Based on a brief twitter discussion a couple months ago, I decided to make the progressive leap to use Google docs, rather than Microsoft Word, for my first grant proposal. While this had many pros, I'm not yet convinced this was a good idea, and might have been scared away for now.
- It feels good not to be a slave to expensive Microsoft products.
- Easy to share with collaborators, even if they don't have the money to buy Word.
- I can send to multiple people to edit at once and edit in real time with them.
- Doing references with Paperpile was for the most part nice and easier than Endnote. I could easily search the web for citations, add papers directly to my collection from Pubmed, Google, journal websites, or just about anywhere. But see Cons...
- Figures! This is my major issue, and I have not figured out a good way. To encapsulate figure legends with the figures themselves, I ended up using a "drawing", which appears to be the only way to do this. In the beginning, this seemed good: I could arrange my figure and legend however I liked, put it in a nice box, and wrap text around it. The big shocker came when printing to PDF: all the figures turned to a resolution that made them look like a first grader drew them with a crayon. Apparently the drawings ignore the original image resolution, making this unavoidable. The solution: hours of my husband and I manually inserting figures into the PDF itself, after I had already promised myself I was done writing the grant.
- References As I mentioned above, Paperpile is quite nice. However almost every time I inserted a citation, it would weirdly insert a double citation including the previous one as well. The solution: manually going through each of my dozens of citations to manually fix this.
- Underlining There is a weird bug in which underlines that span more than one line individually underline each word, rather than the whole itself. Very annoying. The solution: be careful that none of my underlined phrases spanned a line break.
- There is no line count feature. Very annoying for sections that need to be less than X lines.
- For some reason, the same text with the same specified margins takes up more room in Google docs than in Word.
In the end, there was quite a bit of manually editing the PDF to make small changes. Not what I wanted to be doing in the last minute.
Google docs could make sense for collaborative editing where the google doc is not the final published product: e.g. manuscript drafts where figures are submitted separately anyway, or meeting agendas, etc. But until these issues are fixed I'm not sure I will stick with it for serious writing efforts. I was really hoping to make it work, so I'd love to hear people's thoughts on how to get around these issues!