I came across An entirely new way to stay organized on the Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog the other day and clicked thru with great interest and high hopes.

Fueling my interest, the first sentence made me more convinced there was something to get worked up about:

Today we introduced some exciting changes to Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

As a technology guy, I'm often interested in things which are entirely new or the result of exciting changes. But that interest was quickly washed away as I realized that it was mostly a fluff piece aimed and dressing up a long missing feature from Google Docs: folders.

That's right: folders.

Sure, they also talk about prettying up the UI and adding search (search? from Google? no way!), but search is often used when you're not organized because you're lazy like me. It has little to do with staying organized. But that's beside the point, really.

Folders are about the farthest thing from being "entirely new" when it comes to organizing documents. This is 2007. I remember folders back in the Commodore Amiga days. What was that? 15 years ago? This is hardly a revolution.

This leaves me wondering a bit about the users of Google Docs & Spreadsheets (of which I am one). Does Google think that their users are so easily impressed (or clueless) that folders, search, and a UI touch-up really qualify as "exciting" and "entirely new"?

If so, that's kind of insulting.

Or is it the case that Ron Schneider and team were so buried in work to get this release shipped that they forgot to think about it from their audience's point of view?

Either way, I'm disappointed. I want my exciting and entirely new stuff!

I'm not going to say much about the fact that the screenshot looks like a cross between Gmail (which has no folders but people still want them) and a Windows desktop application. Noddle on that one yourself.

Thus ends my snarky post for today.

Posted by jzawodn at June 28, 2007 02:56 PM

Reader Comments
# Craig Hughes said:

The folders are a little "new" in that an item can be in more than one folder at a time -- ie they are a new UI rendering of the same "tag" feature that has existed before in Google apps. I'm sure someone else has rendered tags as "folders" before though in a UI, so it's probably not entirely new.

on June 28, 2007 03:25 PM
# Diki said:

You'd think rule number one of corporate blogging would be don't make petty remarks about your competition. Do you really think Yahoo is immune to this kind of low level marketing approach? Come on.

on June 28, 2007 03:26 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

You seem to have confused my blog with a corporate blog, despite the disclaimer at the bottom of every post.

Oh, well...

on June 28, 2007 03:36 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Adding to that thought, since Yahoo doesn't offer a competing product, I'm not even sure that calling Google "competition" in this case is appropriate. As I said, I happen to use their Docs & Spreadsheets (well, the spreadsheet part at least).

on June 28, 2007 03:39 PM
# Andy C said:

Hi Jeremy

I beg to differ.

With respect, I honestly believe you couldn't be more wrong. Google are indeed thinking about their target audience. The fact is the target isn't techno-savvy, 'A' list bloggers who use 54 Web 2.0 beta applications.

The target audience now includes Auntie Beryl and Uncle Harry and that will prove to be the best decision Google D&S ever made.

on June 28, 2007 03:45 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

And you think they've never seen folders before? What kind of computer are they using to access the web anyway?

on June 28, 2007 03:47 PM
# Andy C said:

Curiously enough, I had already composed my response before Jeremy even wrote this article.


on June 28, 2007 03:53 PM
# Ken Norton said:

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy - why you hatin' on me like that?!

I'm sorry you're disappointed but I *do* think we've launched something entirely new. I've yet to find many other examples of folders that work like tags behind the scenes, and that's what we were aiming for - to combine the clear advantages of tags with the familiar metaphor of folders. (I even blogged about this more than years ago http://www.heynorton.org/blog/2005/05/propagating_the.html).

We don't think we're perfect - we're always working to improve the product - but I think what we've launched is a big step forward.


on June 28, 2007 04:00 PM
# Hanford said:

The Amiga featured Drawers, not folders. ;) It took me a full year to start calling them folders once I moved from the Amiga to the PC.

And here's a bit of useless information: Before version 2.0 of the Amiga OS, there was no UI to create a new drawer. Instead, the default install of the OS featured an Empty drawer that you'd duplicate, move, and rename.

PS, I want folder in Gmail too, but I also want to be able to move individual emails, in addition to whole threads, into them.

on June 28, 2007 04:04 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Hey Ken,

I'm not hatin' on your or your product. It's the blog post, man.

Thanks for reference to your earlier bit. I remember reading it when you first wrote it and agreeing (still do). You should see if Ron can update the post to point to your old stuff--it'd be good background.

on June 28, 2007 04:11 PM
# Craig Hughes said:

Ken, I think the virtual folders in Apple's Mail.app or Gnome's Evolution is similar. But the Google docs version is certainly different from those. I can't believe nobody else has done it before though, it feels kind of familiar.

on June 28, 2007 04:42 PM
# Josh Woodward said:

I guess there's a little bit of hyperbole in the blog post, but all the same, this is a fairly significant upgrade to one of Google's simplest but most innovative and well-executed products. I'd be excited too if I were them...

on June 28, 2007 07:18 PM
# Pete W said:

I'm still a long way from switching from OpenOffice (at home) or MS Office (work) to Google... Office? What's it even called collectively? I mean, it's not just docs and spreadsheets anymore, so that doesn't make sense...

And they have a bigger problem - "You can access stuff anywhere..." - I have a server for that, as well as an iPod. I can take things with me wherever I go anyway.

I realise I'm not the perfect target audience, but then Mr & Mrs Blogs aren't going to want it either, because sure it's free, but so is OO, and they'll prob not have heard of that or Google D&S, so will just buy MS Office anyway. It's all they know.

on June 29, 2007 12:08 AM
# phil said:

just loving the whole suite. truly innovative... mail, docs and s-sheets, pics, sharing... all server based... miles ahead of everyone and each incremental advance only increases the lead...

hate the game not the player zawodny!

on June 29, 2007 06:50 AM
# Fred Zimmerman said:

I agree -- folders!?

I have seen some signs that Google is losing a bit of its innovative steam. I read an article where Marissa Meyer listed her top coming eight search innovations -- they were distinctly underwhelming. See my post at http://www.nimblebooks.com/wordpress/2007/06/28/google-search-not-much-new-under-the-sun/

on June 29, 2007 06:58 AM
# optional said:

is your next blog entry going to be about flying? i hope so...

on June 29, 2007 08:22 AM
# Aaron said:

As a long time user of google docs/spreadsheets, I was very happy when the new layout jumped out at me when I logged in this morning. I didn't see the silly blogvertisement until I read this post.

If you expect to see everything every marketing piece promises you are looking forward to a lot of disappointments :)

on June 29, 2007 10:17 AM
# Angsuman Chakraborty said:

It is just standard PR hype.

on July 2, 2007 01:17 PM
# Rocky Agrawal said:

Oooh... Amiga. That brings back memories. I had an Amiga 1000, 500 and 3000.

I went to high school with Larry Page (the one) and we'd debate Amiga vs. Mac. He won.

on July 9, 2007 12:43 PM
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