June 2, 2023

Merely put, software program doesn’t age effectively. {Hardware}, in time, at all times turns into out of date, but when it survives lengthy sufficient—assume Olympia typewriters—it transfigures from junk to a classic digital or will get a shot at a stylistic reincarnation (skeuomorphism or going “retro”). However hardly ever does anybody reserve the identical type of generosity for a chunk of crummy previous software program. Which is to say, when individuals hate on software program merchandise, the hatred isn’t the extra advanced and sticky form directed to, say, Philip Roth. Individuals actually wish to see no extra of it.

And 17 years after the launch of Google Docs, its adoption is widespread however nowhere common. In case your office is crammed with Macs greater than Lenovos, you is likely to be shocked to study that Microsoft Phrase nonetheless dominates in market share. If Microsoft Phrase is sort of a combo package of DeWalt energy instruments, Google Docs is a price range Swiss Military knife that’s serviceable however at all times leaves extra to be desired. What baffles me is that the intervening years since Google Docs’ preliminary launch offered greater than sufficient time to attain characteristic parity with Microsoft Phrase, however it’s as if Google Docs by no means mustered the desire. As an alternative, it has targeted on small-time options (emoji reactions), and up to date product bulletins (“pageless” format, for instance) have strained to shock. 

Throughout these lackluster growth cycles, the word-processing area has been crammed with a glut of writing apps. Not at all times profitable however boldly experimental, they’re extra minimalist, maximalist, hipster, considerate, annoying, customizable, opinionated, over/under-engineered than Google Docs. To call names, Bear, Coda, Airtable, Notion, Overleaf, Scrivener, iA Author, Ulysses, and Obsidian come to thoughts. 

Google Docs, although effectively made, has by no means felt artisanal the best way iA Author or Ulysses does. However it could be a mistake to insist an excessive amount of on its lesser points. Utilizing OT efficiently, as soon as and for all, confirmed that the complexity of real-time enhancing might be tamed, an proof proof to which many collaborative software program packages of at the moment owe their existence. OT additionally solid a path for extra elegant collaborative options—like, for many who care, conflict-free replicated information sorts (CRDTs), that are utilized in domains corresponding to music (SoundCloud) and design (Figma). Within the genetics of contemporary software program, it would be uncommon to search out software program packages the place Google Docs’ DNA segments are fully absent.

And since the utilization sample of these different writing apps turned out to be extra pluralistic—i.e., as an alternative of counting on a single general-purpose app, customers make use of totally different apps for fast note-taking (Apple Notes), drafting (iA Author), scriptwriting (Scrivener), reference administration(Zotero)—Google Docs nonetheless excels in universality and has achieved a near-protocol standing. Google Docs could also be second-rate within the second-rate and third-rate options, however it’s first-rate within the first-rate ones. For what it is price, this text was edited in Google Docs. 

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