Wouldn’t it be great to be able to create, edit, and share documents online and then be able to access them from anywhere? Fortunately, there are many great applications out there that allow users to do this. And most of them are completely free, such as Google Docs and Microsoft’s new Office Web Apps.
First Class Flyer Issue 11
First Class Flyer is a weekly series published every Friday comparing multiple free software or web services and applications.
Hello! I’m Brian, your host for this edition of First Class Flyer. This week, we’re taking a close look at Google Docs and Microsoft Office Web Apps, two excellent free online document editing tools.
As always, before we begin, let’s introduce each of our contestants.
About Our Contestants
Google Docs is a part of Google Apps and offers the creation, editing, collaboration, and sharing of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings. It also allows users to upload any file and use Google Docs as free file storage with 1 GB of free storage. This requires a Google Account.
Office Web Apps, the successor of Office Live Workspace, is the new kid in town. It shares storage Windows Live SkyDrive and is an online version of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote and allows the sharing and collaboration of the respective office files. SkyDrive allows users to upload any file with 25 GB of free storage. This requires a Windows Live Account.
Round 1: Supported File Types
How many file formats does each service support for editing?
Google Docs supports a wide range of file types.
- Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx)
- OpenDocument text (.odt)
- StarOffice text (.sxw)
- Rich text (.rtf)
- Plain text (.txt)
- HTML (.htm, .html)
- Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps)
- Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx) files
- OpenDocument spreadsheets (.ods)
- Comma-separated values (.csv)
PDF files and images can also be converted to text format and made into a Google Document when uploaded.
Office Web Apps can only open, edit, and save Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), and OneNote (.one).
Google Docs: 5
Office Web Apps: 2
Round 2: Free Storage Space
Both services allow users to upload any file and use the service as storage.
Google Docs allows users to upload any file with a free storage limit of 1 GB. The max file size is 1024 MB, which would be using up all your storage. Files converted for editing do not count toward the storage space and in order to convert, documents must be no more than 500 KB, presentations must be no more than 10 MB, spreadsheets must be no more than 1 MB, and PDF/images should be no more than 2 MB.
Office Web Apps shares storage with SkyDrive, which allows users to upload up to 25 GB of files for free. Files can be set to private with friends or just yourself or public to share with the world. The file size limit is 50 MB.
Google Docs: 1.5 (6.5 total)
Office Web Apps: 5 (7 total)
Round 3: Sharing and Collaboration
Both services allow you to share documents with other users with an option to allow others to only view the file or allow them to edit.
Google Docs offers real time collaboration where edits are saved and shown to everyone else instantly.
Google Docs also offers integrated group chat in the sidebar. Users can chat with everyone who is editing right from the sidebar without having to leave the page.
Office Web Apps allows sharing the document with others so they can contribute, but unfortunately only allows one user to edit at a time. If someone else is already editing the document, you might be greeted with this message upon opening the document.
Both feature revision history and the ability to revert to an older version.
Google Docs: 5 (11.5 total)
Office Web App: 1 (8 total)
Round 4: Ease of Use
Google Docs uses a classic menu bar and toolbars under it.
On the document listing screen, it is organized in an email inbox like manner with a navigation panel and folders on the left sidebar and the list of files in each folder in the large right panel.
The listing page of Office Web Apps uses a Windows Explorer and SkyDrive like folder listing, which is definitely a bit more difficult to use than the way Google Docs does it. Hovering over items would provide some file type specific options.
Office Web Apps uses the Office Ribbon interface including the application menu.
Both have very easy to use editing toolbars. However, Google Docs takes this round for having a much easier to use file manager.
Google Docs: 5 (16.5 total)
Office Web Apps: 3.5 (11.5 total)
Round 5: Overall Feature Set
How do the two compare in features?
Google Docs includes many of the most popular features found in modern word processors including spell check, tables, equations, comments, footnotes, special characters, and much more. In spreadsheets, there is a translation function as well as data validation.
Google Docs goes beyond regular documents and even allows for the creation of web forms which can be used to create a web form such as a contact form or survey and arranges the data in a spreadsheet.
Office Web Apps is a greatly slimmed down version of the full Microsoft Office suite. It lacks many features found in the full version like footnotes, comments, find and replace, line spacing, and much more. It contains only the core basic features of each application.
There is a button to open with the full product (if it is installed), but only works if you are running Internet Explorer and Office 2003 (or higher). If you wish to run another browser, Office 2010 (which includes a browser plugin) must be installed.
For providing significantly more features, Google Docs takes this round.
Google Docs: 5 (21.5 total)
Office Web Apps: 2 (13.5 total)
With Office Web Apps trailing by 8 points, it means the winner of the 11th weekly issue of First Class Flyer is…
Google Docs is an excellent online document editor, both feature rich and easy to use. It’s optimized for sharing and collaboration with real-time editing, built in chat, revision history, and much more.
Which online document editor do you prefer? Google Docs, Office Web Apps, or another one? Please share it with us in the comments.
This concludes this week’s issue of First Class Flyer. Be sure to join us next Friday for another comparison!