Online Documents Still Only for Casual Use

In September, I posted Is Online Word Processing on the Rise?, which included a poll asking readers what tool they primarily use for word processing.  Microsoft Word won hands down, with 58% of the vote.  Google Docs came in near the bottom with 12%, and there were no votes for other online word processing tools.  These results are similar (if not a bit higher) to the findings of Compete, which measured traffic to Google Docs; the results are summarized here.  It found that although traffic to Google Docs grew 158% in the past 12 months, only about 2.4% of the adult online population was using the service.  Even more interesting is the statistic that the average user only spends about 5 minutes per month on the site.

What can you do on a Google Docs page in only 5 minutes per month?  Certainly not create a full-fledged document.  Whatever is going on during those 5 minutes, the Compete study demonstrates that Google Docs attracts primarily casual users, and that online word processing services still aren't ready for enterprise use.

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Kevin Grierson - December 5, 2008 8:33 AM

Google Docs is helpful for files you'd like to access from multiple computers, particularly free-form lists, journal entries, etc. But compared to Word its feature set is woefully inadequate for all but the most basic of legal documents. The lack of page formatting features is a big negative. I've tried moving items back and forth from Word to Google Docs when I want to print, but every time the document is imported to Google Docs it loses a lot of its formatting. So yes, it's helpful as a glorified scratchpad, but no, it's not enterprise ready by any stretch of the imagination. Would that it were.

Tom Mighell - December 5, 2008 8:38 AM

Kevin, I completely agree. We compare Google Docs to WordPad -- it's a good place for people to work together on documents, then move them over to Word or some other platform to clean up. But in our thinking it's definitely not a viable word processing alternative.

Kevin Grierson - December 22, 2008 12:14 PM

One other use for Google Docs has been sharing of PDF files that I need others to look at. You can do even less with PDF files than with Word documents, but I've found it very helpful to allow others to view certain documents on my account, and I like the ability to control access to some extent. Although you could accomplish much the same functionality by emailing the file, by sharing in this manner you decrease the chances that your file will be forwarded to someone else, inadvertently or otherwise.

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