Confusing Google Docs

Google DocsI have been experimenting with putting copies of some of my documents in the “cloud” using my free Google Docs account. Like most users I am starting with existing documents. Then later I’ll see how well it works to create and maintain documents using Google cloud applications.

I have a lot of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. They are not very advanced but contain things like statistics on my photo collection or the vehicle license plate systems for different countries. I’m not putting anything confidential into the cloud like financial or medical records nor anything that I cannot do without.

So far Google Docs have worked well for me and when I have tried editing I have been successful even with my lamentable internet connection from Bangkok.

I had one challenge that turned into an annoyance: Google Docs has a 1MB limit on the size of an uploaded Excel spreadsheet. It was very hard to find this out. I tried to upload a spreadsheet and invariably got a “Server Error”.

Google Docs Server Error

Google Docs Server Error

I thought that was due to communications problems so I tried again, and again, and again. But I always got the same error. I wondered if the file was corrupt. I opened the spreadsheet in Excel and had no problems. It didn’t use any advanced Excel features that could have confused a Google server.

Then I wondered if I was out of space in my Google Docs account. I could not find anywhere that said what the limit is. I was able to upload other documents like Adobe PDF files.

I tried uploading a recalcitrant spreadsheet to another Google Docs account. This time I got a useful error message:

Google Docs Upload Limit

Google Docs Upload Limit

Sorry this file is too big. We can only accept files up to 1MB in size.

Now you tell me! I suppose my other account was running under a different version of the server code.

I don’t know why Google Docs has this limit. It seems arbitrary. I read somewhere that I can upload a PDF file up to 10MB.

I wonder if Google software “reads” my documents and can present me with advertisements depending on the interests it finds therein. If they can do it with my Gmail account there’s no reason they could not do it with documents. So far I have not seen any ads in Google Docs but I bet it is only a matter of time.

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3 Responses to “Confusing Google Docs”

  1. Michael Willems Says:

    I bet you are right. And Google can be quite evil nowadays, so I am reluctant. When will they start analyzing your content to approve it (i.e. auto-delete racist or sexist documents)? I know this sounds far-fetched, but so did a smoking prohibition if you had asked anyone in 1959.

  2. BKKPhotographer Says:

    Google Docs does publish its limitations on its upload page:

    Conversion limitations and supported file types

    Files you convert to Google Docs can be edited online.

    Some features may not be fully supported when files are converted, such as footnotes, tables of contents, tracked changes and comments, embedded graphs, pivot tables and slide animations.

    Documents (up to 500 KB of text)

    HTML files and plain text (.txt).
    Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw).

    Presentations (up to 10 MB)
    Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps).

    Spreadsheets (up to 1 MB)
    Comma Separated Value (.csv).
    Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx) files and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods).

    PDF Files (up to 10MB)

    I still think the “Server Error” message was confusing / misleading.

    The caveats on conversion are a little worrying in that vital information can easily be lost. But the Microsoft Office proprietary formats are notoriously hard to parse so I am not surprised. I think it is an achievement they’ve done as much as this. I would hate to have been on the team tasked with the Office -> Docs conversions. It must be a thankless task and not part of the “sexy” revenue generating search and ads part of Google.

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