Animesh Pathak's Crazy Ideas

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A [small] idea to [further] improve Google Docs for Collaboration

I love Google Docs. I use it for a lot of things --- to store recipes my mom sent to me when I was in grad school, taking instantly-ready meeting minutes collaboratively, as well as discuss paper-writing plans with my colleagues, among others.

When Google released Wave, I loved it; but sadly people like me were in a minority and the project was killed. However, I am very happy to note that Google has kept on pulling the much-liked features of Wave into Docs, including instantaneous collaborative editing (April 2010) and, most recently, advanced discussion/commenting features (March 2011).

However, there is still one extra feature which I wish they could add, and this one would not even take much coding -- just some basic JavaScript. Here is the idea:

I often use Google docs in a conference call. It is a great way to conduct meetings, with attendees posting their questions directly in the doc, and updating it with answers as they are agreed upon in the meeting. The same thing goes for action items. And this way, the minutes are ready at the end of the call, thus saving a TON of time.

However, what I miss is the "follow $user's cursor" feature, using which I can make my screen auto-scroll to the portion of the document that my colleague is currently seeing on his browser. This would help immensely when people on a conference call are trying to read/discuss a document together, and thus need to be on the same page, literally :). [ To those who have played Quake III or other multiplayer FPS games, this concept should not be new :). ]

Implementing this should not be a problem either. The Docs page already sends cursor positions periodically to its servers, we just need to add screen boundaries to this information in some manner. On the receiver's side, it will simply involve some JavaScript to scroll the screen to the appropriate position.

So, what say?



  • You have some very interesting and useful ideas. I am new to google docs. I just discovered it last week!

    By Blogger EMMAR, at 5:07 PM  

  • Thanks Emma, and welcome to the wonderful world of Google Docs!

    BTW, my blogging/posting has largely moved to my Google+ account, let me know if you need an invite.

    By Blogger Animesh, at 1:32 AM  

  • What's your opinion on google+? I haven't got a google+ account does that mean I will be unable to view most of your blogging? Emma

    By Blogger EMMAR, at 2:47 AM  

  • I love Google+, and since most of my posts are public, you should be able to see them without needing an account.

    That said, I strongly recommend getting one. I am increasingly liking it better than Facebook. :)

    By Blogger Animesh, at 2:50 AM  

  • Perhaps I should try it out - if you'll be so kind as to invite me :) Maybe it really can rival Facebook.

    By Blogger EMMAR, at 2:52 AM  

  • Sure!

    Unfortunately, turns out I do not have your email address :). Please drop me a line at animesh@gmail . com


    By Blogger Animesh, at 2:54 AM  

  • Animesh, Use the Send Feedback button from the gears pulldown menu on Google+. It will get to the Google Docs team.

    Or even simpler. On Google+ post on #googledrive
    The goodle docs team uses the #googledrive for engaging with end users on new feature requests and new features added.


    By Blogger Rama Govindaraju, at 10:37 AM  

  • very innovative idea animesh keepit up:)

    By Anonymous prateek, at 4:06 PM  

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