July 4, 2011

0 Is Google Docs or Office 365 better?

With the release of Office 365, you  have a  version of Microsoft Office that runs on the browser. But is it good enough to take on the free Google Docs? We decide to take a closer look at it .

 Microsoft's decision to launch Office 365 a few days ago represented the company's effort to get a slice of the enterprise cloud computing rise. But for executives and travelling business folk, it mean something simpler the option to use the popular MS Office suits (MS Word, MS Excel, 
MS PowerPoint) from any computer, using what the software giant calls its Office Web Apps. 

Here, however it faces some very stuff competition from Docs,  which has pretty much been the go-to application for anybody wanting to work on a productivity online. We took both Google Docs and the office suite portion of Office 365 for a short swing online and here is what we found out.

To start using...

All you need to do to get into Google Docs is having a Google account, signing up for which is easy. With Office 365 being a more professional affair the whole process takes a bit longer. So if you are the type who gets intimidated by being referred to as The Admin, well, just keep that upper lip stiff.
You will be able to get to your online MS office suite after a few clicks and drawn out registration process ( nope, your Windows live sign in will not work. ). Once that is done, things are a lot simpler, but we really wish there was a way by which one could simply sign up for the office suite part of Office 365. Indeed, Google Docs takes this one by a mile.

Looks and ease of use...

We have huge fans of Google Docs ever since it was launched, but we must confess that Office 365 makes it look plain mousy in comparison. The famous ribbon interface is there, the icons are more colorful and sharp. Yes, this is as close as it gets real McCoy on the desktop. Perhaps it is the familiarity  with Microsoft's  icons, toolbars and menus, but the very stark fact is that we were able to get up, up and away with Office 365's suite in far lesser time than we ever did with Google Docs.
Microsoft scores.


Scratch the boring surface and you will see that Google Docs let you do a lot more than on the web than Office 365 does. Yes, you cannot do stuff like tracking edit changes in the World web app, or add animations and transitions in the web avtar of PowerPoint. How ever, Microsoft has more bells and whistles - you get better templates for each of the applications on Microsoft's versions. You can also move smoothly from the document on Office 365 to MS Office on your computer for more intense editing, but honestly, that kind of defeats the purpose of cloud. Here both services even went out

Compatibility with MS Office formats ...

In spite of the efforts of all the other productivity suites, the fact is that almost everyone uses MS Office formats when it comes to saving documents, spreadsheets and files. Indeed, Google Docs does tend to miss out some of the formatting in MS Office documents uploaded to it, especially with 
.docx format files. In our case, we found the colors missing from some of our columns and our more power full bullets replaced by dull, vanilla ones.

Collaboration ...

Google Docs comes into its own in the field of collaboration. Sharing documents and working on the same document in real time is so much easier in this suite. The same can be done in Office 365 too, but you would need to create a Team site, which is accessible people u choose. Yes, it is more power full and looks more corporate than Google's relatively plain affair, but if you are a small group that wants nothing more than simple collaboration, Google Docs is so much better.

Performance ...

That ribbon interface and those lovely icons come at the price of band width.We consistently found Google Docs loading & saving files much faster, easier, than the web versions of the MS Office. And this was over a  4 mbps connection. Those with a slower connection or using data cards are going to struggle with Office 365's web apps. We also encountered a few problems while logging into the Office 365 service something that almost never happens with Google Docs and there was more than the odd "encountered and unexpected error" messages on Microsoft's cloud office suite, which tended to crash the app. As of now, Google Docs is the boss here. 

And incidentally ,Google Docs tends to work best  in Chrome, while Office 365 ticks over smoothest in IE. '
Surprised ?

Price ...

This is where Google Docs really delivers a blow to Office 365.While Microsoft supporters will argue ( with good reason ) that their offering be compared with that of Google's commercial one, for us there is no getting around the fact that Google Docs can be used for free. Office 365 comes with a price tag starting from 6$ per month, per user ( although it has also a free 30 - day trial period. )

Our Verdict is out ....

It might look very impressive but as of now, we do not think that Office 365's office web suite posts to much of a challenge to Google Docs. It might make sense to the suits in corporate circles, but for the solo professional or smallish group of people on the move, Google Docs remains the app to go to. That said, Office 365 can only get better and we are wagering the gap between the two online office suits is only going to get narrow in the coming days. But as of today, Office 365 has the looks, but Google Docs just does a bit more online.


Unlike the free Google Docs that can be accessed by anyone with a Google account, Office 365 is targeted at enterprise customers. The Microsoft package besides the Office Web Apps that we have mentioned here includes other products such as Exchange Online, SharePointOnline, and Lync Online.


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