I launched my Google Docs application to get started on a new article and was greeted by a new very pleasant surprise.

A new feature being called the Research tool by Google.

The Research tool makes it easy to add information from the web to your documents. To access the tool:

  • Select the Research option from the Tools menu.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Opt + R on Mac, Ctrl + Alt + R on PC).
  • Right-click on a specific word and select Research.

Now I love Microsoft word but since Google’s Doc became more stable and started being packaged for enterprise clients, I started taking Docs seriously.

I have since moved all my word processing into the cloud via Docs which represents significant cost savings and improved productivity on my part. Improved productivity you might ask, Google doesn’t have all the functionality of Word you might say, yes this is true but for what I do on a daily basis on a word processor, Google’s Docs has every singe feature I require and some… Ok seriously, how many users out there even use more than 30% of the functions in Word.

Nigerians would be quick to say we don’t have the bandwidth to make this practical and I would be quick to differ. Just like most Nigerians, I have access to the same internet connections, I am writing this article on Google Docs using my MTN mifi connection, it’s not the fastest connection in the world but its very decent, the experience is much better with my Etisalat link which is a whole lot faster but I expect even starcomms and slower links to be able to handle this as well. Going forward if Google would like to capture the Nigerian market, who are not too comfortable paying for software license, Google might want to host some Doc servers on a local internet exchange provider (IXP) to ensure an experience closer to that of the desktop.

A recent update to Docs also make the user interface cleaner and more appealing. Now to the new Research Tool.

How many times have you had to write an essay or a report and suddenly needed to do some more research or look up some key words or events? You would have to launch another browser window or open up a new tab to search then you would have to come back into your article page to enter all the new findings.

The new research tool attempts to put an end to that or at least minimizes the number of round tripping you would have to do between different browsers.

The Research tool will appear along the right-hand side of your document. You can start a search by typing into the search bar. You can narrow your search to specific types of results (e.g. images, quotations) by using the drop-down menu in the search bar.

When conducting a search, the Research tool will show you different types of results — web results, images, quotations, maps, reviews, and more.

It now also includes a citing feature which enables you to cite directly into the document using the visible search contents.

Once you have selected an article you’d like to read or reference, click on that entry in the search results. You will see a Web or PDF hyperlink in the upper left-hand corner of the entry that will take you to a web or PDF version of the article itself. You will see a Cited byhyperlink in the upper right-hand corner of the entry, showing how many times the article has been cited, that will direct you to the Google Scholar list of sources that have cited this article. Clicking on either of these links will open the result in another window.

At the top of the search results list, you will see an option to change the citation format. Click the drop-down menu and select from APA, Chicago or MLA. The search results below will change in format based on this choice.

To insert an article citation into your document, select the article and click Cite.

This is such an awesome feature that I expect alot of writers to fall in love with. Bloggers too will love this new feature.

The collaborative opportunities offered with Google Docs is crucial for group projects and a sure a lot of teams will be embracing this platform for document collaborations.

I think the Research Tool is a Good Thing that can only get better. How do you use Docs ? Or do you even use it at all ?

I am trying to gather some basic data on user trend for word processing tasks in this new digital age. Are people still employing traditional technology or have people moved their word processing to the cloud as well. Please take out 30 secs to help complete this poll.