Google Docs

Google Docs is a great online office suite, and the fact that it allows collaboration has made it quite popular. Make it even better by integrating these services straight into your Ubuntu desktop…

Google Docs has been around for a while, and although it has not proved to be a Microsoft Office killer, it has become quite popular as a way to share documents. Today we’re looking at how you can integrate your Ubuntu desktop with your Google Docs account to streamline usability. You can find more information about Google Docs and how to access services for MES users by going to

We’ll look at three solutions that help you with this integration in different ways. First we’ll look at nautilus-gdoc, which integrates Nautilus with Google Docs and then we’ll look at OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs, which connects the OpenOffice application to Google Docs. Finally, we’ll look at GMDesk, which will bring Google Docs to your desktop.

A Google Docs account which usually comes bundled with Gmail (Google email)
nautilus-gdoc This plug-in enables Nautilus to integrate itself with your Google Docs account
python-gdata The Google Data Python client library is required to enable your applications to interact with Google’s apps using the Google Data API
ooo2gd This OpenOffice plug-in allows you to import/export documents from and to Google Docs
GMDesk This free desktop application enables you to run Google Docs in a window on your Ubuntu desktop
Adobe AIR This runtime is required to run GMDesk


1. Install prerequisites
Before we get started with the installation and usage of the scripts required to integrate Nautilus with Google Docs, we need to install a library that it depends on. This is the python-gdata, which is a tool written in Python that allows your Ubuntu desktop and its applications to interact with Google’s applications using the Google Data API. To install this, execute the following command:


# sudo apt-get install python-gdata

Enter your password to complete the installation.

2. Get nautilus-gdoc
To integrate Nautilus with Google Docs we will use the ‘nautilus-gdoc’ script. This is an open source project hosted by Google Project Hosting. Head to the project’s webpage here and navigate to the download section. Download the latest release of the project. Save the zip file that you download somewhere on your desktop.

3. Copy the script
Once you have downloaded the zip file, double-click on it to have it opened by the archive manager. You will see two files in the package. You need to copy the file ‘Send To GDoc’ to the directory ‘/home/username/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts’. Since ‘.gnome2’ is a hidden directory, you might not be able to see it in the Nautilus file manager. Therefore, to copy the file using Nautilus, use the Ctrl+ L key combination and type ‘/home/username/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts’ in the location bar, replacing ‘username’ with your own username.

4. Grant executable permission
The last step required for the installation of the script is to make sure that the script has executable permission. To check this, right-click on the file ‘Send To GDoc’ in the location ‘/home/username/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts’ and go to Properties. In the pane that opens, select the Permissions tab. Make sure that the ‘Allow executing file as program’ option is checked. Hit Close to finish up.

5. Send file to Google Docs
We’re all set up and we can now begin testing the nautilus-gdoc script. Launch Nautilus and locate a locate a file that you want to upload to your Google Docs account. Note that the file formats supported by this tool at the moment are a bit restricted. Use a text file to begin with. Right-click on the file, then go toScripts>Send To GDoc.

6. Enter authentication
If the script was set up correctly, you will be asked for your Google account’s username. Enter it. Then you will be asked for you password. Once you have entered all the credentials correctly, nautilus-gdocshould begin uploading your document to your Google Docs account.

7. Log into Google Docs
After the upload of the document is complete, you will get a message confirming that this has occurred. Log into your Google Docs account to check if the upload was done correctly. You should be able to see the file you uploaded listed in the landing page of Google Docs. Click on it to verify that all the content is indeed intact.

8. Other formats
One of the surprising things about this plug-in is that it doesn’t seem to work with open file formats. It is not compatible with OpenOffice files. This may be something to do with Google’s end of things. Formats such as XLS, TXT and DOC worked fine for us. The workaround for files created using OpenOffice is to save them using one of these formats and then upload them.

In the nautilus-gdoc script that we just looked at, one of the missing features seems to be the lack of the ability to export OpenOffice documents to your Google Docs account. While we can’t fix that just yet, there is another option. The OpenOffice community has come up with a plug-in that allows you to import and export your documents, spreadsheets and presentations with your Google Docs account. The plug-in is called OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs. Let’s take a closer look at it…

1. Get the plug-in
First, download the OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension from the OpenOffice project’s website. Head to the extension section of the website to get it. The extension is hosted here. Click on the ‘Get it!’ button on the page to download the extension.

2. Install the extension
Once the OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension has been downloaded to your desktop, launch one of the components of OpenOffice, such as the Writer. Go to Tools>Extension Manager in the application menu. This will launch the Extension Manager window. In this window, click on Add. Navigate to the location of the extension and click on Open. This should complete the installation ofOpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs in OpenOffice. The extension should appear in the list shown in the Extension Manager.

3. Troubleshooting the installation
If you get an error that looks something like the one below, it’s probably because of a faulty installation of OpenOffice.



{ { Message = “”, Context = ( @0 } }

You need to get a proper installation using apt-get. Execute the command:


# sudo apt-get install

4. Activating the extension
To activate the plug-in, you will need to restart OpenOffice. Close the application and launch it again. The plug-in should activate automatically and you should be able to see a set of floating buttons. There will be five buttons: two for Google Docs, two for Zoho Office and another one for WebDav support. We will stick to the Google Docs buttons in this guide.

5. Using the Google Docs export
Open an existing document with OpenOffice, or a create a new one. The document you want to export to Google Docs must be saved on your local hard drive before you can export it. Once you have that covered, click on the first button, which is to export the document to your Google Docs account. A window will pop up asking you for your Google Docs credentials. Enter your username and password, then hit OK.

6. Check your Google Docs account
You will notified once your document has been uploaded to your Google Docs account. Launch a web browser and head here. Log in to your Google account and check to see if the document you uploaded has been uploaded correctly.

7. Importing documents from Google Docs
Once you have tested the complete OpenOffice to Google Docs export cycle, we can test the other important feature of this extension: Import. Click on the second button in theOpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs buttons pane to begin importing your documents from your Google Docs account. You can alternatively navigate to File>‘Google Docs and Zoho’>‘Import from Google Docs’ in the OpenOffice menu. Enter your Google credentials and click on the Get List button. You can then download or open a file from your Google Docs account

8. A few bugs
Note that both the OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs extension as well as the Google Data API are still under development, and neither project has been released in a stable version yet. Therefore there might be issues with this extension every once in a while. Some issues may be caused by the extension, while others might be because something has changed at the Google Data API end of things. So we suggest that you not rely entirely on this extension. That said, it’s a great way to back up your data and make it portable. The extension allows you to log in and view and edit your documents from anywhere.

If you are not entirely satisfied with having Nautilus and OpenOffice integrated with Google Docs, you can take another approach and bring Google Docs to your desktop. This can be done using the GMDesk project, which is a cross-platform application written using Adobe AIR. This allows you to run Google Docs applications pretty much like individual desktop applications.

1. Install Adobe AIR
As GMDesk runs on Adobe AIR, you will need to download and install Adobe AIR. Get Adobe AIR fromhere. On this page, select the ‘.deb’ version of AIR and hit Download. Open the downloaded DEB file with the GDebi Package Installer. Hit Install to complete the installation of Adobe AIR.

2. Get the latest GMDesk
Get the latest version of GMDesk here. When you download the application, save the file to your desktop. Double-click on the .air file to begin the installation of GMDesk. Follow the steps for the installation.

3. Run GMDesk
Once installed, you can launch GMDesk and start using it. You will need to enter your Gmail or Google Docs account credentials to get started. After you have successfully logged in, you can begin using the Google Docs application by going to ‘Google application’ in the GMDesk menu and picking the application you want to use.

Let us know how you get on with our tutorial in the comments thread below, or click here to see more tutorials from Linux User & Developer’s expert team here.