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Google Docs Introduces Parallel Computing (Not What You Think)

by Craig Roth  |  May 21, 2010  |  2 Comments

Google has added twitch-level sync co-authoring, a drawing tool, rulers, and other features to Google Docs.  They actually did this a while ago, but you’d be forgiven for not noticing since Google decided to take their innovative (whether you like it or not) silent release process and push it into strange new territory. 

Essentially, they provide dual versions of Google Docs, but without much messaging to the users that there are two versions, which version you’re in, and how to switch between versions.  You get access to the new version by turning on “use the latest editor” in a buried menu choice.  Here it is (after clicking Settings, Document Settings):

Google new features settings

As strange as it can be to have application updates pushed out at you all the time without knowing it, it’s even stranger when the features are there and the user now needs to explicitly say “yes, I want to use the latest version.”  And to make it more confusing, the version of Google Docs isn’t determined by your preference or what’s running – it’s by the document.  So even if you turn the new features on, you don’t see them for old docs – only for new ones created or uploaded after you clicked that option.

Call me old fashioned, but I think new features are something users should know about, that users should be aware if they are in some kind of “compatibility mode” and, if so, how to get out of it.  Ah, I long for the good olde days when I actually knew what version of software I was using.

Category: content-creation  google  

Craig Roth
Research VP, Tech and Service Providers
7 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Craig Roth is a Research Vice President focused on cloud office suites, collaboration tools, content management, and how they are being impacted by digital workplace and digital business trends...Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Google Docs Introduces Parallel Computing (Not What You Think)

  1. Saqib Ali says:


    I’m an avid user of Google Docs. I personally think Google provided ample notification of the new editors in their Blogs, Twitter, as well as notifications in the GoogleDoc UI. I was not caught by surprise, nor did the new editor led me to any sort of confusion for me.

    I don’t like to receive traditional emails from vendors notifying me of updates. emailing about updates is like an insurance company using auto-dialer to inform their customers of the insurance rate increase. email is an actionable paradigm. I would rather receive these notifications from passive mediums like twitter, blog, rss, buzz etc.


  2. Craig Roth says:

    Sure, that’s why I said “Call me old fashioned”. I know the new ethos is around seamless delivery (but parallel versions still strike me as odd).

    But think of this from the point of view of a training department or someone trying to write instructions for non-technical people on how to accomplish a task. I’m not sure how i could easily word how to turn the ruler on or why someone may or may not be able to get into your doc. if the counter-argument is that this isn’t meant for non-techies I’d go along, but that’s not what Google seems to tout.

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