Insert, Collaborate on Drawings in Google Docs

Google announced that you can now add/edit/share drawings right online and embed them into your documents and presentations or share across the web.

With this addition, the reasons for bulky, offline collaboration “office suites” is dropping like political approval ratings these days with Google unveiling better support for drawings and quicker response platform for collaborating with others.

Create / Edit Drawings

With simple, easily recognizable tools, you can create, edit and manipulate drawings in Google Docs by opening a “drawing”.  This drawing can be shared with others, edited simultaneously in real-time, shared securely inside your Google Apps network and published openly to the web.

You can insert these drawings into other documents you create in Google Docs and, as the independent blog Google Operating System reports, they remain editable even after you have inserted them.  Also, since they are viewed with well-used image standards, you don’t need flash or other plugins for viewing them.  Great!

The drawing is inserted as an image, but it continues to be editable after you add it to the document. Google uses SVG in Firefox, Opera, Chrome and other browsers that support it and VML in Internet Explorer, so you don’t need third-party plug-ins. (via Google Operating System)

The engine for the drawings support comes primarily from Tonic Systems, a 2007 Google Aquisition

Collaboration Response Time

If one limiting factor has existed in the “live collaboration” front, it has been the speed where changes show up across other users’ instances of the same document. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch had this to say about the new responsiveness of the Docs platform:

The real news, though, is that Google Docs and Spreadsheets is getting more realtime. There has always been a noticeable delay when new edits get saved and synced up, especially when more than one person is working on the same document. Google is addressing this delay with an entirely new architecture built from the ground up.

Instead of waiting a few seconds to see the new sentences or spreadsheet figures someone else entered onto the doc you are both working on, you will now be able to see each change in realtime as each character is typed in. Google’s engineers developed a new Javascript layout engine which sits on top of the browser and allows realtime editing, faster overall responsiveness, and new features such as the ability to drag-and-drop floating images through a document while the text rewraps itself around the image on the fly. “Working on documents should be as easy as having a conversation,” says Goggle Docs product manager Anil Sabharwal. Users will need to turn on the new features in settings in order to see them.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out with Google’s until-now only real-time platform, Google Wave and other tools living inside it’s budding ecosystem, such as Novell’s Pulse**.

Alternatives

While its awesome that Google Docs plugged this into their system, and we are a valuable step closer to an Operating System that needs little software but a web browser, putting drawings and image manipulation online is pretty hot stuff right now anyway.  Web Worker Daily reports on two alternatives, the Firefox add-on Pencil, and the Visio challenger Dia.  Also, there are several drawing and image manipulation tools available online or even through the Google Apps marketplace such as Aviary and Picnik

* Mobile access needs to be improved.
** Though I like Pulse anyway, I work for Novell.

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