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Friday, July 06, 2007

Google does it again... and again

It seems like it's been years since I started using Google Maps and Google Docs. It probably has been for Google Maps, but I only started using Google Docs this past year to write articles for my blog and share them for review with other people. In the past week, my two biggest complaints about both applications have been answered.

Google Maps:
My wife used to hate using Google Maps. "It doesn't usually know the best route to take" she claimed one day, while touting Yahoo's Maps. If you talk to a hundred different people and ask which their favorite online mapping application is, you're probably going to get a range of answers, centered around less than five applications.

Ask the same hundred people if there's anything in their favorite application that they don't like, and you'll probably get a range there as well, centered around a few specific problems.

My wife's complaint about Google Maps is well taken. For example, if she decides that she wants instructions from her mother's house to her uncle's house, it takes her down some rather unpleasant roads. They're basically ripped to shreds. Anyone from New England knows that it snows here... a lot. And that snow has a tendency to destroy roads. The state of Massachusetts isn't know for its ability to keep the roads in good condition, so Google has you driving over these roads where the speed limit is technically 40 mph, but realistically if you want your teeth and the shocks on your car to still be intact, then you drive a bit slower. I know, I know. Speed limits are just suggestions in Massachusetts. Please bear with me.

Google Maps just came out with a new feature that allows you to drag the route that it has mapped for you so that you take a slightly different route. So if you know that there is construction going on for a particular stretch of highway, you can use Google Maps to help you find an alternate route and set alternate waypoints in that area. Very very cool.

Google Docs:
Over the past year or so, I've half written quite a few blog entries that I never finished. Google used to only show you recently edited documents and sort of hid the rest of them. It was very annoying to have edited a document, and then try to find it again several months later. Yes, they run a search engine. But search will only take you so far.

Search is great for telling you what exists if you already know what you're looking for. But if you're looking for things that were lost or forgotten along the way, search falls up short. As an example, lets assume that you have archived a bunch of files on your hard drive because you don't use them very often. A year later, you want to go back and look at them to see what's there. If you knew what was in them, you could search. But it's been a year and you can't remember what's there so you want to iterate over all of them. This is where Google Docs fell short. It didn't let you easily iterate over each of them and look to see what was there.

Enter the concept of folders. Phew! Good thing the Google engineers were on the ball here. This newfangled folder concept is great. I can't imagine where in the world they got it from... oh wait. Yes I can.

It does seem to baffle me that they didn't create folders from the very beginning, but I guess they just wanted to make it simple. They did acquire the product after all. It's not as if Google created Google Docs from the beginning. But with the clout of Google behind it, there's active development going on, and the product is getting better, which is something I'm ecstatic about.

Now to go in and see what's there so I can organize it a bit better and finish off some of those blog posts and articles I never got around to finishing
 

 

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