As my regular readers will know, I am searching for the perfect writing tool. Much as I prefer to write with a good pen, I want to find writing software that is ideally suited not only to my needs but also my temperament and taste. Frankly, it’s a tall order.
The clock is ticking. My trial copy of Apple’s Pages runs out in just a few days.
In truth, my search has stalled. Economic reality got the better of me, and I found myself rocked from my torpor by the arrival of numerous bills. The result? No time to think about word processors, as all my time was dedicated to lining-up words, one after the other.
Google Docs Works
In the past week I have written two news stories, two feature stories, five analysis pieces, and an essay. All of them were written using the dreaded Google Docs. (This piece was, however written in Ommwriter.)
Why dreaded, you ask? What, exactly, is wrong with Google Docs?
Nothing, really. At least there is nothing wrong with it as a word processing tool. It competently handles text and certainly has all of the, admittedly few, features that I require.
Professionally, it is often the case that fewer is better anyway. As an editor, for instance, I insist that any piece of writing that incorporates footnotes has them added manually rather than using the footnoting system most word processors offer. Why? Because I don’t want to spend my time reformatting text for the Web – I’m busy enough as it is without having to turn Word documents into decent HTML.
Google’s simple – and searchable, of course – chronological document interface is also nice to work with. It has contributed to me being less likely to lose important files in the capacious and numerous hard drives that litter my working life.
The Problem with Google
Still, there are two basic problems with Google Docs, either of which should be enough to dissuade me from using it.
First, Google Docs is dependent on web access. For some strange reason, Google does not yet support offline access using its own Chrome browser. (Safari and Firefox are supported through the installation of Google Gears.)
Secondly, it’s from Google. There is nothing specifically wrong with Google – or rather, there is nothing wrong with Google that is specific to it alone – but there is a lot to be bothered about.
Google’s power frightens many who feel that the Internet will be a less free place if any one company dominates it. This is a valid concern, but it does not unduly bother me, as I believe Google is far from inevitable.
My real objection to Google is its mission: to collect and organize all of the world’s data. I don’t think this is a good idea.
Yes, greater access to information has been a boon to us all, and it really does promote the free exchange of ideas, though the process is not quite as mechanistic as some advocates claim. The problem is that not all data should be aggregated and served. Some of it is supposed to be private.
What is happening in the virtual world is having a very real impact on the material world, and one does not need to be a paranoiac to worry that we are losing both privacy and anonymity to data-hungry corporations and governmental agencies.
Consider this: No aerospace manufacturer or auto outfit would allow its staff to design new vehicles using Google CAD, if such a product existed.
The trap with Google is that its products have a very high “use value” and a very low cost – often they are free. Convenience drives us to Google and, once there, it keeps us from leaving.
I, for one, am going to quit. The next time you read my writing about word processors here in Low End Mac, I shall have discovered the software I desire – or at least as close to it as actually exists.
Short link: http://goo.gl/ap4udd