iPad and Google Docs: Still Not a Great Fit

When the iPad was first released, it didn’t take long to realize Web 2.0 tools are important for the iPad to have any semblance of productivity. One early hole, though, was Google Docs/Google Apps.

Because I have had to prepare for mobile device presentations, I have been evaluating options for using Google Docs with the iPad. Based on what I have found so far, it comes down to 3 basic camps: 1) using iPad browsers, 2) low cost apps for accessing Google docs, or 3) using office productivity tools like Docs to Go or QuickOffice.


Browsers of the iPad originally did not support “contentEditable” web capabilities, so we had to wait until Google addressed it. Well, Google has “fixed” it, but using Google Docs on iPad browsers (Safari, Perfect Browser, Atomic–choose your favorite) is still lacking. When you start a new document, you are given a mobile interface for creating text.

You do have a choice to try Desktop mode, which resembles the interface we are familiar with on our computers, but using it you begin to realize it is just a facade. Simple text documents can work, but there are some cumbersome idiosyncrasies. Truly about the only thing you can do is edit text. Here is a short Youtube explanation I created that gives you a visual on these iPad options.


Even some Google-specific apps like G-Whizz provide a front-end to many Google tools, but Docs is still based on a Web-Kit browser–it is essentially the same as using Safari, so the same limitations apply.

Another option may better fit your needs. Two productivity tools made for Microsoft Office documents, e.g. QuickOffice and DocsToGo, can work with Google Docs accounts. These document editors add extra formatting features like font choice and font formatting, as well as paragraph formatting. While these still do not achieve near the capabilities available to desktop computers, you have more options than using browsers  on the iPad.

If cost is not a problem (about $15), one of these productivity tools is a better option than iPad browsers, but far from a perfect one.

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