Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word

10 Microsoft Word 2013 headaches and how to cure them with Google Docs

An article appearing in PCMag last week entitled 10 Microsoft Word 2013 Headaches and How to Cure Them caught our attention. While the authors gave some great information and provided a few handy work arounds, the cure to us seems pretty simple – get rid of Word altogether and trade up to Google Docs.

Let’s examine each of the 10 issues discussed in the article and how Google Docs can remedy or completely avoid them altogether.

1. Live Layout Falls Short

Word 2013, like other versions, has problems with image formatting. While Google Docs is no expert here – you have two options – format ‘in line with text’ or ‘fixed position’ – the process of inserting an image is extremely robust.

To insert an image into a Google Doc, simply select ‘Insert’ from the top navigation, then choose ‘Image.’ From here you have several options. You can upload images from your desktop or insert images directly from Google Drive. Google even allows you to search for images (through Google image search, LIFE or stock images) and insert those directly into your document. This cuts down on several steps like searching for an image in a browser, saving it to your desktop and then inserting it into your Word document.

Google Docs image search

2. Autocorrect is Considered ‘Clutter’
auto correct
Word 2013 eliminated autocorrect from the spelling error context menu, which means when you have a typo, you can no longer right click on the typo and hit autocorrect to remedy the error.

Luckily, autocorrect is extremely simple to find and use in Google Docs. If you make an error, simply right click on the misspelled word and select “Always correct to…” This will edit the misspelled word every time you type it in your Doc. You can also correct the misspelling just once or add a word (like a company name or someone’s last name) to your dictionary.

Bonus: Last March Google introduced context spellcheck, powered by the web. Google will actually make spelling suggestions based on the text surrounding the word in question. So the next time you forget how to use “effect” and “affect,” try using a Google Doc.

3. The Dictionary is Dead

For the first time ever, Microsoft released Word 2013 without a dictionary. Since Google Docs are web based, connecting your writing to a dictionary is extremely easy. Google even introduced a research tool last year to make the dictionary experience more robust.

To look up a word’s meaning in Docs, simply right click the word and select ‘Research.’ Google will pop up mini web results on the right hand side of your document including dictionary results.

4. It’s Too Easy to Embarrass Yourself

Tracked changes in Word 2013 appear very faintly. According to PCMag, this causes some users to forget the tracked changes are there and send out the document with edits. While Google Apps doesn’t have tracked changes (avoiding the whole visible edits issue altogether), Docs possesses a powerful editing feature known as ‘Revision History.’

If you’re collaborating on a document with a colleague, you can see exactly when and where changes by another user were made using revision history. Simply select ‘File’ then ‘See revision history.’ A window will appear on the right side of your document displaying recent changes. You can select ‘Show more detailed revisions’ to view the entire edit history. Changes within the writing will appear in a user’s assigned color. If you want to share a completely clean copy, simply add a collaborator as ‘view only’ or ‘Make a copy’ of the document from the ‘File’ dropdown menu and share that out.

revision history

Bonus: Using revision history, you can restore passed versions of your document. So if you don’t like a collaborator’s edits, no worries. Simply select ‘Restore this version’ and voila, you’ve reverted your document.

5. Compatibility Mode is Complicated

Compatibility? This is simply something Google Docs users never have to worry about. Unlike Microsoft Word, which is installed on individual computers, Google Docs is web based and updates are pushed out automatically, meaning everyone is operating on the same system at all times.

6. PDFs Break in Word

Although you can supposedly edit PDFs in the newest version of Word, the feature is finicky and doesn’t work well across devices. But for PDFs, we say “who needs ‘em.” With public Google Docs, there’s never a reason to create a PDF. For the same effect, without forcing would be readers to download yet another file, create a publicly shared Google Doc. Just be sure to set access to ‘Can View.’ This will prohibit viewers from making any changes. And if readers really want a local copy, they can download the doc as a PDF themselves. We’ve actually put this principle into practice with our white paper: Keys to Managing Your Google Apps Domain.

7. The Cursor Lags Behind Your Typing

Apparently the cursor in Word 2013 lags behind as a user types, which can create a dizzying effect. This is probably just a strange problem associated with slow software and slow machines and Docs just doesn’t encounter this issue. If for some reason your internet connection is so slow you can’t get your Google Doc to load, you can always use Google Docs Offline.

To enable offline editing in Google Docs, install the Drive Chrome Web App through the Chrome Web Store and then enable Offline Docs from your Drive menu. You can now view and edit Docs offline.

Bonus: If you download the Drive mobile application and enable ‘Available Offline’ through the app, you can actually view and edit docs offline from your mobile device or tablet! Beat that Microsoft Word.

enable docs offline

8. Windows Litter the Screen

This is true for all versions of Word. When you open a new document, an entirely new window appears – not just a simple tab. When you open or create a new Google Doc, that new Doc appears as a new tab in the same browser window. You can easily navigate between several documents and some BetterCloud team members are known to keep 20+ tabs open all at the same time.

Google Docs even lets you declutter the actual document screen. You can remove menus, show compact controls only, or move to full screen to enable a wider viewing experience. To test out any of these settings, select the ‘View’ menu form the top navigation of your Google Doc.

9. Collaborative Editing is Quirky

It’s no surprise that collaborative editing in Microsoft Word 2013 is quirky, it’s simply not a native web application. But collaboration is Google Docs’ strongest suit. Collaborating with other users is extremely intuitive in Docs. Simply select the ‘Share’ button at the top of your document, enter email addresses of desired collaborators and watch them join the document.

share docs

Unlike Word 2013, Google Docs allows users to make changes simultaneously without forcing users to actively save changes before showing them to collaborators. Docs also features in-doc chat to speak with collaborators and a recent feature of Gmail’s new compose allows Docs users to directly attached Google Drive items directly to emails, making the sharing process easier than ever.

10. Stark Design is Hard on the Eyes

While design is subjective, some Word 2013 users find the new design extremely stark and “hard on the eyes.” Google is continually improving the look and feel of all of its products, including Google Docs. It might just be us, but we love working in Google Docs everyday!
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17 comments » Write a comment

  1. Also Google Docs is free for Gmail users which saves me from spending $400 on MS Office.

  2. Also Google Docs allows you access anywhere, any time, any place. All you need is a browser, not even connected to the internet, as for Office 2013, allows you acces only in ONE place.

    • Office 365. Office Web Apps. Simple solution. Google docs is slow, features are non-existent, not for power users or folks that actually like to get things done.

  3. Here’s another good point… Native Google Docs documents (word processing docs, spreadsheets) you store in Google Drive, there’s no storage cost — you basically have infinite storage. If you upload a PDF or a native Word or Excel document, they “cost” you some of your Drive space. But if you convert them to Google Docs native format, the storage is free. So make all the Google Docs you want — it’s free storage.

    And if you need to find something, you have the power of Google Search at your fingertips.

  4. Pingback: Mr G's Idle Musings » Blog Archive » My Diigo 02/20/2013

  5. I see no cons of Google docs, only whining about how bad word is.
    Sure Google docs is nice, but its not as powerful in terms of word processing as Word is.

    If you are going to do A vs B then dont just say A is bad because this this and this, you have to do both sides of the argument lol.

    -Lewis

  6. Thanks for taking the time to do the review. I think you provided some valuable information but you definitely seemed biased against Office from the start. We all have our own opinions but as a blogger I feel you should be completely unbiased.

    Curiously enough I hadn’t read the above comment until after typing my own so it’s clear it’s not just me. Sorry if this comes off harsh, haha. It’s really not a big deal I’m discussing what I noticed. Thanks again!

  7. Tracking changes is not nearly robust enough in google. One is industrial strength (MS Word), with some flaws, and unfortunate changes in the 2013 version. The other (google) is becoming a reasonable alternative, but still has a long way to go.
    I agree with other commentors who consider this only a comparison of what Word gets wrong.

  8. I don’t use either Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

    Libre Office does everything my business needs of an Office Suite, and it’s Free in both senses of the word, and I have never had any problems with Documents sent to me from companies that are heavy users of Microsoft word, because of course the types of documents that could potentially cause me problems are not the sorts of documents such companies use to communicate with private individuals and small businesses with which they do busniness.

    Such documents are created for in house use. This is not to say that such documents are necessary, and that the information they contain could not have been produced by an Open Document Standards compliant office application, but documents of that complexity are not necessary for communication with small companies like mine, no matter what Office suite is used to produce them.

    As a consequence it is quite unnecessary for individuals and small companies to bother with Microsoft office.

  9. Pingback: 10 Google Docs remedies to Microsoft Word 2013 headaches | PC Tech Magazine

  10. I can’t download a Google document as a .doc file, only as a “pre-release” .docx file (requiring yet another Microsoft update, even though I could previously open .docx files in XP) EVEN THOUGH the original file was .doc.

    UNBELIEVABLE. Google has sided with the enemy on this.

  11. This is all lovely, unless you are the hapless editor who gets back a file from someone with google docs and discovers that they have somehow deleted all the edits you spent five hours making. And since the author using google docs can’t see those edits in Track Changes, now you are faced with hours of extra work. Compatible? Not so much.

    • Hi Nancy,

      If you instruct the writer to make comments in Google Docs rather than actually changing the text, these comments should translate into Track Changes when the Doc is downloaded into Word.

      Hope this helps!
      Gail

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