I use Google Docs… and I use them quite a lot.
In fact, these days I pretty much insist that any producers I work with have to use Google Docs to write and share their scripts with me. Yes, I can be quite the stroppy git when I try.
Of course, I used to be perfectly happy getting great wads of paper on my desk and making all my neat and ordered notes (aka dense and meandering scribblings and crossings out) the good old fashioned way… and then I’d get draft two before I’d even finished going through draft one. So now I’ve got a double sized paper stack… with most of my scribblings on draft one… and over the coming days as the edit comes together, I’d get drafts three, four, five… eleven, fourteen etc.
Now my notes are all over the place, spread across multiple script versions… and somewhere in that avalanche of paper it’s likely there’s a whole bunch of important notes that I’ve missed.
But one day a trusted producer rocks up at my edit suite door, freshly returned from a study of weirdly futuristic stuff like social media and the electronic age, and tells me that they’re working on their latest script in Google Docs.
And it’s brilliant.
I can keep an eye on the script as it evolves right in front of me. I can add comments, seek clarifications, note inconsistencies, rewrite lines to better suit the pictures… or just make notes to myself.
And all of it persists for as long as I want it to, regardless of draft.
When a note is resolved it can simply be dismissed as resolved … or, if you change your mind later, you can be reopen the same note. You can look at a full revision history, restore old versions and compare versions. All sorts of good stuff.
You can invite as many collaborators as you like, with different read/write permissions as necessary, all working simultaneously on the same document. Theres an inline chat/message window for interacting off script. And it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference if you’re all in different countries, different continents or just in different rooms… or even in the same room.
It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good, and I like it.
So here’s what I stated doing. I open up my NLE, I arrange the windows/workspace around my open browser window (where I have my Google Docs page), and I’m away. And that’s just fine, that works.
But recently I started using Adobe Premiere and it turns out its got a pretty damn flexible interface. It lets you put anything you want, wherever you want. So I created a “Script” workspace that left a big hole where I liked to keep my Google Docs web page. And that’s just fine too, it works.
And then Primal Cuts release their absolutely bloody brilliant PDFViewer and I can’t help thinking how great it would be (for me) if there was a really simple and basic panel option for Google Docs … something that let me open my Google Docs right inside the UI.
Sadly it seems doesn’t exist, and a month or so goes by…
So I’m thinking, how hard can it be to make a panel that simply opens and displays a hardcoded web page i.e. the Google Docs webpage? Well as it happens, if one of the samples turns out to already do exactly what you want then it’s pretty damn easy.
Cue Adobe’s sample panel called “Trello“.
A quick inspection shows that it’s a very bare bones panel that seems to do no more than display the www.trello.com web page. Perfect!
So I browse through the very few files inside… find the one with the hardcoded link to the Trello website (it’s in “main.js”) … and simply change that text to “https://docs.google.com” … and voila, it works.
A bit more monkeying around (in the “manifest.xml” file) and I’d even customised the name of the panel in the menu.
Was it perfect? Not entirely. The page opened up in the panel as desired and let me log in to my Google account … but the GoogleDocs page showed an “unsupported browser” warning within the window. I could dismiss the warning but it was kind of annoying to have it there.
A bit more digging about produced some extra lines for the “manifest.xml” file which makes it send a different identification string (called the “user agent”) to the host website. Totally got rid of the “unsupported browser” warning. Big grins all round.
So it’s perfect now? Sorry, no. It loads up the page header exactly the way you’d expect, with all the usual controls and widgets, but it doesn’t actually display the main contents of the page … just a big empty space where the list / table of your shared documents should be … and a error message:
“The server encountered an error. Please try again later”.
Yikes. That doesn’t sound good right? Fear not. Just click the embedded “File Picker” button at top right of the page, it looks like a folder icon…
and that brings up the “Open a file” dialog…
which displays just fine … you can access all your Shared Documents from there.
You know what else you can view? Pretty much anything else on your Google Drive… Documents, Spreadsheets, PDFs, Images, Videos, Maps etc.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually tried all of them, but I can vouch for Documents, Spreadsheets, PDFs (and Maps) which all open up in the Viewer panel just fine.
You can also upload any files that you need to view directly from the same “Open a file” dialog, just switch to the “Upload” tab and drop your document on the window. I know. It’s cool… accidental access to lots of Google Docs/Drive functionality … all directly within a Premiere Pro panel.
So what else can it do?
Well it won’t make you dinner. But it did occur to me that usually, when I drag and drop a file that’s on my computer onto an open web browser page, it will usually try to show me the contents of that file (if it can). So I tried dragging a plain text file straight from my desktop onto my open panel … and it worked. Same with a JPEG image. Side effects. Your milage may vary.
Anyway, cutting to the chase, I downloaded Adobe’s extension code signing thing, did the code signing thing, and now apparently have something that anyone can use.
You just have to download it from the link above, unzip it, and then drop the resulting folder (GoogleDocsPanel) into your Adobe “extensions” folder.
You’ll find your “extensions” folder here:
Win: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Adobe\CEP\extensions
Mac: /Library/Application Support/Adobe/CEP/extensions
or if you prefer to install on a per-user basis:
Mac: ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/CEP/extensions
Feel free to donate a dollar if you find it useful!
Ok. So I got a chance to use the Docs Viewer for a full day yesterday… here’s what I found. It mostly works. Hurrah! But there are a few niggles and workarounds to be aware of if you plan on being an active collaborator on a document, rather than just viewing it…
The host for the window is Adobe Premiere, so although the Google Docs built-in menu bar may show keyboard shortcuts as being available, those key presses will get sent to the application, not the document. That said, Cut, Copy and Paste will all work fine, as Premiere passes them to the active panel (so just make sure that your Viewer window has the focus or you might be cutting/copying and pasting clips in your timeline). Undo doesn’t work as a keyboard shortcut within the document… but it will work from the document’s menu.