Paid vs. Free Word Processors
Everyone who has ever used a computer has most likely used word processing software like Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word has been the standard for most word processing because it is the best-known and most widely used software. Unfortunately, Microsoft Office can get very pricey depending on the programs you need, such as Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. There are freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office such as OpenOffice, but they do not offer most of the features of Microsoft Office and sometimes have compatibility issues with Microsoft Office documents. In the past, this meant that if you wanted a functional software to create documents, Microsoft Office was the only choice.
Recently, however, Google has not only come up with a solution to the problem but has made many improvements on current word-processing software. However, it seems that many people are not aware of Google Drive, a free file storage and synchronization service, and its capabilities. So you may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone buy Microsoft Office if Google is providing this free software?” Check out the pros and cons below to see which software is best for you and your needs.
Google Drive provides up to 5GB of free cloud storage to every user and allows users to create, edit, and collaborate on documents in real-time with other users. It is also compatible with Microsoft programs such as Word, Powerpoint, and Excel.
One of the most impressive features of Google Drive is the collaboration feature. This allows two users to have the same document open and see all the changes and edits they are making in real time. Aside from being able to see the live changes, users can also highlight portions of the document and then comment about it amongst themselves in a sidebar chatroom. A similar sidebar pops up when a user right-clicks on a word in a document and selects the “Research” option–the user can research the term they clicked right inside Google Drive.
Another important feature of Google Drive is the free cloud storage. The main benefit of having everything stored in the cloud is that you can access your files anywhere you can log in; however, this becomes a drawback when you cannot log in to your account.
Aside from documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, Google offers forms, drawings, and scripts. Google Forms allows you to create questionnaires and surveys that can be sent out to anyone; responses can then be viewed immediately all in one place. Google Drawings is similar to the Microsoft Paint program. Google Scripts is used mainly with programming but can be automated to execute any type of task.
Finally, Google Drive’s Autosave feature means you never need to worry about losing a document again: every change you make is immediately saved. This also means that your files are stored on Google’s servers, which are likely rather less fallible than your computer’s hard drive. However, this also means Google owns the right to your documents, but this is only so that they can collect and index as much information as possible.
Microsoft Office consists of much more than just Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, even though these are the most popular applications. Microsoft also offers programs such as Access (which functions as a database management system) and Visio (diagram and flowcharting software), along with many other applications built for specific purposes. The largest advantage Microsoft has is the 21 years they have spent adding features and developing plugins. Examples of these features would be things like WordArt, page themes, and mail merge.
Microsoft also produces a web-based version of their Office Suite called Microsoft Office 365. This version allows you to better collaborate online and work from any device with an internet connection. It is a subscription-based service and costs $6/user.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, both Google Docs and Microsoft Office are fantastic programs but in drastically different ways. Both offer tools for collaboration, commenting, revision history, offline storage, and PDF conversion. While Google Docs is better for group collaboration, Microsoft Office provides users with a much higher level of customization, styling options, and formatting tools.
Microsoft Office is ideal for writing professional documents without group collaboration, but Google Docs is better optimized for collaboration and contains all the main features necessary for word processing. Google Docs is best for users who want to access and edit documents from anywhere or use a computer without word processing software. In most situations, it would be advisable for users to have at least one computer with Microsoft Office installed per household, simply due to its ubiquity, and use Google Drive depending on their own specific needs.