Office Web Apps vs. Google Docs – See for Yourself


Top Resources on Why Microsoft Website:  Part 1 of 3

For over two decades, millions of people have been using Microsoft Office to power their businesses.  As we move into the cloud computing age, people expect to share and collaborate with their customers and colleagues with the same level of confidence, whether they are using desktop software or web based services.  We believe a document should look exactly the same in the cloud as the original copy on the desktop.  In today’s post, part 1 of a 3 part series to introduce top resources available on the Why Microsoft web site, you will see a side-by-side comparison of Word Web App vs. Google Documents.  So what’s the real cost of Google Apps? See for yourself.

What happens when you take an existing Word document and share it in the cloud? In this demo, you can compare the viewing experience of using the Office Web Apps vs. Google Docs. We took a simple Word file with some of the most commonly used features (header, footer, table, images, etc.) and uploaded it to Google Apps and Windows Live Sky Drive (you can also use SharePoint if applicable). Right away you can see some glaring issues in Google Docs that could significantly affect your business:

Lack of Fit and Finish
The document in Google Docs shows several styling and formatting issues – take a close look at the header, title, and table.  Although these formatting issues may seem small, they affect the overall look and feel of the document making it appear less professional.

Word Web App Result  Google Documents Result

Lost Data and Information
Aside from styling issues, important information could be lost in converting a Word file to Google Docs.  We highlighted a few missing pieces of content in this demo:

  • “Confidential” watermark
  • Revenue Chart
  • Process Map Graphic
  • Footer information
Word Web App Result Google Documents Result

Lost Productivity
There is no ambiguity here whatsoever. The data is lost and the content is altered in your document when using Google Docs to share a Word file. You now have to double check the document for accuracy to make sure all pertinent information is there and then make necessary changes to fix your document before sharing it anywhere.  All this additional time spent reformatting translates to lost productivity.  It does not matter if Google Apps costs $50/user/yr. if it is inadequate for even the simplest business requirements. Most people would not jeopardize their business credibility and ability to deliver professional results.  Would you?

Don’t take my word for it. See the demo for yourself.

If you have already tried Google Docs, tell us your experience in viewing a Word file in the comments below.  Check back next week for Part 2 of Top Resources on Why Microsoft website.

Comments (68)

  1. Anonymous says:

    @Tired:  In this week’s news alone, for Office capabilities are:

    (1) Microsoft has enhanced its Office 365 K plan offering which remains available at the same $2 US per user per month price. See details here:  (http://bit.ly/zwDEGL).  

    (2) Lync 2010 has been recognized by Info World with a 2012 Technology of the Year award, cited here:  (http://bit.ly/zNGD1u). They mention: “The seamless integration of VoIP, videoconferencing, live meetings, instant messaging, and Microsoft Office makes the PC the new center of communications.”

    (3) Office 2010 with Outlook Web Apps has been recognized as 2012 Technology of the Year award by Info World, as described here: (http://bit.ly/x3TjCt) From Info World:  “Finally, don't forget Office Web Apps, the online versions that give Google Docs a run for its money.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    "Fashions fade, style is eternal." -Yves Saint Laurent As Yves Saint Laurent – renowned French fashion

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Ian Ray: In collaboration scenario, you definitely would share and grant edit rights to update the document; Google Docs has problems in editing simple Office files. Maintaining view only is for this demo purpose, so the integrity of the doc does not get altered by 3rd party.

    Categorizing a word file with header/footer/images/table as "a complicated document" – I am pretty sure Word users would call these basic features and must-have.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Tom: If you believe people can discard all past work done using Office Word/Excel/PowerPoint and don't need much beyond basic word processing capabilities, then your recommendation might just work. Google employees still use Office. how about you?

  5. Anonymous says:

    @Richard: there is no trick whatsoever. Per you comment, here is the link showing the non-converted document in Google Docs – http://bit.ly/ejlgEQ. File fidelity issues still exist in Google Docs: lost "Confidential" watermark, lost image, and lost chart. Header and footer stayed in this case.

    The documents are both shown as view-only to prevent 3rd party changes. In Office Web Apps edit mode, the viewer only displays content that is editable.  Image, SmartArt, Chart are blocked out to indicate the originals can not be modified (of course you already know these can not be modified without specific applications). When you share the updated document, all images/chart/etc. are shown exactly as the author intended.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @Felipe: feel free to check out my earlier post on Collaboration with Office Web Apps and Office 2010 (blogs.technet.com/…/collaboration-with-office-web-apps.aspx).

    @Rodger: Let me know if you need any help cutting and pasting.

  7. Anonymous says:

    To be honest, both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Web Apps is for example highly optimized for compatability on any platform however documents are primary intended to be modified with Microsoft Office(Which is a great product!).

    Google aims mostly to work in the "Cloud" via webapplications instead of using fully fledged office applications which also has its own perks however it clearly does require some features. It works well for colabirating with a notepad file(For example). However when it has to look perfect I would't recommend it.

  8. Alex says:

    This is great.  I had no idea they stripped out so much from Office documents.  My CIO will love to see this.

  9. Rodger says:

    The funny thing is that this happens to me all the time when simply cutting and pasting from one Word doc to another…

  10. Felipe says:

    Office Web App doesn't support collaboration inside Word. See for yourself.

  11. Tom says:

    Here's the best solution – don't start in Office – start in Google Apps!

  12. Ian Ray says:

    @Tony Tai, what exactly do Google employees use Office for? How do you know?

  13. Rich Miles says:

    Impressive.  I have been telling people that OWA are so much more polished than Google Docs.  It's nice to see a concrete example.

    Microsoft and Google have completely different business models.  They are both highly successful but I much prefer to business with Microsoft.  Why?  Because Microsoft's business is about making ME money.  The more productive their tools make ME the more money I have to spend on them.

    Microsoft currently offers experiences catered to Windows, OSX, Web, WP7 and OneNote on iOS.  With Office Web Apps you can use Office on any platform (works best with IE9 btw).  The Excel experience on Windows Phone is near perfect for that device (I say "near" due to the lack of SkyDrive integration which is coming).  What I'm trying to say is that Office tries to make you as productive as possible based on your usage scenario.

    Google on the other hand…  They want you to use the web come hell or high water.  Never mind that HTML was never intended for applications but we still managed to force a square peg into a round hole.  When you wanted offline access did they build a native client?  No, they made Google Gears (now defunct).  When your web browser wasn't powerful enough to have a satisfactory experience did they build a native client?  No, they built a browser. I'm not saying that making the web a better place isn't great.  I'm saying that they only care about business productivity as it relates to web usage.

    Google's only product is advertising and the problem they are trying to solve is increasing that revenue (well, and maybe decreasing Microsoft's revenue — can't fault them for that).

  14. PJU says:

    @Ian Ray Are you serious? Wake up and smell the roses. Do you really think Google doesn't use MS Office?? Go to http://www.google.com.au/…/index.html and see just one example of the types of peole they are looking to hire ie with storng Excel skills. Funny that they aren't asking for someone with strong GAPE skills – but then again they are trying to run a business with some sort of financial rigour and acumen I guess.

  15. Ian Ray says:

    @PJU It is good to see they are using Hyperion for reporting at least.

    Granted, until web apps can do pivot tables better than Zoho (and no knock on Zoho, they have the best implementation so far imo), finance is going to need desktop programs. Excel is admittedly one of the fastest pivot table programs.

    I do get the impression that Google does not force employees to use any particular software including Office. This is much different than outfits who become "Microsoft shops" and employees cannot use any better solution (e.g. VMWare) until Microsoft decides to include the tech in a product by buying a company or buy a competitor and discontinue them, thus eliminating the option.

  16. Don says:

    Its a shame that neither of these offerings hold a candle to the LotusLive set of cloud offerings

  17. Ian Ray says:

    @Don, LotusLive is nice because of the individual subscriptions to different modules. I think they are competing with Zoho's model in this regard.  The symphony service doesn't require you to subscribe to an email offering which is very welcome. I just wish IBM would give up hope of swaying customers with their halfhearted marketing (like Hyperoffice) and integrate with the Google Marketplace to win dual subscribers (like Zoho).

    Google Docs obviously lacks the ability to subscribe to individual parts. One scenario includes paying $50 for users who have many services turned off in the admin panel or paying full price for just internal email. I've been trying Office 365 since this morning and still can't figure out how to turn off services. I'm sure it's in there… right? In any case, I don't really see the difference between 365 and BPOS, maybe I am missing something. It seems more like the difference between Office Pro and Office Pro Plus than a major software version. I will keep demoing.

  18. YJK says:

    I agree with OWA is better than Gdocs especially in formatting and styling as the article said. BUT, I'm using GDocs still because of the powerful realtime collaboration feature.

  19. Richard says:

    Very very tricky post … It seems they uploaded a view only version of the Word document and compared it to an editable Google Docs conversion.  Try uploading the document in Google without the auto conversion feature and it looks the same as the original.  Try to edit or create the document using MS Live online and you can't (no header, footer, drawing  features).   Very very tricky.

  20. Ian Ray says:

    Why not just make a PDF if all we are doing is sharing a view-only document?

    To me, the idea that someone would pick up a complicated document like this and edit it in the Word web app is laughable. If I was tasked with editing this doc, I would edit it in the desktop version of Word.

    The fidelity argument will only go so far. Someone out there might be impressed that Microsoft managed to have fidelity between two versions of the same product. Given the history of compatibility issues between versions of the Office, I am a bit surprised actually.

  21. Dave Lane says:

    Imagine, a Microsoftie stacking the deck to make it look like their own technologies are somehow better, rather than simply different and artificially exclusionary.

    I gather the author thinks that issues with the rendering of MS Office documents in Google Docs is Google's fault. He'd never point out that it's Microsoft's fault for using a proprietary file format and forcing anyone wanting to offer file-level compatibility to reverse engineer that format.

    Ultimately, no one should save files in MS Word format – it's an imposition on the increasing number of people who don't use MS Office, and anyone who actually wants ownership of their own data.

    Once you start authoring documents in Open Document Format (a proper open document standard, unlike MS' file formats), you can transfer documents into Google Docs quite happily, and work on them there (as my business does) or do the same with OpenOffice or LibreOffice. They look great, and we can achieve everything we, as a business supporting lots of customers, needs to. And we don't pay Microsoft's monopoly software rents. In turn, we create no obligation on our collaborators to use MS Office. Win win win.

  22. Tony says:

    All I have to say is bravo on this.  At least someone has the guts in Microsoft to call out Google's dirty little secrets when it comes to their "productivity" applications.  Keep it up!

  23. Eric says:

    If anyone wants to see some horror stories of why NOT to touch Google Apps, look at their forums:

    http://www.google.com/…/thread

    They do not have the engineering talent needed to produce or support an Office suite.

    They’ve pretty much told their customers to "Go F*** yourselves, we’re doing what we want".

  24. Ian Ray says:

    @Eric, I started liking the new docs list format after they fixed a couple of things. Google did fix many of the issues based on user response and it works much better than the initial release.

    However, what they did not do was give us any kind of warning that this was about to happen. The docs list reformatting was completely different and horribly broken as released in February. The docs list debacle is imo the reason why Google now pushes out features in different release tracks.

    Seriously, the first day I used the new docs list, I was completely lost. I bookmarked the old version just to keep track of things. After a month of bugfixes, I prefer the new version. Problem is, Google should have fixed all this stuff before making everyone use it. They literally tested on paying subscribers with this one. And it wasn't like they tested an optional module… the default screen for docs became a beta test.

    I think they learned a valuable lesson from the giant thread about the docs list you referenced.

  25. Kealeboga says:

    I think Word web has a clear explanation than Google documents

  26. Raya says:

    I would be curious to see a comparison of documents created from scratch with both solutions. The example is very strong for existing documents, but still it is natural to assume that the integration between products made by the same company will better than the one between products of two different ones. I think that what would convince people in the superiority of one solution or the other will be a demo of specific features (styling in this example).

  27. Tired of MS says:

    Well considering that MS has had these products since early windows 95 days (or earlier), been charging fortunes for "minor" upgrades and consumers paying for largely same functionality over and over with each "upgrade" and google docs only very recently…. I'd say rate of change google docs may have some way to go but they are progressing rapidly!

    Keep going GOOGLE!

  28. uijas says:

    this great

  29. Jim says:

    Office Web Apps is a whole lot more klutzy than Docs when editing online.

    I found myself having to make some minor changes online since the computer I was using did not have Word, and Web Apps really messed up the formatting.

    For online editing, Google Docs is far superior–even working with original DOCX documents.

    Believe me, I would love to switch, but until there are some serious improvements to online editing, it won't happen.

  30. Alex Cobbs says:

    Also, do try out collate box it seems very good for online collaboration

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