I wonder how long it will before Web-based Office apps trump client-based apps in intranet environments. Slowly but surely, Google Docs has become my default choice when I have to write a document or a spreadsheet. How long before this infiltrates the enterprise?
I got to thinking about this when I saw this bit on EditGrid over at CMSWire. Now, this is still software-as-a-service, but it proves that other people are as serious as Google about emulating office productively apps on the Web. How long before we get an installable, Web-based, Office replacement?
Implemented well, and — perhaps more importantly — presented to staff well, this would go over like gangbusters in any of the corporate environments I’ve worked in. The fact is hardly any employees in an organization use Microsoft Office anywhere near its capabilities (see this post). Ninety percent of Word’s capability, in particular, is wasted (see this post).
I’ll even go out on a limb and say that corporate users are spoiled by giving them a copy of Office. The reality is that hardly any of them need it. Yes, even exempt-level employees. And yes, even the CEO. (Hell, especially the CEO…)
Google Documents is an acceptable word-processing replacement for an enormous amount of users. The one thing it doesn’t do well is print. Conveniently, this is less of a big deal for corporate environments. If everyone is in the same company and gets used to viewing stuff online or accepts a little less fidelity when printing, this becomes a non-issue. (Exporting documents for dissemination outside the company is still an issue, but I’d venture less than 5% of Word documents get outside the walls of the enterprise.)
Google Spreadsheets would need some work before being enterprise-ready. While a lot of people think “spreadsheet” means “way to store information in rows and columns,” a lot of finance departments exploit Excel to its limits. However, what I’m seeing from EditGrid is that pushing this envelope on the Web is possible.
I haven’t tried Google Presentations, but I rarely see Power Point used for anything beyond bullet points anyway, so this would fit right in.
What I love most about Google Docs is that I don’t have to worry about files. My home page in Google Docs is a list of documents I’ve worked on recently, and there’s a handy list of folders of older documents. I can invite people to look at documents I’ve been working on, and I can allow them to edit if I want.
You don’t realize how constraining the concept of a “file” is until you’re liberated from it.
This needs a handful of things to make any intranet developer’s heart race:
- Make this installable so I keep everything on my network
- Make it themeable so I can brand it for my company
- Let me supply centralized stylesheets so I control formatting as centrally as possible
- Tie it into Active Directory so knows who everyone in my company is and can use that information when people want to share documents
- Give me an API so I can reach into it for content for my intranet (a “Publish this Document to the Intranet” would insanely cool)
I truly believe the day is coming where any request to install Office requires a Justification Form and three signatures. We need to get there sooner rather than later.