Taking the Suck Out of Google Docs Documents

I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility of Google Docs. It's sufficiently fast, very accessible, and the simple but powerful sharing and chat features are, in my experience, second to none. However, despite Google's feature-rich and intuitive environment, I find in it one terrible flaw... I only use Google Docs Spreadsheets.

Sifting through my Google Docs items by type, I find no Presentations; my work doesn't require that I make slideshows. Clicking "Documents," seven items appear: four I haven't touched since 2008; one I didn't create but a coworker shared with me seven months ago; one I haven't looked at in three months; and the last, I imported today. However, when it comes to Google Docs Spreadsheets, I have a whopping 52 items that I have created or collaborated on.

That's a lot of spreadsheets.

While I don't consider my neglect of Google Docs Presentations to be a loss, I seem to always end up whining in frustration whenever trying (read "failing") to use Google Docs Documents. So exasperated have I been by Document's unwillingness to format text predictably that I've imported and subsequently deleted dozens of documents, settling for the increasingly unreliable and tedious method of sending them as e-mail attachments.

The biggest problem I've had with the Google Docs Document editor is that, as with all things HTML, it doesn't handle tabs well. Paragraph indentation is positively broken, and there is no ruler with which to add tab stops. While I fully understand the limits of HTML when addressing these issues, I think any text editor must do at least one thing well: users must have the ability to efficiently insert and manipulate whitespace.

Before today, I would have rather used vi or Windows' Notepad or Mac OS's TextEdit. But this afternoon, I stumbled upon a Google Docs Help thread that changed my mind.

It turns out that Google Docs lets you apply your own CSS in the Document editor. According to googlesystem.blogspot.com, this feature was added in April, 2008. It just goes to show how long I've put off seriously using Google Docs Documents.

To indent the first line of every paragraph, one contributor posted the following CSS fix:

p {
text-indent: 1cm;

However, because Google Docs diligently creates a new <p> tag every time you press "Return" on a line that isn't a list item, any text that has been centered will deviate slightly right of center. Hence, I propose the following:

p[style~="center;"] {
text-indent: 0in;

p {
text-indent: .5in;

So far, this has worked like magic. If you run into more exceptions, just add them to the list. Keep in mind that this will have to be applied to every Document you make until Google fixes the bugs.

No comments:

Post a Comment