Microsoft Word vs Google Docs
Is Google Docs a good alternative to Word? My new computer has no word processing software, and I'm thinking about just using Google's online word processor instead of spending the money on Microsoft Word. Are there are significant features I'd have to live without, or other factors to consider?
Can Google Docs Replace Microsoft Word?
Google Docs is the search giant’s cloud-based productivity suite for the masses. It’s free of charge and includes generous storage allotments that do not count towards your 8GB GMail storage limit. Along with spreadsheet and presentation applications, Google Docs includes a word processor. Is it good enough to replace Microsoft Word?
For the vast majority of users, the answer is YES. In fact, Google’s word processor may be better for the average user than Word, simply because Docs is much easier to learn. It’s also much simpler. For example, Google’s word processor includes a couple of dozen popular fonts, eschewing the bewildering pantheon of bizarre fonts that comes with Word. Fewer choices can mean more productivity.
Because Docs is web-based, there’s nothing to install, and you’ll never have to download security patches or updates. It doesn’t matter if you have a Windows, Mac or Linux computer, you just pop into Google Docs with your web browser, and you’re ready to write. And in contrast to Word 2010’s $139 price tag, Google Docs is free. It’s for that reason alone that many schools, non-profits, and government offices have dumped Word in favor of Docs.
In terms of word processing features, Google Docs has everything you might need whether you are a lawyer writing a court brief or a bride designing invitations. All of Word’s editing, formatting, and style functions are in Google’s word processor. You can insert links, images, ad hoc drawings, footnotes, headers/footers, bookmarks, etc. You can adjust line spacing, alignment, indentations, and paragraph styles. Bullet and number lists are a breeze. Tables are easily composed.
Printing, Spellchecking and Collaboration
Printing can be a bit different in Google Docs. But it’s still pretty easy. If you use the Google Chrome Browser, just select File > Print from the word processor’s menu. A dialogue box for selecting your printer and print settings will appear. Click the Print button when you’re ready.
In other browsers, a PDF file containing your document will download automatically when you click File > Print. Then you can print the PDF from your PDF viewer app. (See my related article Alternatives to Adobe Reader and check out Foxit Reader. You’ll be glad you did.)
Google’s word processor has a spellchecker that is enabled by default. A misspelled word will be highlighted by a red underline. Right-click on a misspelled word for a list of suggested replacements, then choose the correct word. You can also enable auto-correction of frequent misspellings.
Collaboration is easy with cloud-based documents. Google’s word processor includes a sharing setting to enable multiple authors to work on a document. Each author's changes show up in a unique color, making it easy to identify who typed what. This is a big improvement over the frustrating alternative of sending copies to a group of people, and then tediously merging all their changes into a master document. It’s also easy to track revisions, and email copies of a document to multiple parties.
What can’t Google’s word processor do? Each document has a one gigabyte limit. Complex formatting is sometimes lost when files are closed and opened again. And it can be difficult to precisely place objects on a page and have them stay put. Some users report that fonts and line spacing are not consistent when a Google Docs file is opened in Word.
But for ordinary writing tasks, even relatively complex things with footnotes and headers, Google’s word processor is an adequate replacement for desktop Word 2010 software.
Is There a Microsoft Word Online Version?
I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Microsoft also has an online version of their Microsoft Word product. And for home users who are already familiar with the desktop version of Word, the Word Web App may be the better choice, because it’s practically a clone of Word 2010. Of course that means you’re back to the more complex array of options and features in the Word interface, but if familiarity is what you want, this is it.
Document compatibility between the online and offline versions of Word is sterling, and it matches Google Docs when it comes to sharing and collaboration features. The downside of Word Web App is that it’s only free for non-commercial users. Businesses must pay for access through Office 365, which starts at $6 a month, per user.
Then there's also the webmail consideration. If you're a diehard Gmail user, you'll probably find Google Docs is better integrated into your workflow. Those who live in the Microsoft world of Outlook and Windows Live Hotmail may be more at home with Word Web App.
Do you use Google Docs or some other online word processor? Tell us about it! Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Jan 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Microsoft Word vs Google Docs (Posted: 23 Jan 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved