Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Google Docs in use

I’ve written numerous posts lately in which I’ve raved about Google Docs, but have I ever actually used the service? I mean, is there any point, when I already have Word and Excel and PowerPoint installed on my machine? Why yes. Yes I have. Let me give you a perfect example of where the service shines:

The other day, a number of us were all working on something at the same time. We had a list of accounts that we had to populate with data, and we were working off of an Excel spreadsheet. “You work on accounts 1–12, and you do 13–24, and I’ll do 24–36…” etc. To make things more difficult, not all of the accounts we were working on needed work to be done, so one person might finish his/her list early, and then we’d have to re-shuffle the remaining accounts. But then I had a brainstorm: Isn’t this exactly where Google Docs would be perfect? We could create a spreadsheet online, and all edit it at the same time! All we had to do was list all of the accounts that hadn’t been done yet, and which ones had. Something like this:

Not Done YetFinished  
 123serna is currently working on:124
  person b is currently working on:125
  person c is currently working on:130
126   
 127  
128   
129   
    
131   
132   
133   

But the key—the really cool part about all of this—is that we were all editing it at the same time. If someone wanted to start working on item 128, they could cut and paste from that cell to another cell, and at the same time it would disappear from all of our screens, and re-appear somewhere else. No need for anyone to save the spreadsheet, and for the rest of us to refresh our screens—it all happened in real-time! There’s no need to be shouting out, “Hey, I’m going to work on number 128, nobody else work on that!” If I want to start working on one of the accounts, any of the ones in the “Not Done Yet” column were fine to work on, because if someone else had done it, I’d see it in the “Finished” column on my screen. (Or, if they were currently working on it, I’d see it to the right of the screen, beside their name.)

It’s a very simple use of the technology, and yet it saved us a lot of time and aggravation.

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