Google April 12 trumpeted the fact that its Google Docs now has pagination, which lets users see visual pages on their screen similar to the way people have been doing via the Microsoft Word word processing app for two decades.
When users edit their documents in Docs they’ll see visual page breaks while users are editing their documents, providing them context for their body of work, like so:
Luiz Pereira, software engineer for Docs, wrote:
“Because we’re able to show you individual pages, we can improve the way other features work too: headers now show up at the top of each page instead of just at the top of your doc, manual page breaks actually move text onto a new page and footnotes appear at the bottom of the pages themselves.“
Pagination is hardly the sexiest feature in the world. As someone prone to writing short stories and who is half-heartedly working on a novel, I can say with certainty that pagination helps.
The new feature comes one year after Google overhauled its Docs editors to be speedier and better render documents users view in Google’s Chrome Web browser.
These features included a ruler for controlling the margins and text that wraps around images.
The idea was to make Docs less primitive seeming and function closer to the way desktop-based word processing apps work.
Yes, Google is trying to duplicate and improve upon Microsoft Office and IBM Lotus Notes apps, albeit for the cloud paradigm instead of the old-fashioned yet still predominantly used on-premises apps. Pagination is another step on that path.
Google also said it is using pagination and Chrome’s native printing capabilities to make printing Docs documents more efficient, which users may see here.
Previously, users who wanted to print their Docs doc had to convert it into a PDF file, then open and print it. This was, of course, one of those onerous, tedious steps the Web is meant to do away with.
Native printing in Chrome lets users not only print directly from the browser but preserves the fidelity of the document so that what users see in the hard copy hews to what they saw on their screen. Of course, it’s only Chrome, so Docs users who surf the Web with Firefox, Safari or even IE are left out.
Ultimately, these moves combined will appease the detractors who worship the hundreds of important and more trivial features in Microsoft Word.
I tend to prefer Docs’ lighter weight mien to the bloated pig Word has become, but sometimes the spartan nature of Docs weighs on me.
The pagination and native printing help bring Docs closer to Word, but let’s hope Docs never becomes as feature fat as its rival.
Meanwhile, in case you haven’t been following, Google and Microsoft continue to butt heads in government cloud computing contracts.