Google Docs has come a long way on the Android platform. Early versions of the application were slow and very, very limited in terms of functionality. Over the years, Google has improved the application with significant changes, including adopting technologies derived from the acquisition of QuickOffice, which has seen Google Docs being able to handle Microsoft Word .doc and .docx files as seamlessly as Google Doc format files. Nevertheless and despite these improvements, it remains a comparatively lightweight editor, which seems better suited to the smartphone platform where users are less likely to want sophisticated document editing features. This has an unfortunate side effect whereby Android tablet users are faced with a somewhat basic Google Docs editor, despite having a device with a significantly larger screen and often equivalent hardware to a smartphone. Against this and especially when handling Microsoft Word format files, Google Docs is a reasonably fast word processor and it has a basic suite of functionality.
Today's announcement from Google adds another new function to Google Docs, but it is not one that will necessarily excite the word processor fans among us. The change to Docs incorporates a full-screen reading mode, which drops the editing functions and toolbar from the screen to devote maximum real estate to well, reading! Users can switch between the Docs editor and the Reading Mode by a simple double tap, which is a command we've seen in other Android word processors such as Documents-to-Go. Alternatively, users can tap the blue pencil icon to switch between editor and reading modes.
The update to the Google Docs application is rolling out from today so should arrive with Android users sometime this week. As far as added features to Docs, it isn't the most glamorous but many people arguably use their Android smartphone to view and perhaps make small changes to documents, so this upgrade will improve the utility of the application. Unfortunately, those of us who use a word processor as our main application are going to have to wait for the next update from Google. Over to our readers: do you use Google Docs on your Android smartphone or tablet? Or have you switched to an alternative application? Would you use the Reading Mode to view documents you receive in your Gmail account? Let us know your thoughts below.