Google Apps Ninja Stories #2: Google Drawings

Google Drawings is a powerful component of Google Docs that allows real-time collaboration on technical diagrams, publication of the drawings to the web, and use of the images throughout the Docs suite (and beyond).
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

It's been almost 2 weeks since I've posted a Google Apps Ninja Story. It isn't that there aren't any great ones out there, it's just that they've taken a back burner to everything from from my new Droid Incredible to preparations for the Office 2010 launch.

Yes, that's right, the Microsoft Office 2010 launch has been on my Googley mind. In fact, I'll be there on Wednesday, along with several other ZDNet bloggers. It's almost like the beginning of a bad joke: "How many Google Apps does it take to make an Office 2010?" Regular readers will know that I'm a huge Google Apps fan and use it all the time for just about everything. They'll also know that I think Office 2010 is an incredible piece of desktop productivity software.

That's why I'm not only going to the launch, but looking at Google Apps Ninja Stories: where do the hidden or emerging features of Google Apps allow it to compete with Office, not just in the cloud, but anywhere? And where does Office just kick so much butt that some users absolutely need it, no matter how great Apps might be for collaboration?

Which, in a roundabout, long-winded, caffeine-fueled way, leads me to my second Ninja Story: Whiteboarding Collaboratively with Google Drawings. I covered Google Drawings briefly when I blogged about the recent Apps updates that the company rolled out. The real power of Drawings, though, is not in the cute pictures you can make, but in the way you can collaborate with colleagues on technical drawings and charts, creating a real-time virtual whiteboard whose contents can be saved, shared, and distributed via Docs.

One example involves collaborating on a workflow. You can create a simple flowchart (actually, you can get pretty fancy, but I'm keeping it simple here) like the one below:

Then, when you've shared the document with up to 50 colleagues, they can view the drawing simultaneously, use an embedded chat window to discuss, and watch collaborators update the drawing in real time. Although you can't view the actual drawing of individual items, each move, placement, resize, etc., is rendered as soon as it's made. With very little effort and certainly no technical skill, collaborators can modify the flowchart (or whatever document you have in mind):

While it's not Visio, it is a powerful, real-time tool for diagramming. In a world where pictures tend to speak far more strongly than words and where your team members may be in the conference room with you or halfway around the world, this level of real-time, ad hoc collaboration earns ninja status for the Drawing component of Google Apps.

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