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Google flirts with online OS

Docs, Spreadsheets, Folders

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It's only a matter of time before Google unveils a full-fledged online operating system. This week, Microsoft's biggest rival rolled out a new version of Docs & Spreadsheets - its online answer to Word and Excel - adding Windows-like folders, an improved search engine, and an all-around prettier interface.

Previously, Docs & Spreadsheets organized files using a tagging method reminiscent of Gmail, Google's web-based email client. With the addition of folders, the service feels much more like a classic desktop GUI. You can even move documents from folder to folder via drag and drop.

"Almost from the day we launched people have been clamoring for folders," wrote technical lead Ron Schneider, on the official Google Docs & Spreadsheets blog. In other words, they weren't into the tags thing.

One user summed it up quite nicely on the Google discussion forum. "Folders is a great move," he said. "Everyone knows what folders are, but tags/labels still don't make sense to my Dad and others."

If you're already using the service, your old document tags are automatically converted into folders. But there's one aspect of the old paradigm that's still around. In much the same way you could attach the same file to multiple tags under the original interface, you can now store the same file in multiple folders. You'll also find specialized folders that give you quick access to all the documents you've created (as opposed to those created by someone else) and to the documents you've shared with others.

The new search engine suggests possible matches as you type - much like the Google Suggest beta that ties into the company's main web search engine. Docs & Spreadsheets new look-and-feel - including revamped icons and organizational controls - is also an improvement, but some users still have complaints. "It looks a lot more professional, and it's much easier to find what you want," says someone calling themselves "fourthnoggin." "However, I do not like that you have to check a document and then click on a few other buttons to preview it."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said the company will eventually add a PowerPoint-like presentation builder to its online office suite. Over the past two weeks, the company added a PowerPoint viewer to Gmail and announced the acquisition of Zenter, a startup with an existing online presentation tool.

This story was written and saved on Docs & Spreadsheets. And I didn't miss Microsoft in the slightest.®

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