Hands on: Google Docs for Android

Hands on: Google Docs for Android

Google gives you an easy way to access Google Apps on your Android smartphone

Google today announced the availability of Google Docs for Android. Docs for Android is a free download from the Android Market and is compatible with phones running version 2.1 (Eclair) or more recent of Google's mobile platform.

At the moment only word processing documents and spreadsheets can be created through the app; presentations can be viewed but not edited, while drawings can't be displayed.

The initial synchronising of my document list took longer than expected, with the 10 documents in my account (three PDFs, four word processing documents and three spreadsheets) taking several minutes to show up.

My copy schedule spreadsheet, which includes nine worksheets and a substantial number of cells, took only seconds to load, however. All the spreadsheet's formatting displayed correctly, and switching between tabs was a breeze. As you would expect, multitouch zooming can be used while viewing the document.

Editing uses a row system

You can make changes to each of the cells in a row then hit submit (or cancel). Editing was sluggish, though in a lighter-weight spreadsheet it was fine. Rows can be added and formulas can be entered (though you will not be able to edit them afterwards).

After editing cells used by a formula I had to manually refresh to see the results; this was also the case for changes made to the spreadsheet by other users.

While collaboratively editing a word processing document changes made by other users showed up quickly. Formatting is displayed, but you can only enter plain text.

OCR needs work

One interesting feature is the ability to capture a document using your phone or tablet's camera then use OCR to import it as a text document. Our attempts to use this feature were spectacularly unsuccessful: We tried with a number of printed documents and a business card and obtained virtually no usable text. Google has promised that the quality of this feature will improve, however.

New documents can be created, renamed and shared with contacts, but there is no apparent way to delete them.

I encountered one crash while viewing a 44-page PDF file, but otherwise the app seemed stable. Obviously the editing features of Docs for Android remain rudimentary at the moment, but then substantial editing on a smartphone is not ideal anyway.

The biggest flaw I noticed during my tests was the lack of an in-document search feature, though this will almost certainly be implemented in the future (at the moment you can search through all your documents to see if they contain a particular string, however). All up, this app is handy way to access your Cloud-based documents, though you probably won't conduct serious editing or composition.

Follow Rohan Pearce on Twitter: @rohan_p

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Tags cloud computingsmartphonesmobile phonesGoogle DocsGoogle Androidandroid apps

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