Microsoft Word vs. Google Docs: Can You Use Both?

I have been using Google Docs for about 10 days. I have been using for Microsoft Word for about 20 years. Word has been around since 1989 under the Windows operating system. Google Docs arrived on the Internet in 2007.  One isn’t better than the other. I like them both, and think they are a perfect package.  By the way, Google Docs has a spreadsheet (imagine Excel) and a presentation (think PowerPoint) option.  For this blog post, I am only looking at the word processor capability.

So, why do you need both of them? I love Microsoft Word in spite of its many drawbacks.  There are more professional products, such as Adobe Framemaker, which produces a stellar result, or Flare by MadCap. These products are for professionals who want to write either as a solo, or as part of a team that knows how to use these software tools. They don’t excel at collaborative tools between writers and business professionals.

Word, on the other hand, is a wonderful tool to use with many of my clients because everyone knows Word. When I am working on a project, everyone can share, email back and forth, make corrections, use the track changes and comments tools, and we can do it together. Word has numerous features that are too long to list here, making it the right tool of choice because it of its extensive capabilities.

And yet, it’s not great at everything. The files become huge, especially if you have many images. If it’s a long document, you have to keep track of the formatting even with a template. Its styles are complicated to set up, and easy to mangle. It’s not terribly compatible with the i-Pads as yet.

And, the licensing costs for Microsoft Word are a lot more expensive than Google Docs (Zero cost).

The drawbacks to Google Docs

  • You must have a Gmail account.
  • You must have an Internet connection.
  • You won’t have the same formatting ability you do in Word.
  • You want to use Chrome as your browser (it’s much easier if you do).

And yet, and yet . . . there is good stuff, too!

Google Docs – an alternative that has promise.

I have a client who has “gone google.”  They are committed to using the technology as much as possible at their shop. They feel it is a less expensive, more efficient way to share documents, and collaborate. (As an aside, you don’t need to use Outlook, which many people use . . . you just use Gmail.)

Here’s why I like using both, and can see where Google Docs could become the application of choice.

  • Create your documents in Word, with all the bells and whistles.
  • Use spell checker to clear out any errors.
  • Use styles, formatting, headers, footers, paging and put together a beautiful document.
  • Upload your Word file to Google Docs .
  • Once your Word file is there, you can open it, and create a Googledoc that’s quite similar to Word.

The Pluses of Using Google Docs

  • Once you are in the Internet Cloud, your Word document is available as a Word doc, or you can convert to a Google Doc.
  • Google Docs take up no space. This is a boon for anyone (an individual or a company) who doesn’t want to take up tons of space for files. (You get 5 gigabytes for free).
  • You can access your files from anywhere. You can use your pc, a tablet, or many smartphones.  If you pc dies in the middle of the night, it’s not over. You can use whatever alternative is within your reach.
  • You can save your documents to file types like DOC, and HTML.
  • You can buy additional storage: 25 GB for $2.49/month, 100 GB for $4.99/month.
  • You can share the files with as many people as you wish.

 Google Docs – excels (no pun intended here) for collaboration.

  • You can keep track of anyone who is currently makes changes to your files. You can chat live with them, at the same time. Several people can work in the file at the same time. Great for working with customers.
  • You can share a folder with a bunch of files, so everyone who needs to seem them, can get to them, and work away at the same time. Great for working with customers.
  • Google Docs keeps all versions of your documents. You can easily look at earlier versions if you need to retrace your steps. This saves you tons of storage space.
  • You longer have to email anything. As soon as your files are updated, your collaborators can be notified. How nice is that?

Google Docs – You can turn back to a Word doc with a flick of your mouse.

  • Once you store your Word docs on Google’s Cloud, it does count against your 5 gigabytes of storage space. If you want to use your new Google Docs file, and convert it back to Word, you can:
  1. Open the document and use File->Export as Word.  Some formatting could get lost, so keep  your original until you know you have a new Word copy to upload.
  2. Use the best features of Word, such as search and replace, comments, styles, and spell check.
  3. Send it back up to the Cloud and you ‘are back in “Google Docs business.”
  4. Delete your Word doc in Google’s cloud to save space if you wish.

Your Google Doc is ready to use again. Your Word doc is there if you want to save it in the Cloud.  Otherwise, a quick delete, and off it goes.

Together, they make life much easier in our busy, and frenetic world!

 Please let me know what you have tried . . . . Google Docs, Amazon’s Cloud Drive, or Apple’s Pages, or QuickOffice?  I’d love to learn more about what works the best for you.
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  1. Posted October 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I am a fan of using Google Docs over MS Word. It seems that Docs is a bit less robust but the ability to collaborate and have everything cloud based is priceless. With Google Docs, I can go from Ideas > Refinement > Interaction with clients > Production.

    Great article.
    I’d like to see a poll about who uses which system.

    • Lesley Peters
      Posted October 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Darren,

      Thanks so much for your comments about Google Docs, and that you like it better than Word. Collaboration is definitely the keyword.
      We’ll have to do a poll to see what our readers like better.

      Is there anything else in Docs that you particularly like to use?

  2. Ian Ray
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    We use Google Docs and MS Office at work. A few people use mostly Word and it creates some issues with siloing data and revision issues that Google Docs does not have.

    At first, some people were very enthusiastic about Google Docs while others were certain the decision to use it at all would cause problems. There was insistence that Google Docs have links placed to them in the megalithic file share nobody knew or knows where every document is in.

    Another piece of software that produced some calm to this issue was Smartsheet. Smartsheet allows for projects to be managed in an Excel/Project-like interface collaboratively through SaaS. A big advantage of Smartsheet is to be able to attach and version Google Docs, Office files, PDFs (including from Google Drive), and files from Box. This made it so that instead of files being spread over either a file share with less than intuitive file structure created at ranfom (e.g. Instruction Manuals/John-Smith-Manuals) or a confusing-to-some Google interface, each file became associated with the project, task, piece of equipment, issue, trouble ticket, or whatever the case may be.

    • Lesley Peters
      Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      Hello Ian,

      Thanks so much for your helpful comments. It’s great to know about the megalithic file (I will need to learn more about that), as well as the Smartsheet.
      I am so happy you have had good experiences with Google Docs. I used it at a client site, and thought it was pretty terrific.

      If you find you have any other suggestions for using Google Docs, please do write again! Lesley

      • Ian Ray
        Posted January 22, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Megalithic was an incorrect choice of words… megalith being like StoneHenge.

        What I really meant is the monstrous, largely static, and outdated file share.

        • Lesley Peters
          Posted January 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink


          Thanks so much for the clarification on your choice of words. I appreciate you taking the time to update your comments, with more appropriate words.
          If there are any other Google topics that would be helpful to you, please let me know. I’d be happy to write about them. Happy New Year! Lesley

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