WordPad’s ruler now matched by Google Docs

At the beginning of the week, Anil Sabharwal, Product Manager, for Google Apps wrote a blog post “ Laying the foundation for a new Google Docs”  Please do read it: I found it thought provoking to hear how Google articulates the excitement of their new groundbreaking features: 

·         Users will now have the ability to move columns in Spreadsheets

·         A ruler has been added to Google Docs. Rumor is the WordPad Team is very nervous about that leap in productivity gain.  (Yes that’s a joke.)

Their announcement translated into lots of press coverage and interesting commentary in the blogosphere. Paul Thurott’s post on “Much Ado About Nothing” was certainly humorous and sparked interesting commentary from readers.  

The thought of this announcement provoked me to blog from the other side of the productivity fence. What do I make of this announcement?  WARNING: I will be quite critical of some aspects of Google Apps, but let's be clear from the start. In general I think Google is full of very smart people, some are personal friends. They have an excellent track record in consumer search and advertising. My comments are not about questioning the cloud as a delivery model. We are ‘all in’ and the RTM of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will delight customers and raise the bar for all vendors to match, Google included. 

I take exception with how Google continues to provide backhanded compliments to every Office user in the world by telling them they don’t need certain features to be creative, productive, and efficient.  My favorite jab is from Dave Girouard, President Google Enterprise, "Office will become something like Photoshop, something that a few users need. It's not really the right tool for most people."   Which features would those be?  Maybe he’s saying we should remove a feature used by 1% of our user base and abandon those 5 million people. These are real users with real needs.  That feature might be used by teachers, scientists, lawyers or heck grad students at Stanford writing a business case for a new search start up.  

Shockingly what didn’t cause much of a fuss was Google’s removal of the ‘Offline’ feature enabled through Google Gears.  Guess they didn’t tell the VP of IT at Motorola’s Mobile Division (A Google Apps customer) who just this week called this an "an absolute must-have"  feature.  He should have read the terms of Google Apps more carefully which allows Google to pull features like this at their discretion.  Now that he has to uninstall the Gears Add On from 20,000 machines, he may want to adjust the project’s ROI calculations. My guess is he tracks this in Excel, not Google Spreadsheets.

What’s also interesting is that the new ‘version’ means users can’t bring over their old documents. If you want the ruler now available in the new word processor, you can’t open any existing documents you might have.  So either abandon those docs or live in two parallel worlds for a while.   UPDATE This sentence appears to be confusing people.  If you have docs created in the 'old' version they only appear to open in the old app.  Any doc created in the 'new' app lives there.  So in effect, you have two UX experiences side by side. What's worse is the new app removes (my count is 10 so far) features compared to the existing apps. 

Finally the better fidelity issues don’t seem to work for my tests. Even a ODS native document doesn’t render properly despite their support for the ODF alliance. Fonts change, charts disappear, all the same behavior expected when you mash everything into HTML as the default format.

Maybe this is why only a ‘few hundred thousand’ customers are willing to pay Google for this “innovation”. It certainly may offer explanation into the negative end user comments by employees at a “Gone Google” customer Jaguar Land Rover.  For example one former employee “Chris” commented:  Google mail and the new attitude to using awful software for a small cost reduction, is at the expense of worker productivity” 


In contrast to Google, we are about building for any run time environment.   Customers expect more from their productivity and collaboration tools. It is why we talk so much about PC, Phone and Browser.  For example, is it more important to enable 50 people to hammer my spreadsheet at once or enable it so that when they do, I get to say what cells, sheets etc.  they can or can’t edit? 

This is why we spend so much time and effort trying to build Office with end users in mind.  Shawn Lipstein’s post on the Office engineering blog gives you such great insight on how our usability labs in the Customer Experience Improvement Program drive research and insight into everything we do.    

My previous post gave you some insights into why customers pick our solutions over Google and I think last week’s post by Chris Dawson on the Googling Google  ZDNet blog says it all, “Office 2010 rocks out loud. I may spend a lot of time in the cloud, but I also often have to produce publication-ready documents. Besides, have you ever tried to do a mail merge in Google Docs? Of course you haven’t, because you can’t.”

Comments (46)
  1. Anonymous says:


    Let me clarify and you can test for yourself.  If you have documents created in the ‘old’ version of Google Docs, when you click on them, they open in the old version.  Any new version you create with the new version lives in that app experience.  You have access to both world but in different app UI’s.

    How is that not true?  To top it off, the new app has features removed like Insert Drawing, Insert Table of Contents, Translate, etc.  Happy to be corrected as long as you check for yourself and find me to be saying something not true.

  2. Anonymous says:


    – IE9 will be fully HTML5 ready.  By the way, HTML5 is NOT a standard yet so all the vendors will need to agree how to implement it when it does become ratified by W3C

    – Mailmerge is critical function for many small businesses who rely on this feature for newsletters, billing statements etc.  Even schools who need to send updates to parents.

    – Please know your history.  Fault us for being too innovative.   http://news.cnet.com/2009-1001-   250261.html  Relying on just the browser edit controls means no ActiveX, no Flash, no add in’s etc.  This means today’s browser are somewhat constrained in their ability to render documents fully as well as features you may take for granted in your current application.  We’ll be posting a future blog topic on this to explain why the INDUSTRY is challenged with this, not just a MS ‘dont port their office’ rhetoric.  

  3. Chandana says:

    Another great post. Greatly appreciate the matter-of-fact tone.

  4. Todd says:

    Great Post… I think it’s very interesting that Google has completely ignored the concept of "document lifecycle" or "information lifecycle" in favor of a "simple approach."  When did doing business in a down economy drive simplification?  I’m seeing just the opposite.  More often, companies are being forced to get more of their data and make quicker decisions with the the data they have.  From my perspective, MS is working on allowing companies to be productive and act on information by leveraging the cloud, whereas Google is allowing companies to "play with data" in the cloud.

  5. Jim McNelis says:

    as usual, a microsoft employee spouts mis-information about google apps to scare their diminishing user base from changing to a better collaboration platform.  weak.  

    want an example?:

    "What’s also interesting is that the new ‘version’ means users can’t bring over their old documents. If you want the ruler now available in the new word processor, you can’t open any existing documents you might have.  So either abandon those docs or live in two parallel worlds for a while. "

    what are you talking about?  there is nothing true about this statement.  nice try though.  

  6. Jim McNelis says:


    You are 1/2 right, actually… I erroneously assumed that Google Documents opened old docs in the new editor.  It does not, as you stated.  However any older Google Spreadsheets DO open in the new version of Spreadsheets, which is also a part of Google Docs (and is why I made an ASSumption about Google Documents doing the same).  I realize this post was about Google Documents, but please understand that includes Spreadsheets, Forms, Drawings, and Documents.  Google Docs = Microsoft Office where Google Documents = Microsoft Word (or WordPad, according to your post).

    I also noticed the missing menu items along with the new cloudboard missing from Docs (but again, not missing from Spreadsheets).  Hopefully they are added when the new versions are actually launched, since this is a preview.  

  7. @JoeTierney says:

    How far we’ve already come that Sr. Office managers are defending Office from Google Apps. This shift has nothing to do with features. God willing, no knowledge worker will ever be subjected to any application with as many features as Office for the rest of time – it’s inhuman and cruel.

    True productivity happens between people and people, not people and a computer program. Microsoft’s foundational business model bedrock is built on software products. Google’s bedrock is the web. One connects people much more efficiently than the other.

    Office will have a place in the enterprise for the better part of the next 10 years (eventually making its last stand in the finance dept) but it’s going to be an increasingly smaller place and Google Apps will play a sizable role in that displacement.

    You think college kids are using Outlook? Nope. The desktop market has peaked – Office is standing on top of a mountain that’s as much a liability towards future success as it is a gold mine. That’s life. Things change.

  8. GuyFawkes says:

    this is pointless. gdocs is faster, simple and better. and im not taking side, i swear, its just better. for me of course. other ppl will fell that office is better and thats how it should be. its good to have new players in the market like gdocs or open office. what i dont like about microsoft is that you guys DONT like competition and you always make fun of the concorence. just take a look how microsoft put oracle on their sql page. they make fun of oracle when oracle is the best structured query language today. you guys have to stop beeing like that, its bad for you.

  9. yourmama says:

    haha, another Poogle scam.  Rulers were big two decades ago, and Poogle makes a big deal about it now.  LOL

  10. Bart says:

    uhm, three things about this post:

    – the offline feature will be back soon, with HTML5. Is IE ready for that?

    – you shouldn’t mailmerge with office in the first place. Before you know it you’re on a spamlist. Use a tool build for sending out large mailings.

    – if Gdocs is so bad, then where is the equivalent of microsoft? office2010 is going to be fully operational in a browser? Even now MS don’t port their office apps to the browser and let me guess, you can’t. right?

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