slow Internet connections. The "lightweight" version of Google spreadsheets is also the best choice when there are more than 50 people accessing a spreadsheet at the same time, the company said.