The wait is over… Google has finally released its online presentation software. TeacherJay has been using the online productivity suite for a while and wanted to take a few minutes to share his first thoughts on the newest addition to the Google family and what some of the implications may be for the world of education.
TeacherJay has blogged about online productivity suites before, but he had grown impatient on waiting for Google to finally release this new product that had been delayed several times and stopped checking their blog. Thanks to Thane over at Technology on a Shoestring, TeacherJay was alerted today of this new addition. After trying it out, he is glad to see it, but a little disappointed. Over the past few years, Google has been buying up lots of startup companies – it seems that anyone who has had a better idea, or simply implemented it better than the Google crew is bought out – but, they become millionaires and Google adds more functionality to their software, so win-win, right?
Google already had an online word processor and spreadsheet application. Not only are these services free, but they allow multiple users to edit documents simultaneously. They also allow the uploading of files created in Microsoft Office, StarOffice and OpenOffice, or just plain HTML, and also exporting in RTF, CSV, and PDF formats. The PowerPoint-like software has some of those same features, but specifically suited to creating online presentations. The interface is nice and clean, as one would expect from Google, and doesn’t require any instructions – it’s pretty straightforward so you can get going immediately. However, a few features are missing – the most glaring omission was animations! A clip art gallery, the ability to export into OpenOffice Impress format, Flash movie, and direct posting to YouTube would all be nice to see in the future. Still, the site is a welcome addition to the world of web-based software and best of all – it’s FREE! One catch – you do need to have a Google account, but that’s just a quick and easy setup and will include access to lots of services.
TeacherJay is a big fan of the online software model for a number of reasons:
- It is always up-to-date – no more messing around with downloading upgrade patches to lots of computers and even having to log-on as an administrator to install them
- It’s accessible from anywhere – this has been a huge advantage for TeacherJay when traveling, or simply when he keeps losing his Flash drives
- Low system requirements – some of the monster software applications on the market need a relatively powerful computer that will need to be replaced every few years, but online suites really only require a broadband internet connection which are becoming more and more prevalent.
- The software is free – this is a great way to spread access to usually very expensive software and help to bridge the digital divide
What this may mean for students and schools is the ability to have quality software applications accessible from anywhere, anytime – without some of the hassles of needing compatible hardware. In fact, even the operating system is not important – though TeacherJay has had problems running some Google software through the built-in Safari browser on Macs – however it works just fine in Firefox. The ability for students to work on documents together, without needing to have the same software can save time and reduce those frustrations associated with e-mail attachments. Even nicer, all the documents are stored online, so there are no worries about losing a disk or not having access. If schools were able to cut down their costs associated with hardware and software by purchasing smaller lower-powered machines and taking advantage of free online software, they might have more money left in the budget for other expenses (broadband access would be one of them).
Google does a much better job of explaining why online documents can be easier to deal with and consume less resources, so TeacherJay will let them do that:
Sure, the applications still have a way to go, but they are still impressive and you can’t beat the price – be sure to check out some of TeacherJay’s other free software recommendations.