Google Docs on Google Drive

Google Docs

The simple answer is that Google Docs is an online word processor that lives inside Google

Google Drive isn't Google's self-driving car. It's the combination of the old  Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, Google Presentations (now just Docs, Sheets, and Slides), Google Forms, Google Drawings, Google My Maps, and a shared virtual drive space that you can sync to your desktop and share portions of with anyone. Docs is one of many features of Google Drive. 

What exactly is Google Drive? It's a way to transform your account into an online and offline storage system. You get both the Google Docs portion you're used to using and the convenience of a virtual folder on your computers that you can simply drag and drop files to sync between laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.

Easy Google Docs Tricks

  1. Share Google Docs with other people. You can share Google Docs through Google Drive, either by sharing the individual doc or by creating a folder of items that you can share. Share viewing or editing privileges, depending on what your needs are for sharing. 
  2. Upload Microsoft Word documents. You don't have to pick a side. Upload a Word document and share it or edit it right within Google Drive. 
  3. Use templates to pre-format your documents. Google Docs is in a bit of a transition with templates as of this writing, so you may need to use Google's old template gallery, which can still be used with Google Docs.  

How Google Docs Became What it is Today. 

Basically, this is all about competing with the Microsoft Office suite. Google tried encouraging downloads of open source Office competitors, such as Star Office and OpenOffice, but Microsoft Office was on just about every business machine and most personal machines. It was expensive and clunky, but it was the dominant platform. Meanwhile, Google was developing more and more cloud-based apps and began creating a cloud-based competitor to Office. 

Google started with a few different products. There was Google Spreadsheets, originally developed from the efforts of a startup called 2Web Technologies. Then there was Writely, an online virtual word processing app that Google purchased along with the tiny company that made it (Upstartle). They started out as two different apps that you had to use separately. Eventually, the two became Google Docs & Spreadsheets. They acquired Tonic Systems and added their presentation software to make live, online presentations. (I'm not sure it was ever a big webinar hit.) Eventually, this just became "Slides."  

That would seem like a stable suite, but it grew even further. Eventually Google added "Google Forms," which created forms that fed into spreadsheets. The ability to make custom maps was moved from Google Maps into Google Drive, and an online, collaborative drawing tool called Google Drawings was added. Just to further complicate things, Google Photos is technically a separate app, but it's available within Google Drive. Don't get too attached. This is likely mostly a transition as the photo sharing app moves away from Google Drive's virtual drive space and into its own standalone space. 

"The big innovation for all these products was that they allowed multiple, simultaneous edits by different users. The big weakness for all of them is that Microsoft Office desktop tools still have features not found in Google Drive. However, not everyone is going to need advanced features. Students get along with just Google Drive these days. (Students writing research papers with citation managers might still find it easier to stick with Microsoft.)