Android Influencer: Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides project manager Ryan Tabone

Credit: Google

When Facebook and Foursquare recently split up their respective apps, they were met with intense backlash. Why would you require users to download and install two separate apps in order to connect to one overarching service? It’s particularly absurd, not to mention a little maddening for those of us who expected technology to simplify our lives—not complicate them.

And when Google split up its documents editing services into three separate apps, we wondered if the technology giant was going down the same path. It now technically offers four Android and iOS apps (including Drive) for the purpose of document editing and curation, with each app serving a different purpose.

We asked Ryan Tabone, the product manager for Docs, Sheets, and Slides, to explain what the changes mean for these separate Google apps, why they were split up in the first place, and why Google feels its docs suite is different from the others.

Greenbot: Why split Google Drive into separate apps? How will it affect Google Docs' cross-platform users? What exactly does Google hope that users will gain from it?

Tabone: When most people use an application, they have a single task or function in mind. However, in the former version of the Drive app, people were able to do any number of activities—organize files, upload something, create a new spreadsheet, edit an existing document—the list goes on. When we surveyed our users, it turns out that most didn’t know all of this functionality existed! By creating standalone apps for each of the three core file editors and Drive, we made this functionality more discoverable—and ultimately made it easier for people to do what they intend: go to Docs for documents, Sheets for spreadsheets, Slides for slideshows. It’s that simple.

The new apps are designed to work seamlessly with the Drive app. For example, when you click to edit a Google Doc on your phone from the Drive app, it will automatically open the Docs app without having to return to the home screen.

We’re already seeing the positive impact of this change. People who’d previously never used Drive are now using the Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps—and they can use them whether they’re at their computer, on a tablet, or on their phone. 

Greenbot: Are there any plans to bring QuickOffice integration into Drive on Android, just as it's been done on the web?

Tabone: This has already been done! The new mobile apps on Android (with iOS coming soon!) offer Office Compatibility Mode, which lets you edit and save Microsoft Office files in their original format all from within Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Ultimately, we want you to be able to create and edit files regardless of where you are or what device you’re using.

Greenbot: What does Google feel it has left to do to win over those businesses that won't give up their other office suites, like Microsoft's in particular?

Tabone: We’re focused on building products that solve people’s needs. When you get a file, you shouldn’t have to spend time figuring out which application to use depending on the file type or the device you’re on. It should just work. Technology should help people quickly, easily and beautifully express and share their ideas—not get in the way of that.

One of the things that sets Docs, Sheets, and Slides apart is the fact that these tools were optimized for the cloud from day one. As a result, we’re able to build features like collaborative editing (meaning multiple people can all be editing a document at once and see each other’s changes in real-time) and making your files instantly available across all your devices.

Greenbot: Why can't a user add trend lines to most chart types in Sheets, when Charts (the web plugin) has had it for ages?

Tabone: So glad you asked, as we just announced the addition of trend lines!

Greenbot: How long have you been an Android user?

Tabone: I’ve been using Android since the G1, although I use both Android & iOS devices to ensure that our apps work for all our users.

Greenbot: What kind of Android phone do you use and why?

Tabone: I rotate both through unreleased phones and the most-used phones on the market to make sure I’m seeing our users’ experiences and issues firsthand.

Currently I’m testing Android One, the sub-$100 phone we announced at Google I/O. I want to make sure that all of our apps are running smoothly for the next billion people to get access to computing.

Greenbot: What's one favorite app you just can't live without?

TaboneSonos. I love waking up to a new daily song, listening to NPR, and then walking out the door to Google Play Music’s “I’m feeling lucky” selections.

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