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YouTube - Google Docs in Plain English:


I have been using Google Docs for some time. The word processing function is pretty horrible (no footnotes!). The spreadsheet is great, largely because I don't do complicated spreadsheets and value the collaborative features more than all the bells and whistles on Excel. I have just started playing with the new presentation feature and am pretty impressed with it.

Anyone else use this stuff? Any thoughts?


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Comments (7)

You can add footnote functionality to Google Docs by using Zotero. Here's a short video showing how you can drag and drop citations from Zotero into Google Docs (the key part is at the end of the video).

Obviously the great advantage of Google Docs is the ease of sharing and collaborating on documents. For solo use that emphasizes the finer points of fonts and formatting, a client-side application like Word or OpenOffice is still far better.

Google Docs is probably a nice example of what could be a running theme for your book: it's free, accessible from anywhere, has decent functionality, and assumes that you don't mind that your text sits on Google's servers rather than your personal computer--and all that entails in terms of privacy, etc.

> Any thoughts?

how about writing the book there?

-bowerbird :+)

Cory Salveson on September 24, 2007 8:58 PM:

Some friends and I used Docs as a platform for some creative writing experiments last year. We published two of them in issues of our literary journal, "The Paper Lantern," at Normandale Community College (Minnesota, USA).

For the first experiment, we played with anonymity by using a shared editing account. This effectively had us taking turns editing, and treating the text, as it were, like any other conventional (non-networked) document.

Essay accompanying the first experiment; the experiment.

You can see how we used the documents themselves to keep notes to ourselves. (The essay has line beginnings, and the experiment has instructions on how to re-publish: Docs hadn't developed the "auto-republish" feature yet.)

For the next round, we decided to take the synchronous editing capabilities to their limit. Anonymity dissolved, and personality (re-)emerged -- and in a big way. Sessions developed into almost RPG-like experiences as narrative voices competed, not only for space, but for authorial dominance. The document's history in fact emerged as one of its more entertaining stories -- a reconstructive story-process that required the reader to dig through the edit log.

Second experiment.

By the end of it, we weren't sure what we had created. We published it unacknowledged in the table of contents, without page numbers, author or title, between some blank pages in the back of the journal.

PDFs of The Paper Lantern proper will be online someday.

The functionality of the spreadsheet option in Google Docs is really bad when you have imported a document from Excel. I imported a spreadsheet last semester to share it, and then tried to annotate it and I was unable to do that. The text system works as well as any other system but I could really do with some more usablility testing when it came to the spreadsheets.

Another way I've found that Docs can "see" footnotes is by importing a .doc. They make it thru the process but end up as endnotes.

This was important in sharing an essay with colleagues, as I had extensive (excessive?) footnotes.

I look forward to tracking the development of your book.

I've just started playing with the new presentation component (it's an alternative to powerpoint). I find it easier to use than powerpoint - I don't feel like I'm wrestling with it the way it often seems with powerpoint. The basic templates you can choose from are way less dorky than the powerpoint options. And I like that for each slide it's easy to choose a format other than the "heading" & "bulletpoints" default in ppt.
If you want to save your presentation to your computer or other storage it's saved as an html file (not .ppt, obviously).
My husband has to give a presentation in China and he wonders if he would be able to access his Google docs/presentations/spreadsheets in China - does anyone know?

Karen Coyle on September 26, 2007 9:05 PM:

I use Google docs a fair amount because I do writing in collaboration with others. It's the best way that I've found to write a document with someone else, although I have found myself editing a document and seeing someone else's simultaneous changes flashing across my screen -- that's a bit weird. However, to produce a finished document you have to export it and do the final markup in a "real" word processing package. That's the down side.

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A book in progress by

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan

This blog, the result of a collaboration between myself and the Institute for the Future of the Book, is dedicated to exploring the process of writing a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc. The book will answer three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google?; How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?; and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states? [more]

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Like the Mind of God (22 posts)

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What If Big Ads Don't Work (10 posts)

Don't Be Evil (9 posts)

Is Google a Library? (43 posts)

Challenging Big Media (18 posts)

The Dossier (19 posts)

Global Google (3 posts)

Google Earth (3 posts)

A Public Utility? (19 posts)

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Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)


The Anarchist in the Library (Basic Books, 2004)


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Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001)

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