Hands on: Google Docs and Sheets for iOS

Summary:Google has spun off its spreadsheet and word processing services as discrete apps for iOS. Here's what you need to know.

Google Docs arrives on iOS - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Google)

On Wednesday Google announced new smartphone apps that compliment its online Google Docs and Sheets services. Its online word processor and spreadsheets were previously only available in iOS via in its standalone Google Drive app (free, App Store) and, of course, in a mobile web browser at drive.google.com.

The purpose of the new apps is to find, edit and create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on your mobile device. The single biggest feature of the new apps is offline mode, a boon for when an Internet connection isn't available. 

Google Docs (free, App Store) features include:

  • Create new documents or open and edit any that you started on the web or another device. 
  • Share documents and work together with others in the same document at the same time
  • Get stuff done anytime--even without an internet connection
  • Add and respond to comments
  • Never worry about losing your work--everything is automatically saved as you type

Google Sheets (free, App Store) features include:

  • Create new spreadsheets or open and edit any that you started on the web or another device. 
  • Share spreadsheets and work together with others in the same spreadsheet at the same time
  • Get stuff done anytime--even without an internet connection
  • Format cells, enter/sort data, perform various sheet operations, and more
  • Never worry about losing your work--everything is automatically saved as you type
Google Sheets arrives on iOS - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Google)

Google also announced that a dedicated Slides app, for creating and editing presentations on the go, is "coming soon."

Early user reviews complain about missing features, including the lack of file sorting, folder organization, spell checking and its overly basic editing controls. Unlike the first version of Microsoft's Office apps for iPad , the Google Docs and Sheets apps feature printing to AirPrint and Google CloudPrint in version 1.0.

While the new Docs and Sheets apps support reading Word and Excel files, they're not editable unless you convert them to their Google equivalents on upload. 

Google could eventually remove direct opening and editing of Docs and Sheets from its Drive app. After installing Docs and Sheets, files touched in Drive will open in the new native apps instead. Google said that "over the next few days you’ll be prompted to download the apps" but it didn't specifically say that using the new apps would be required. The move continues a trend where developers spin off features into separate discrete apps, started by Facebook spinning off Messenger.

It appears that Google is pivoting Drive into purpose-built tool ("a convenient place to store your stuff,") rather than a multi-purpose, do-everything app.

While it sometimes makes sense to "branch" complex apps into separate development tracks, the move could also be seen as a attempt to challenge dedicated fille storage apps like Dropbox and Box

Update: I've posted a gallery of screenshots from the new Google apps.

What do you think of the new, discrete Google apps? Will you make room on your home screen for two new icons?

Topics: Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, iPad, iPhone

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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