I use the Google Docs cloud-based tool for a lot of ventures. I use it at my desktop, my laptop, and now that the Google Docs Android app has been released, I can use it on my mobile, which is great because I’m on the go a lot.

Writing technical articles and fiction is my primary career, so it’s important for me to be able to access and edit my documents at the drop of a hat. Many Google Docs users also have this need. It used to be a struggle to use Google Docs on a mobile device, but with the release of the official Android app, all is right in Google Docs user land.

Installing the Google Docs Android app

  1. Open the Market Place tool from your App drawer.
  2. Search for “google docs” (no quotes).
  3. Tap the official Google Docs app (it will be from Google Inc. and not another developer).
  4. Tap Install.
  5. OK the permissions (Figure A).

Once installed, you’ll find the Docs application (the icon is “Docs”) in the App drawer.

Figure A

You see the Google Docs permissions requirements as it is being installed on a Verizon Wireless Motorola Xoom tablet. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Using the Google Docs Android app

The application requires a very small learning curve. If you can use the standard Google Docs, you will have no problem using the Google Docs app for the Android platform.

Since the mobile was able to use the Google Market, the device is already authenticated to a Google Account, so configuration or authentication is not necessary. When you open Google Docs, your documents will automatically begin syncing.

From the Main screen (Figure B), you can access any of your documents. By default, the Home screen allows access to All items, Collections, Starred, Documents, and Images. By clicking the More drop-down, you can access specific types of docs: Text, Spreadsheets, or Presentations.

This application will give you a much greater appreciation for organizing your documents by combining them into collections or starring documents. If you don’t use collection and star tags, you’ll be skimming your documents to find what you want to work on. If you have a lot of documents, this search can take a while. I tend to start what I’m working with and then un-star the document when it is complete.

Figure B

The Google Docs Home page as seen on a Droid X from Verizon.

This may stump some Google Docs Android app users

The only drawback to the mobile version of Google Docs is that older documents cannot be migrated to the newer version. If you have documents saved in the older Google Document format, the documents must be updated to the new format in order to be edited. To make this update, open the document on the standard version of Google Docs from your desktop web browser and do the update there.

Once the document is updated, you can migrate it by clicking the Preview link near the top of the document. When the document reopens, you will have the option to migrate the document to the newer standard or go back to the original version. Note: Once a document is migrated to a newer version, it cannot be opened as the older standard. If you have documents that might be shared with other Google Doc users who are using the older version, think twice about upgrading the document.

It’s quite simple to edit documents; in fact, it’s almost as if you were using the document on the web-based desktop version. The biggest difference is the keyboard. If you’re using a tablet, such as the Xoom tablet with a USB keyboard, this isn’t a big deal.

There is no configuration — what you see is what you get with this application and that’s fine because the Google Docs app works perfectly.


The Google Docs application takes the Android platform to the head of the pack for the mobile office. This release is a significant win for the Android platform and for Android users.

Read about Google Docs on TechRepublic