Normally you won’t bother with the HTML view but it can be handy if you’re trying to work out why a Google Doc looks a particular way.
Google handles most Word formatting but the more complicated options like complex tables may look different. Text boxes and frames aren’t supported by Google Docs at all.
While Google Docs can support formatting copied into it, the direct formatting options are much more limited. If you allow for the more limited feature set in Google Docs, there’s reasonable compatibility between it and Microsoft Word.
You can copy text with formatting between Google Docs and Word (or any other offline word-processor). Even though Google Docs might not have the same features as MS Word you can mostly copy across what you’ve done into Google Docs.
For example, you can copy into Google Docs some text with ‘Cambria’ font formatting and edit it. But you can’t apply that font to new formatting. Currently the font selection in Google Docs is limited to Normal, Serif, Wide, Narrow, Comic Sans MS, Courier New, Garamond, Georgia, Tahoma, Trebuchet MS, Verdana and Wingdings. The font size menu is limited to 8, 10, 12, 14 18, 24 and 36pt.
In those cases, and many others, you can go to the ‘Edit HTML’ option and tinker with the formatting yourself. For example, for a larger font size change the tag to read something like or for a different color and font.
The Google Docs toolbar only shows Left, Center and Right options but under the Style button you’ll find a ‘Justify Text’ option to complete the set.
Just like with Word documents and web pages, the fonts have to be installed on any computer otherwise an alternative font will be used. In the example (see the images in the online version of this article) the ‘Cambria’ font, supplied with Office 2007 is replaced with another font if not available.
Style support fairly seamless in both directions.
If you have a custom style in Word and copy text in that style into Google Docs the formatting is converted into HTML and the style name (almost) retained as a class label.
For example, a paragraph of style ‘Fred Dagg’ when copied to Google Docs looks the same in both documents. The HTML in Google Docs shows what’s happened:
Text in the style of Fred Dagg
The explicit formatting is retained in the font tag and the margins in the style attribute. The Word style name ‘Fred Dagg’ is changed to a name with no spaces ‘FredDagg’.
If you copy text into Word the formatting is retained with the class identifier becoming a Word style. In our example there’s a small problem because the style name was altered from ‘Fred Dagg’ with a space to ‘FredDagg’ without a middle space. When our example is copied from Google Docs back into Word it creates a new style called ‘freddagg’. Presumably this is a bug that Google will address.
Really, it’s quite amazing what Google can do in a web browser. Years ago Microsoft seemed a little paranoid when they talked about a browser (in those days, Netscape) being an alternative platform for applications. With Google Docs and Spreadsheets you can see what’s possible.
Comments are available in both Word and Google Docs but are handled differently and are not interchangeable.
In Word you can choose ‘Insert Comments’ and they’ll usually appear in a ‘balloon’ on the right-side.
In Google Docs the ‘Comments’ option on the ‘Insert’ menu adds indented text with a special HTML tag.
If you copy some text from Word with comment, the comment is pasted into the Google Doc but looks different than it does in Word – and it’s different from Google Docs own comments. The Word pasted comment gets inserted as text at the bottom of the document with an internal link placed at the document location.
Google Docs is a great vehicle for working together on putting together a document. Authorised people can easily and quickly jump in to add their content and comments to a document – even when others are working on the document at the same time.
The formatting options are less developed than in MS Word but more than adequate for many needs.
Once the content in a document is finalised, you can copy it into Microsoft Word (or another word-processor) for final checking and formatting before publication. For example a letter can be developed online then copied into Word for printing with headers and footers etc.