The thing that I love the most about Google Docs is its no frills interface. I’m a vocal advocate of the app and thanks to it, I haven’t used Microsoft Office in the past three years. But, Google Docs isn’t perfect either and has a bunch of quirks that haven’t been addressed properly by Google so far. Offline access and multi account login are two that top my list of gripes.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to review Google Drive for Mac. Unfortunately, it didn’t offer either of the two above mentioned features. But, the app is a step in the right direction. Not discouraged by the launch of an official client, the developers of Collections have ventured with a Mac app of their own to help you organize your cloud documents locally.
With Collections, all of your Google Docs can live in one place, no matter which account they’re associated with. Now you can view and edit everything through the same efficient interface. Simply login to Google once for each account and let Collections handle the rest.
I was glad to see a help wizard that gives a crash course about using the app in just two steps. On a side note, these days I’m thrilled to see how Mac developers are putting a lot of effort into crafting nicely thought out help wizards to assist users getting familiarized with the app. It’s fast becoming a trademark style of the Mac ecosystem and hope other developers follow suit soon!
Getting started is fairly simple. If you have linked a third party app with Google in the past, the procedure is exactly the same. After entering the login credentials of your Google Account, allow Collections access to your files and the basic account information.
As the app gets down to syncing the files in the background, you will be prompted to add more Google accounts. If you plan to add more, the rinse and repeat!
File Sync and Folder Structure
File sync in the background is a welcome addition. But, it is really not a good thing to sync all the files and folders without asking the user for some input. I was travelling and hence was tethered to a costly mobile broadband plan while reviewing the app. I was on the verge of tears to see that Collections run roughshod over my capped bandwidth.
In most cases, I would have lauded the app for a lightning fast sync, not this time though. Before I could figure out how to pause the sync, hundreds and hundreds of files were already downloaded to my Mac.
After poking around for a while, I found that there is no option for selective syncing of files and folders. Nor is there an option to pause a sync in progress. We can overlook this shortcoming taking into account that this is a beta release. It would be a major fail if this feature didn’t make into the final release.
Collections lets you access your Google Docs with unparalleled speed. The three column interface actually makes the workflow more streamlined. Your accounts and the folders are listed in the left column of the app. The folder structure, including the sub folders from the Google Drive were intact.
Click on a folder to see the files in it in the center column. All files are organized in a chronological order with the latest ones at the top. It’s nice to see the icons of the file types were retained. They make identifying the various types of documents painless. If you are like me and have hundreds of documents in your account, the search bar at the top might come in really handy.
Previewing and Editing Files
The speedy preview mode lets you rapidly scan the contents of your documents and find exactly what you need. You can’t expect much from a preview mode and the same goes for this app too.
Double-click on a document or on anywhere in its preview to edit. The app then brings up the Google Docs in the web app mode in the right column. Editing and collaborating with others works just like you do in a web browser.
Collections is your Google Docs command center – a personal portal for all of your accounts that lets you continue the experience offline. I’ve never been a fan of web apps in a thinly veiled native wrapper passing themselves as true blue native clients. When Gmail for iOS pulled that stunt, I ripped them apart for iPad.AppStorm.
Now, Collections is built the same way, a web app wrapped in a Cocoa wrapper. But, in my opinion, they have tried their best to make the app as native as possible. Their goal seems to bring seamless document editing with multiple account support to the desktop. And, with a couple of tiny quirks, Collections has succeeded to a great extent!