Two of the “killer” applications that led to wide adoption of personal computers were word processors and spreadsheets. There are many different projects from Christmas letters to personal budgets that can be created with these applications. The two most popular applications on the Macintosh in this area are Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel, but if you want to buy these applications they can be fairly expensive. The latest Mac version of Microsoft Office (which also includes Powerpoint) costs more than $300.
So what if you could get a word processor and a spreadsheet for free? Better yet, what if I could share those documents with my mother in Cleveland? What if I could help her with her monthly budget spreadsheet by both of us going to the same website with an internet browser? What if I want to work on a novel with a friend in Paris? What if my mother or my friend could see as I made changes in the shared document in real time? If that sounds too good to be true then you have not yet had a chance to use Google Docs.
Google bought a shared document product from a company called Writely and then also created internally a spreadsheet application to create Google Docs. These applications work surprisingly well. They even have revision control so that you can roll back changes that your friend makes to the novel. I could have used this when my best friend from high school and I “collaborated” on a story (He kept killing off characters I introduced).
You will need to use the Firefox browser (or other modern browser) on the Mac as these applications will not work with Internet Explorer or Safari.