If you’ve been using Google Docs for web in recent times you are probably familiar with the research option. It lets you highlight sections of text and search the web for meanings, images and statistics. Essentially it’s Google Search from the document.
Recently, Google also incorporated Google Now and Google Now On Tap for Android. Users can highlight a section of text in any phone or tablet app and then use the Now On Tap menu at the bottom to contextually search the text without leaving the app.
These are all valuable features, but what has this got to do with writing?
Well if you are like me, you do a fair amount of writing and editing on the phone.
Sure, I’m not going to bash out an entire novel on the small screen, but between my phone and tablet (with keyboard) I do about 70% of my article writing, editing, note taking and general ideas creation.
But there’s always been one bugbear that has stood in the way of ultimate productivity on a mobile device, and that’s the inability to split screen. Android 5 went some way to improving that, with the app switching carousel making it easier to move between apps (especially if you are using a keyboard dock) but it’s still not the same as multiscreen. Research for the Docs app fixes this problem.
Combining the research of the Docs Web Service with the power of Now On Tap, Research on the Google Docs App allows you to open up a feature-light browser window in app and work simultaneously between them both with no app switching.
It’s an incredibly innovative feature that any mobile-first writer will appreciate. It makes working on mobile devices a lot faster and feels more natural than constantly having to switch apps to reference some new bit of info. It’s useful in any situation where you need to reference the web. EG:
- Find a quote
- Provide a link to a statistic on another site (or your own)
- Check web based thesaurus and dictionary sites
- Source images, graphs etc
- Check the criteria for a Needle In The Hay Award while you’re writing the entry 🙂
It’s also renewed my love of the Docs app, which was fading.
During mobile work sessions the Docs app would frequently have to reload after returning from browsing in a Chrome or Javelin, causing me to lose my place. Instead, I switched to using Notes for more of my writing.
Notes is lightweight, and great for making to-do lists and coordinating your tasks. It’s also has interesting features like the ability to turn your note into a Google Doc or plug the note into your reminders and schedule. But its revision and undo system is not as robust as most document making apps, and an accidental deletion can be a real headache.
Now I don’t have to worry about that. Research for the Google Docs App means I can browse the web in app. It’s great tool, and one I’ve used every day since it appeared in my app last week. One I used even to make this article! If you want to give it a try, here’s how to do it.
- Open up your docs app and make a new document (or open up an existing document)
- In the top menu click on the three dots button.
- Click on ‘Research’
- That’s it. You’re done!
The browser window will stay open for as long as you want it to, and tucked away when you are not using it,
So if you like keeping things lightweight and mobile first, why not give this feature a try next time you’re writing that award winning short story. Let us know what you think in the comments!