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  1. #1
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    Office Online versus Google Apps: Facts and FUD




    TOP STORY

    Office Online versus Google Apps: Facts and FUD


    By Woody Leonhard

    Microsoft and Google are locked in battle over free-for-personal-use productivity applications. Each is fighting for your attention.

    At this time, there's no one best online suite; both are quite capable and both have some important limitations.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/top-story/office-online-versus-google-apps-facts-and-fud/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Kathleen Atkins; 2014-06-25 at 18:27.

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  3. #2
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    Custom Styles

    One quick clarification. Woody says "because there's no desktop version of Google Docs (at least, not yet), there's no way to create custom styles".

    It is true that there is no desktop version - but that does not prevent you from creating custom styles - but I don't think you can rename them. Basically you start off with a set of styles named "Normal Text", "Title", "Sub-title", "Heading 1", "Heading 2", and "Heading 3". You can format text in the way you want, and then apply that to one of the existing styles by clicking on the options menu for that style. But if you don't want to replace an existing style, Docs will add a new style after the last one you've used - however it will be named in sequence from the most recent style (ex. "Heading 4"). So, want to keep "Heading 3" the way it already is - just make sure to use it (you can delete the text later if you like) and then apply your new style to "Heading 4".

    In this image you can see that I've created a custom "Heading 4" and "Heading 5" and Docs has added a new "Heading 6". This is definitely not as functional as using desktop Word - but it is also definitely custom styles.

    You can even save your set of custom styles for use in other documents.

    Clipboard01.jpg

    Jim

    PS Google Docs will allow you to get more advanced by adding your own scripts - but that is for the advanced user that is willing to spend the time programming
    Last edited by JavaJim; 2014-06-26 at 06:00. Reason: clarification about scripts

  4. #3
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    Woody-

    You didn't compare the one feature that overcomes my reluctance to put anything at all in the cloud--even temporarily.

    Google drive has the ability to convert image files to text automatically as part of the upload process. What about the Microsoft offering?

  5. #4
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    I can only say from experience with working with relatively simple docs that Google Docs has problems converting Word files back and forth. Most of my experience has been in an academic setting working collaboratively with teams. The final product needed to be in Office format. While PowerPoint presentations had a few quirks such as slides not looking exactly the same, I was underwhelmed with how bad the Word/Google Doc document conversion process was - many times I would just get errors stating that the document had a problem. Since modern Word documents are XML based, it seems strange that they couldn't do a better job. If Office Online can do better, that would be great.

  6. #5
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    Thanks for this great review! About a year ago, I tested the Office Web Apps both with my account provided through my college and my personal Hotmail account. I've also been increasingly using Gdocs. One important component that I found challenging with Office Web Apps was the clunkiness of OneDrive. I know a year is light years in tech-time and I hope MS has improved it. By contrast, Google Drive is significantly more user-friendly. The drive space is especially important with web-based apps. I hope that in a future article, you will also review those - both how they work on computers and mobile devices.

  7. #6
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    @JohnA2

    Likely not of any help - but I've had experience in a similar situation.

    What we did was avoid the conversion process except as a final step. We wrote the entire document collaboratively in Google Docs, and then converted it to a Word doc to hand in. When we had revisions we did not try to convert back to Google Docs - we just made our revisions there and then made another new Word doc.

    No product I've ever tried (and I've been doing this for a long time) has ever been "perfect" going back/forth to/from Microsoft. As mentioned in the article the Microsoft online tools are better - but still have problems. Minimizing the conversions (hopefully down to one) is the key I think.

    BTW PDF seems a much better final output - but only as a final output, as it can suffer from conversion problems if you intend to edit it.

    Jim

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    Nice review.

    However, wish LibreOffice was included for us Linux penguins.

    The big disadvantage of online apps is that one must be online. That is real problem when one cannot access the web, then there are privacy security concerns.

  9. #8
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    Great article! Your bit at the end about privacy is an important one, so I thought I'd add one tidbit for you: right now Microsoft is trying not to invade users' privacy, even when the government comes knocking:

    challenging a request to turn over a list of Office 365 users:
    http://www.viralglobalnews.com/techn...y-letter/8172/

    refusing to hand over e-mail from a user in another country:
    http://time.com/2857103/microsoft-data-email/

    Other companies join in the battle:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/micr...data-1.2677688

    Google might also be trying to do the same; I just thought this was worth mentioning because it was the Office 365 case that drew my attention to it.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Leonhard
    Google Sheets will open XLS and XLSX files with embedded macros; Excel Online refuses to edit spreadsheets with embedded macros. That, to my way of thinking, is a big plus in Google's favor.
    It is not possible to embed macros in .XLSX files using MS Excel.

  11. #10
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    A few questions not covered: first, what is the expected bandwidth and throughput for using these 'cloud' services. Some of us [ALAS!] have no broadband access available and so have to be fairly miserly with what 'online' activities we do. [e.g., I can't even keep up with low-def youtube, much less stream actual video].

    Second, for those of us that don't trust the 'cloud', what is the security implication of using these types of apps. Do your docs *stay* on _your_ computer and do the online-apps "promise" not to retain copies?

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    Google (and Libre) "good enough"

    Thanks to Mr. Leonhard for this timely review of a hot topic. I've done some comparison myself and for awhile I thought I might want to switch to Office Online. But then I discovered that it too was not perfect in rendering DOC and DOCX files and had some similar weaknesses like Google Docs had. This article confirms and fills in for me the differences.

    I have to say that I tend to agree with Woody's assessments and for now, I'm sticking with Google's program because it is "good enough". In fact, I've gotten so fed up with Microsoft's program with Office, that I've switched my PC usage to LibreOffice. Libre may have some glitches, but overall the frustration is less than trying to keep up with (or pay annual fees for) MS-Office. I found that Google's importing of Libre's ODT format to be generally good (so far). I can live with the look and feel of Office 2003 for my lifetime.
    ** Update: even the recent announcement that MS is offering "free" 1TB of Skydrive storage with paid Office 365 Personal does not sway my decision. I had enough of the company that brought us the "ribbon" and Windows 8 **
    Last edited by rlah; 2014-06-26 at 10:39.

  13. #12
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    Frankly I like many users have basic needs and have used my copy of Office 97 on all versions of Windows since W95 with great success and I repeatedly advise my clients to stay with what they have until it no longer works.

  14. #13
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    While there is no doubt that apps like this are a large part of the future, there is still one thing that gives me pause. All web based applications are dependent on a good internet connection. Be it hard wired or wireless, you gotta have it and it has to work consistently well. And if you lose your connection, for any reason, then you are dead in the water. This is the REAL difference between WebOnly and Local + Web applications.

    I've worked with computers since 1972 and the first system I ever worked on was a terminal that was wired to a nearby university. Later, I worked on networks where the application was local and the data was on a server somewhere. Now I do a lot of work via remote access. And in all that time, there's been more than a few occasions where the pipeline was down and I was left twiddling my thumbs.

    But, as long as I have local apps then I can get some work done. Even if it's with a battery pack and a flashlight. For the home user, this may not matter one bit. But for anyone who spends any time on a computer, then this sort of thing needs a lot of thought.

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    Well, I have office 2010 and like it quite a lot -- haven't found many [really any] problems with it, so I'm going to stick with it as long as I can. I don't expect to get broadband in my lifetime, so all I can hope is that there'll still be *some* competent, really good office package that can be run locally.

  16. #15
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    @gsmith - totally agree with your points, but here is something else:

    I haven't been in computers quite as long as you, but in my experience companies like Google don't go down very often - and when they do it isn't for very long (and still the world goes nuts). I have however seen corporate mail and file services down for as long as a week. So, local trumps everything, but I would say that cloud services trump small and medium IT plants. Very large IT plants can afford similar redundancy and security measures as the big providers.

    But I think you were also getting at the connection itself. Here again I would rate the large communication providers (telcos, etc.) as being more reliable than the internal services - but it won't matter whose fault it is - if you are using cloud services you won't be able to get to them if the network itself has failed.

    BTW I use the Google Drive app that synchronizes the files from my local computer to the cloud as I work at them - and I use native Office formats when I can.

    Jim

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