Netbooks and Google Docs
I’ve gotten a couple of questions in the last couple of days of how I’m liking my netbook and whether I am, as I suggested I would, using Google Docs as my primary word processing program. Rather than giving them each their own entry, let me bundle them up here.
The netbook: So far, I really like it. I think the size netbook I have (8.9-inch screen, a something like 80%-sized keyboard) really is about as small as I could go and actually have it usable for me on a daily basis, but in fact it is actually usable — more so than my 15-inch Toshiba, actually, since it’s a lot lighter to carry and easier to open up and get to business on. I’m not sure I would want to write a novel on it, but I have written articles (and obviously, blog posts) without any real problem at all. For what I use it for during travel (e-mail, browsing, light word processing) and at home use (basically the same thing), it does great.
The only real disadvantage to the netbook at this point is that the screen is small enough that I spend more time than usual craning my neck downward to look at it; I suspect this is a computer where I will need to take a slightly greater number of breaks to avoid neck/wrist/etc strain. This is not a bad thing. Also, I do strongly suspect that people much larger than I am at 5’8″ and of average proportions therein might find a computer of this size a little too small to be useful. But then again I’ve seen really tall people whacking away at Blackberrys, so what do I know.
Google Docs: Actually, I do use it quite a bit… for some things. Google Docs works great for when I’m doing short things that don’t require much in the way of formatting — so for example, it’s perfect for writing short short fiction or Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader pieces or my AMC column. But for things that do require formatting, like novel or novella manuscripts, it’s sort of a bust because, in fact, Google Docs don’t allow you to do anything more than rudimentary formatting (or if it does, does not allow it in a obvious fashion, which amounts to the same thing). Also, Google currently puts a cap on the size of the Google Doc files, which is less than what I need for a whole novel, so again that’s something of an issue. So, basically, I use Google Docs for short stuff, and I end up using Word or Open Office for longer, formatted stuff. It’s not a bad division of labor, especially since I write the longer pieces at my desk anyway, and so don’t need to have those documents be portable. I do occasionally post chapters of longer works into Google Docs for archival purposes, just in case my computer implodes, but that’s just one way I archive work in progress. It’s not for actual writing in that case.
And that’s where I am with portable technology today.