The mundane world of document editing is about to get a little more lively with discussions in Google Docs.
Although Google Docs previously allowed collaborators to comment within a document, this overhaul lets users reply to other comments and edit their own remarks, with a timestamp and profile image appearing alongside each comment. When a discussion has run its course, users can now hide the thread from the main document view by marking it as “resolved.” All conversations can be reviewed by clicking the “discussions” button near the top-right corner of the screen.
Another new feature is e-mail notifications. When writing a comment, user can send an e-mail of the conversation by typing “@” followed by an e-mail address. The recipient can then respond to the discussion by e-mail or jump into the document itself.
Fortunately, Google Docs’ new discussion system is compatible with other word processors. After downloading a test document as a Microsoft Word file and loading it in OpenOffice, the thread appeared as a series of notes in the margins, so users should have no problem delivering a conversation to someone who isn’t living in Google’s cloud.
Google’s rolling out discussions over the next few days to all users with personal Google accounts.