In Chome OS: The Cloud's grand opening we offered to take a look at the state of workflows available on the internet, and whether they can deliver the same or better quality of experience as we are used to with desktop applications. For the first past we take a look at Document workflows on the internet.
Creating and editing documents is perhaps the easiest of tasks to do online. All those using GMail as their email system, would have noticed "Open as a Google Documents" as an option for their document attachments. Many would have at some point of time previewed, if not edited documents this way.
Documents have everything going for them for this usage scenario - they are usually small in size, usually not so complex that they can not be rendered in a browser using HTML and CSS. large parts of the internet are in fact still composed of interlinked documents. Any blogging software is essentially a tool for publishing documents online.
At times you will need to collaborate with others on your documents, and Google Docs only makes this too easy. You can share your documents with people whether they have Google accounts or not, and your shared documents can be viewed and edited by the others using their own Google Docs account. Neither of you will need to download the document at any point of time, since the editor and the document are both rendered in the browser itself.
Many people would prefer alternatives to using Google services. Whether it is out of lack of trust of just a different user experience, for you there are many other alternatives such as Zoho.com, which offers significantly more functionality than Google Docs, and integrate well with Google services. Besides Zoho and Google Docs, we have Adobe's Acrobat.com service; however, few others provide the level of integration and ease that is achieved with these two.
It is equally important that you be able to mix and match services to your desire. Just as you are not limited to use Microsoft Office suite just because you are running Windows, you should not be limited to using just Google Docs because you are using GMail, nor should it be too difficult to open files in Google Docs just because you are using a different email service.
If you use Google services, the workflow here is very simple, however for others, things aren't as smooth. To get any document that you receive in a mail into Google Docs, you will need to download the file to your desktop and then upload it in Google Docs. Google used to provide a service which allowed you to merely email any documents you get to a specific unique address, and they would automatically be imported as documents into your account. However this service is no longer offered. To view any online file in Google Docs you simply need to enter its URL in import function, however to edit it you will again need to download it and upload to Docs.
The limits to what you can do online are decreasing quite fast. Even procedures such as converting text in an image to editable text is now something which can easily be done online. Many free and paid services exist which allow you to upload an image file and download the scanner counterpart. In fact such a functionality exists within Google Docs as well, although it is only accessible to developers.
For now even someone who can get all their work done online, will find a few stumbling blocks in some unexpected places every once in a while, especially when it comes to lack of integration and the lack of choice in service providers. These breaks in workflows while processing documents online can somewhat be forgiven considering the other advantages they bring, however they are an indication that despite the relative maturity of the offerings available, they are still not up to par.