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Getting to Know Google Docs

The most popular web-based applications today are offered by Google. That's right, Google offers more than just the web's most popular search engine; it's also a pioneer in cloud computing, offering a powerful collection of web-based applications.

Google's premiere web-based application is called Google Docs. Google Docs is a suite of applications designed to compete with Microsoft Office and its included apps—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—but with all the benefits of a web-hosted application.

Google Docs offers three related applications in a single interface. The namesake Google Docs application is a web-based word processor, similar in features to Microsoft Word. Google Spreadsheets is a spreadsheet program, similar to Microsoft Excel. And Google Presentations is a presentation program, similar to Microsoft PowerPoint.

The documents, spreadsheets, and presentations you create with Google Docs are accessible by anyone with an Internet connection and web browser. All files are saved in HTML format, although you can use import and export files from and to Microsoft's .doc, .xls, and .ppt file formats.

And here's the best thing about Google Docs—it's completely free. Unlike Microsoft Office, which can cost several hundred dollars (depending on the version you purchase), Google Docs is free for anyone to use. That makes it appealing to users and organizations on a budget.

To access Google Docs, just point your browser to docs.google.com. You'll need to sign in with your Google account, but then you're ready to start using it.

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