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Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word: an Even Matchup? 346

Posted by samzenpus
from the duke-it-out dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Software developer Jeff Cogswell writes: 'About a year ago, I decided to migrate my documents to Google Docs and start using it for all my professional writing. I quickly hit some problems; frankly, Google Docs wasn't as good an option as I'd initially hoped. Now I use LibreOffice on my desktop, and it works well, but I had to go through long odysseys with Google Docs and Zoho Docs to reach this point. Is Microsoft Word actually better than Google Docs and Zoho Docs? For my work, the answer is "yes," but this doesn't make me particularly happy. In the following essay, I present my problems with Google Docs and Zoho Docs (as well as some possible solutions) from my perspective as both a professional writer and a software developer.'"
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Google Docs Vs. Microsoft Word: an Even Matchup?

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  • by Hardhead_7 (987030) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:06AM (#42401235)
    I love Google Docs. But, in the end, Word has been around forever, it's very mature, and it has features that fit any conceivable needs. It also has the advantages (and disadvantages) that come with being local to your machine instead of living in the cloud. Google docs is great for a quick and dirty word processing or a collaborative project, but you shouldn't try to write a novel with it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well said. And it's easier to tack online storage on to word processing than word processing on to online storage. So who's surprised, really?

      • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:43AM (#42401909)
        In a way, the choice of word processor is more or less irrelevant by comparison with the level of trust involved in putting my files in the hands of someone I don't personally know. If anything should happen to files on my own hard drives, I at least only have myself to blame for not having secured or backed them up. But there is always the risk that Google might be compromised, either from the outside or by some rogue sysadmin, and I don't want to even think about trying to claim any redress against Google if they fuck up.

        Further, since I live a long way away from urban amenities, I can't count on the availability of a constant internet connection, which could easily put me in a bind if I had my files stored in the so-called "cloud".

        So, FWIW, my choice is simple: LibreOffice, since I don't run Windows. There will always be someone who will bitch that the free software suite doesn't have this or that all-important niche feature, but it has pretty much covered everything I need since it was StarOffice - only, of course, infinitely better now.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:38AM (#42402265)

          It sounds like your situation with internet connectivity is reason enough to make LibreOffice the obvious choice.

          My situation is a bit different, in that everything I own is connected, and I need to be able to get at things from multiple locations. Carrying around a drive is a pretty cumbersome option for what I'm doing day-to-day, so online storage works really well.

          I'm the first to concede that desktop word processing is better than the web versions, but I've found that most of what I need to bang out can be done with the web ones well enough. Or at least, for seeing what I've already done. And most of the fringe features that people make hay over in Word are things I never see anyone using anyway... because there's usually a better way.

          But as with most of these things we try to argue about, it makes sense to do what your situation dictates. I can't bring myself to get all religious about it one way or the other.

          • by Zemran (3101) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:40AM (#42402457) Homepage Journal

            I am a teacher and everything I do involves collaboration. With Gmail Docs, I can have a document open with both the student (at their home) and myself looking at the same doc at the same time and I can even see where the student has their cursor. It is the dog's bolox. I never dreamed that such a perfect solution would arrive so soon.

            Does that mean that I think that it is the best office suite? No, of course not. Why do all these articles overlook the simple fact that what is the dog's bolox for one person is just a dog for someone else. My friend runs his business on an Excel spreadsheet that has an incredible macro that requests all the information that the person taking the first call needs to ask the customer, receives that data and provides a quote and work sheets for the guys that do the work and then invoices and accounts etc. Complete package in one, I think he is mad but he thinks he has God in software form. I know that Google Docs is really God in software form.

            • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:58AM (#42402513)
              I find it quite depressing how little firms use macros etc. Many years ago we had a Lotus 123 system that read in a text file of account transactions from a mainframe then scanned each one, pulling in custom pricing for each client via additional sheets, formatting and printing a bill for each one with breakdown before issuing a charging schedule. Worked great for 2000 plus clients a month. With Excel and Word plus macros we built some very sophisticated and functional pricing tools and even a tool that optimized cash collection routes for a security firm. These days, people don't even know macros exist.
              • by mr.hawk (222616) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @06:17AM (#42402575) Homepage

                Spot on. I see this all the time. The company buys application X to do task A. X does A well but can also do B, C & D well with proper configuration and some glue in place. Now company realizes they need to do B. In comes application Y which does task B well but also can do A, C & maybe even D if properly configured, yadayada...

                Buying tools is easy and FUN. Using them requires skill. Skill is hard to to acquire and takes time away from shopping around for tools.

              • by emarkp (67813) <slashdot&roadq,com> on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:32PM (#42404319) Journal

                Because if you update to the next version of Word or Excel, half of your macros break. The simplest-yet-complete rant on this I've seen is here: http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/comptoolsExcel.html [fourmilab.ch]

                And by design, Word & Excel will ratchet themselves forward in versions (especially if you're working with clients). So why invest significant time in an infrastructure that is designed to break?

              • by steelfood (895457)

                Are you kidding? Macros are one of the, if not the most-used features of Excel in business (small and large).

                Excel is effectively a lightweight database, and the macro functionality provides a quick and dirty way for Joe sixpack to get into the data without having to write queries. Everybody uses Excel. Even people who don't know what a database is use Excel. Excel is used everywhere to track everything from orders to invoices to HR information (in which case, the spreadsheet is locked behind a password).

                Ex

        • by bickerdyke (670000) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:00AM (#42402337)

          In a way, the choice of word processor is more or less irrelevant by comparison with the level of trust involved in putting my files in the hands of someone I don't personally know. If anything should happen to files on my own hard drives, I at least only have myself to blame for not having secured or backed them up. But there is always the risk that Google might be compromised, either from the outside or by some rogue sysadmin, and I don't want to even think about trying to claim any redress against Google if they fuck up.

          Absolutely right. But a cloud provider has a team of pros exactly to avoid that. And I'd bet that for every file lost or compromised by a "cloud accident" there are 100 of files lost in a drive crash or "oops I didn't want to delete THAT folder" accident. (Or lost USB Stick or "reply all" or what else for the "compromised" variety)

          So basically, you need to choose your solution based on your personal risk profile, like , is your company big enough to hire someone to take care of backups and storing them offsite? Is that guy reliable?

    • by tftp (111690) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:25AM (#42401317) Homepage

      I deal with documents on professional basis. This, in my industry, means that none of my documents may ever hit the cloud. (Encryption is a possibility, but it creates more problems than it solves.)

      I tried OpenOffice of several versions, over the years, and all of them were buggy. The latest one, for example, corrupted the watermark in the document. This is unacceptable. I have MS Office now. It may have bugs (not that any bit me recently) but the overall quality of the software is certainly acceptable. OpenOffice does not pass that test - it is unusable in an environment where the wordprocessor will have to correctly handle all kinds of inputs, written by me or written by others.

      MS Office costs about $100 per license. This is a very acceptable cost of doing business. Perhaps this would be too steep if you are a grandmother with limited resources who only wants to create a single page note about a missing cat and print it for her nearest neighbors. As a business, you want to be as sure as it ever gets that the important proposal that you are writing will be correctly opened by the soliciting party. (In many cases editable Word documents are requested, not a PDF.)

      A good wordprocessor is not a good target for an F/OSS project. It's a lot of boring, thankless work. Nobody has an itch that has to be scratched in such a masochistic way. That's why F/OSS wordprocessors are all not very good. Same goes for accounting systems, CAD systems, and many more. Often a F/OSS project just can't muster enough resources to complete the project. A for-profit company has no such problem; they just pay money, and developers show up for work.

      • by TWX (665546) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:23AM (#42401583)
        Honestly, Wordpad is good enough for so many users' individual needs that it's almost foolish for the vast majority of users to purchase extra word processing software in Microsoft environments. Hell, even the netbook I'm using to type this with Windows 7 Starter Edition has Wordpad built in.

        Throw in free word processors that are more feature-rich than Wordpad or are meant for other platforms and the actual number of users that needs Microsoft Office is very, very small. It's dumb for school districts to buy Office for most of their computers. It's dumb for home users to buy it. I would argue that it's even possibly dumb for many professionals to buy it. They simply do not need it unless there's some true need to protect proprietary content.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "Honestly, Wordpad is good enough for so many users' individual needs that it's almost foolish for the vast majority of users to purchase extra word processing software in Microsoft environments. Hell, even the netbook I'm using to type this with Windows 7 Starter Edition has Wordpad built in."

          We are talking about word processors, not text editors. Programmers are probably the only profession where they would tell you to use Wordpad and claim it covered 99% of your needs.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bemymonkey (1244086)

          " It's dumb for school districts to buy Office for most of their computers."

          I respectfully disagree. Learning to use a computer in the way that you'll very likely be using it later in college and at work is one of the few sane things about school. In "IT class" (7th grade, I think it was), we learned basic HTML, Excel (formulas, charts, little tiny intro to macro) and basic Word (headings, automatic generation of dynamic content, how to use headers and footers and all that junk) and to this day I find that

          • We learned wordperfect for dos in school because "thats what people use at work"...
            When i left school, wordperfect for dos had disappeared.

            You need to teach concepts not specific applications, because those specific applications either won't be around or will be significantly different by the time you leave school.

      • by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:25AM (#42401593)

        Perhaps this would be too steep if you are a grandmother with limited resources who only wants to create a single page note about a missing cat and print it for her nearest neighbors. As a business, you want to be as sure as it ever gets that the important proposal that you are writing will be correctly opened by the soliciting party. (In many cases editable Word documents are requested, not a PDF.)

        This. Google docs and OpenOffice/Libreoffice are low-to-midrange tools. They are WAY better than *nothing* and much better than that stripped-down Wordpad tool that Windows gives you out of the box. I got through college just fine using OpenOffice and I still recommend it to people (if it's appropriate for their needs), but when something just has to work without problems I get the big tools out. MSOffice is professional grade and is what you use when nothing else will do.

        • I got through college just fine using OpenOffice and I still recommend it to people

          It's perfectly usable for college, sure.

          But I think it's doing the average college student a real disservice to recommend to everyone they use OpenOffice and not Word. Think of the poor history major; unless they go on to some kind of advanced degree a proficient skill in Word may be the only marketable skill they have!

          If a college student has never used word you have introduced a real hurdle to them performing well in any

        • by Velex (120469) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @06:08AM (#42402545) Journal
          That's funny. I find myself going \LaTeX{} when nothing else will do and arguing with it is easier than arguing with Word.
          • by Cassini2 (956052)

            Agreed. Latex and GnuPlot saved my thesis.

            The Excel, PowerPoint, Word toolchain for advanced graphing particularly sucks. Gnuplot may be archaic, but it blows Excel away in graphing capabilities. WordPerfect for Windows is still better than Word for large document text editing. Latex is the only one that handles complex math in an easy to use fashion. Plus, Latex gives the ability to port the same document to multiple print styles, which WordPerfect only partially accomplishes.

            Key problems:
            - Excel r

      • To be fair, it's not that the OpenOffice and LibreOffice are crap, it's just that the format you're feeding them is. Get us an actual free and open source document standard, and have folks follow it, and things will be much better. Here's an interesting anecdote: My moderately computer literate mother now uses Linux at home and Win7 at work, and prefers Linux. She takes her Linux laptop with LibreOffice on it to work because there are MS Word documents that MS Word won't open that LibreOffice does. There. That should counter your "it's buggy" anecdote.

        Have you had many corruption problems with the FLOSS office tools saving and loading their own format? Or is it just them failing to comply with MS's flawed published document standards that not even MS complies with? How can a FLOSS word processor work with MS Office if they publish one thing and do another? Oooooh, so now you see do you? Perhaps your fingers have been pointing in the wrong direction all along. Look, I know you don't give a damn why the competing free alternatives are buggy, but let's not go pretending they can't do the work. There is a deficit of CAD, but then again, look at CAD users as a percentage of market share vs total users... Then again, I actually prefer Blender and YafaRay for 3D modeling and animation and even just adding special effects to videos.

        (Un)Fortunately this doesn't work both ways. Here, I'll show you: MS has no Emacs or Vim replacement at all! Who can even write code for their system? VS doesn't even work with my Emacs macros or have block select! Ah, but you see? Emacs and Vim, and essentially every FLOSS program can run on Windows as well as any other OS -- They're not hindered by vendor lock-in strategies...

        • by narcc (412956) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:16AM (#42401813) Journal

          Or is it just them failing to comply with MS's flawed published document standards that not even MS complies with?

          How could they? The OpenXML standard is more than 6500 pages long!

          Part 4, the Markup Language Reference, weighs in at 5756 pages -- 5756 pages -- to define "every element and attribute, the hierarchy of parent/child relationships for elements, and additional semantics as appropriate"

          It's madness. Pure madness. No one in their right mind could claim that such a ridiculous, impossible-to-follow, standard couldn't (or shouldn't) be dramatically simplified!

          It should surprise no one that Microsoft fails to comply with their own standard -- and why it's virtually impossible to produce an implementation that is completely compatible with Microsoft Office.

          • by swillden (191260)

            Part 4, the Markup Language Reference, weighs in at 5756 pages -- 5756 pages -- to define "every element and attribute, the hierarchy of parent/child relationships for elements, and additional semantics as appropriate"

            And it's incomplete!

            There are numerous elements whose function isn't spelled out. Instead, the "spec" just points to previous implementations of Word and says "do it like that".

      • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:38AM (#42402449)

        I tried OpenOffice of several versions, over the years, and all of them were buggy. The latest one, for example, corrupted the watermark in the document. This is unacceptable

        I agree - unacceptable.
        However - try being in a situation where you are sending documents to an intermediary who translates the document into your client's language (and vice versa of course), and ending up with the document describing the 100 million euro project, CRASHING Word, as soon as the document crosses 100 pages.

        Then imagine calling Microsoft's quite expensive business support, asking for help, and flat out being told, that this is a known issue for documents that traverse different language installations, and that there is no forthcoming fixes for this bug, and that the work around is to keep the documents below 100 pages.

        At that point, it either becomes a beaurocratic nightmare to keep track of every piece of the 2,500+ page document, OR you simply instate a simple rule of always opening the document in Open Office, saving it in Word format again, and then opening it in Word, after which there were NO crashing issues with the large document. A few layout issues, but no one really cared about that.

        Granted, that was about 10 years ago now, and I have no idea why the hell that work around turned out to work, but THAT is a horrible type of bug. It is a show stopper, and quite frankly much worse than a watermark corruption issue.

        Now, do competing suites have issues? Yes, they do. But for some reason the relatively trivial issues that they have always trumps the game stopping bugs that probably still exist in MS Office, simply because "that's what everyone uses".

        And this applies to all the dominant pieces of software. Doesn't matter what they are.

        And in case you hadn't noticed, I seriously hate that attitude.

    • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:33AM (#42401351) Journal

      it has features that fit any conceivable needs

      Speak for yourself. I use Google Docs for lots of things, where Word simply does not fit. For ex:

      1. Daily time-sheets of my team members with details of work done, and time spent, with status.

      2. Project progress of my department; which plugs into the that of the entire division.

      etc.

      3. A taxi dispatch system uses Google docs to find out current location, availability, status etc using Google docs. Word is totally unusable in such scenarios.

      • by supersat (639745) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:22AM (#42401579)

        If you're using Google Docs to dispatch taxis, you're doing something very wrong.

        Google Docs is a great band-aid to quickly hack something together, but it's no substitute for real tools.

        • by J Story (30227)
          This remark might seem insightful, but I wonder whether it is based on actual knowledge of Google's infrastructure. Let us not forget that some large companies, with many thousand employees, have gone over to Google Apps. This presumes that Google has a high degree of reliability. Assuming that taxi drivers have internet access via their smartphone, what is to stop them from, for example, monitoring a specific page or cell or whatever that pertains to them? This seems vastly more reliable to me than setting
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DFurno2003 (739807)
        Why the hell would you use Google Docs for Taxi Dispatch?
        • by jkrise (535370) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @05:16AM (#42402371) Journal

          Why the hell would you use Google Docs for Taxi Dispatch?

          Er... not me; but a prospective client of ours was using Google Docs, Gmail and Google Talk to co-ordinate the entire taxi dispatch system. We replaced his entire infrastructure with an open source based front-end, talking to a GPS-based location-tracker service provider. Now he has been able to reduce his workforce by 60% while increasing the number of taxis managed.

          But my point is; it is possible to do excellent real-time collaboration with free Google tools, at high reliability. Which is simply not possible with Microsoft solutions, inspite of paying hefty sums of money.

      • by Daltorak (122403) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:45AM (#42401719)

        it has features that fit any conceivable needs

        Speak for yourself. I use Google Docs for lots of things, where Word simply does not fit. For ex:

        1. Daily time-sheets of my team members with details of work done, and time spent, with status.

        2. Project progress of my department; which plugs into the that of the entire division.

        etc.

        3. A taxi dispatch system uses Google docs to find out current location, availability, status etc using Google docs. Word is totally unusable in such scenarios.

        Wait, what? Are you talking about the ability to do real-time collaborative editing of Word documents here?

        Word (and Excel, and Onenote) has this already, and has for a few years now. It's part of the Skydrive integration [microsoft.com]. Documents are stored "in the cloud" but you get a local copy, too, for disconnected editing. Any machine (or phone, yes even iPhones and Androids) connected to Skydrive gets the synced up copies too). Version history (up to 25 versions anyway) are stored. Hell, even the OS X versions of Word and Excel support real-time collaborative editing. You don't even need Office installed.... the web app versions of Office 2013 are free.

        In short -- Microsoft has real-time editing of an Excel document by someone using a native app on Windows, a native app on OS X, and someone using Chrome on a Linux system. Your uses cases are supported just fine.

        • by J Story (30227)
          There was an earlier posting to Slashdot that laid out the cost factor between Google Apps and Microsoft solutions, with the former being a small fraction of the latter. Given that, it may well be true that Microsoft can also do a lot of what Google can, but unless somebody needs exact Microsoft compatibility, why should they spend the additional cash?
        • by jkrise (535370)

          Wait, what? Are you talking about the ability to do real-time collaborative editing of Word documents here?

          Two key features: Cost and Convenience. With Google docs, it is integrated with gmail and Google Talk, which provides a complete infrastructure to accomplish the needed collaboration. All that is need is a browser, be it Chrome or Firefox. With the Microsoft approach; I don't know... maybe I need MS Office for all (not operable through Android tablets unlike Google docs), then I dont think it is inte

    • by tooyoung (853621)
      Agreed. Do everyone a favor - list everything you hate about Google Docs. Hopefully someone from Google will read the list and actually cause change. You know a list of Office painpoints would go unheard.
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:30AM (#42402231)

      Google docs is great for a quick and dirty word processing or a collaborative project, but you shouldn't try to write a novel with it.

      I'd say the exact opposite. I edit a lot of novels, and every single author now uses MS Word. Not one of them has a clue how to use any of its features. And really, to write a novel, you only need the simplest features. Business documents, with lists, bullets, tables, headings, etc, etc need more elaborate formatting. A novel is a stream of paragraphs. Maybe one or two heading styles, and block text (for things like quoted letters, poems), and a spellcheck. That's all you need and you can do that in any wordprocessor made in the last 25 years. It was a lot simpler back in the days of Wordstar 5 and WordPerfect 5.1.

      Writers using Word have gotten less and less able to use it, compared to 20 years ago when people actually consulted a manual before trying. Now they just point and click and type, and so the vast majority just use it like a typewriter, and select text and style it from a button. That's it. They are clueless of and intimidated by the vast number of features and just give up and don't try to work out how to use any any of them. Then they somehow activate one of Word's wacky, "helpful" automated formatting tools and find all their text is in 24 pt red italic. Or they've somehow styled the entire MS as "Heading 1" and have to override its style every time. Writers start new pages not by inserting a pagebreak, but by pressing "enter" a few dozen times, or even worse, hundreds of spaces. I spend an hour or two cleaning up all that crap with every file I get. If I was working with them over a long period I might try to educate them, but few want to learn anything. People now want every program to "just work" without them having to learn anything.

      Writers need a simpler wordprocessor. Word has been getting worse and worse as a tool for authors since about version 2 for Windows 3. Its development us pushed by claiming more and more features. Features that just get in the way of 95% of users. To disable all the crap you have to read up and tick off lots of little options. But it seems that also is just impossible for most users.

      So, not having used GoogleDocs, I can't say if it really is better, but if it has fewer features it probably is. Can hardly be worse.

      • by ClaraBow (212734)
        A whole new market of simpler word-processing apps has sprung up to cater to writers' needs. Many writers now use programs like Scrivener [slashdot.org] to write their novels.
    • by tverbeek (457094)

      I'll echo the above, but add that (unlike MS Office), Libre/Neo/OpenOffice also has a mature user interface. MS Office's ribbonwhatsit might arguably be "better", but there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the old UI, and LibreOffice preserves it. It's familiar, and I can be productive with it. I can install LibreOffice on every computer I use: a Windows 7 system, a legacy XP box, and a Mac at work; my MacBook and Mac Mini at home; the TabletPC I mainly use for drawing; and it's even on my Linux serv

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:12AM (#42401253)

    You can see a detailed revision history of a document, including every saved version ever, in Google Docs.

    It can show you the differences from the current/previous versions.

    So if you deleted text, just pull up the revision history, grab the text you want, and paste it back into the current version.
    It's not any different from a "real" version control workflow.
     

    • No need to copy and paste. You can just restore the revision (unless you've made changes since that you want to keep).

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Yeah, he's way off... Word also has version control. So does Excel. I'd wager PowerPoint does, too.

    • by jfengel (409917) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:00AM (#42401475) Homepage Journal

      Word's version control is a lot more sophisticated. It can show you the document clean, or with strikeouts and inserts, or with annotations in the margins. You can accept and reject changes by pointing to them.

      I don't know how widely useful such a thing is, but I personally find it very useful. It's one of the few things I break out Word for. (LibreOffice has a similar feature, but its implementation is slow, and it's unusable on the dozens-of-pages documents I use it for.)

      • It's extremely popular in business and academia when people are collaborating on documents, and it's used just how the article's author uses it. This is so critical in The Real World that it's the number one complaint people wield against Open/LibreOffice.
      • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:41AM (#42402277)

        This is a reviewing / collaboration tool, not version control. At any time someone in word can hit "accept all changes" and whoosh it's all gone.

        These markups are fantastic, however where I work we use it with a separate document management system that does version control for us. We basically check out the most recent document, and the first thing we do is hit "Accept All Changes" this provides us with a very clean slate. The final edited document is checked in and that way only the most recently changes are visible when you go and open the approved document. It also makes it very easy for the document reviewer / approver to see what has changed.

        I've seen people try to use this feature for version control before. It quickly becomes a clusterfuck of uncontrolled rainbow colours and strikethroughs.

        • by xeno (2667)

          Mod parent up. Seriously. Loudly: TRACK-CHANGES IS NOT VERSION CONTROL.
          Say it again: TRACK-CHANGES IS NOT VERSION CONTROL.

          "Version" implies, well, a version of a document, a stopping point, a revision of the whole. Tracking a version of a document is a point construct; not at all the same thing as tracking the flow of changes over the course of a period of work. One is a node, the other's an edge. One's a pixel, the other's a vector. Not the same thing.

          Both are really useful, but they're different

  • Word has more features, but Google Docs is good enough for most people. Depending on what you use, Docs is good enough.
    • by nbauman (624611) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:07AM (#42401517) Homepage Journal

      Notepad is good enough for most people. (I'm using it right now.) But some people need certain features in their work, and if a program doesn't have those features, they can't use it.

      He's a professional writer who writes books, and he's talking about whether Google Docs and Zoho Docs can do that. They can't.

      A big book needs a style sheet. Otherwise you're taping lists of codes to the monitor, like we used to do in 1985.

      A writer who works with an editor needs Track Changes. Otherwise, the writer doesn't know what changes the editor made. They'd be better off faxing hand-written corrections to each other, like we used to do in 1985.

      When Microsoft started marketing Word, they were competing with WordPerfect, which dominated the word processing market and did a pretty good job. So Word had to do an even better job. MS worked with people who used Word in every major industry, like law firms, to find out how they wrote and what they needed in their word processor. They worked with an American Bar Association word processing committee to write free manuals. Lawyers sometimes write documents with line numbers. You got it. Law firms use all kinds of strikeouts and underlinings. You got it. Law firms use elaborate outlines. You got it. If you're a lawyer, and the judge wants a submission a certain way, there's no excuses.

      When I have a problem with Office, I do a Google search and I find people who have left the answers. Microsoft's web site, much as I hate to admit it, is an excellent manual in every version of Office. They paid a lot of very good technical writers what they were worth to explain it. (In fairness, they haven't been up to the same quality lately.) When I have a problem with Google, I do a Google search and sometimes find a bunch of guys trying to give helpful suggestions. I wonder what Google's paid tech support is like. If my job depended on it, it would certainly be worth $50 a year.

      I too would love to use OpenOffice/LibreOffice etc., just for the principle of open software, but I've tried them and they had little incompatibilities. If you're working on a big project with other people, you can't take a chance on an incompatibility that will take an hour or two to figure out, or that you just have to work around.

      Some day they'll get there. Not yet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:14AM (#42401259)

    There's a definitive book for anyone wanting to write a wordpressor. It's called 'Harts Rules', and it goes into micro detail of, for example, how to layout footnotes that are bigger than the page they refer to. The real micro detail of every extreme case of layout and composting anyone might face writing a wordprocessor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hart%27s_Rules

    Google Docs developers should read it, as should Microsoft Word developers quite frankly.

    Docs is suitable for simple tasks associated with everyday writing, memos faxes, instructions, meeting notes etc, but to write books, particularly technical ones requires a bit more processing.

  • by NonUniqueNickname (1459477) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:20AM (#42401287)
    Word sounds so great I'm gonna get 10! One for each person on the team. Heading over to microsoft.com now... looking at the price now... sticking with Google Docs now.
    • by geek (5680)

      Or you could head over to Skydrive.com and have all ten use it for free just like google docs. Just sayin.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lilfields (961485)
      Microsoft has a free suite, and if you compared paid suites, Microsoft is only marginally more expensive on the cloud, but if you compare client-side to server side and use SkyDrive, then Microsoft is cheaper...because you can get a small business suite with 5 seats for very cheap. Office 2013 is amazing, the collaboration isn't as good as Google's...yet, but Google is so far behind on everything else, that it really don't matter at this point.
  • Is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geek (5680) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:21AM (#42401295) Homepage

    Or is Google software getting worse instead of better? I tried so hard to like Google Docs and Drive but it's been so buggy for me (in their browser no less) that I simply can not stand to use it. Worse still is the unfinished nature of EVERYTHING Google puts out these days. There is absolutely no polish to anything they have besides gmail. Gmail is fantastic but everything else from them is just terrible. The nail int he coffin for me on the Google side was the Google Drive sync client on OS X, it crashed constantly, failed to sync files all the time and used a crap ton of CPU time draining the battery of my MacBook Air. Not to mention the lack of a Linux client (still!)

    Add to the above the fact Google likes to just close shit down whenever they feel like it and I can never let myself get too deep into their ecosystem without worrying whether they'll just cut it off one day (Wave, iGoogle etc.) Google just can't seem to follow through on anything to completion.

    I'm neither a Google fan or an Apple fan, I own products from both (Nexus 7 and an MBA) so I don't think I'm biased. I have to say, the two companies have the opposite failings. Apple lacks features but has polish while Google lacks polish while has features. In the end I find myself more inclined to use Apple these days just because I have real work to do and can't dick around with all of Googles BS.

    That said, I don't see why anyone would use Google Docs. I guess for simple text files its ok and I hear the collaboration is good so maybe it has uses for a small subset of folks out there but I just don't find it useful. I combine Scrivener, LaTeX and Word for my writing and find my needs met quite well.

    Google is run by engineers, which is cool, I actually like that, but as a result, suffers from a lack of real world usability, polish and commitment. Google lacks focus in the right areas (they can sure focus on selling you to advertisers though). I just don't see Google as anything but a search + email provider. Everything else I've tried of theirs has been lackluster and easily met by other options out there at a decent price without the privacy issues.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      Or is Google software getting worse instead of better? ... Google is run by engineers, which is cool

      Maybe the wind started to blow in the other direction?

      I cannot say much for quality of software, but it seems like all services have gone up in price A LOT (gmail storage, google apps). Maybe engineers are no longer calling the shots? Nothing wrong with charging for services or increasing the price, but when the price goes up a lot (or when the free "small business" options just disappear completely instead of diminishing) that seems a little far.

    • Re:Is it just me? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Zadaz (950521) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:56AM (#42401461)

      My experience says differently. I had given Google Docs a chance years ago, but it outright stank. I couldn't image why someone would want to use it.

      Then a few months ago I started writing for a major tech publisher. When I asked what file format they wanted they responded "Word if you must but we love Google Docs". So Google Docs it was. And I was very pleasantly surprised. It worked slickly, speedily and no unexpected surprises. (This is with Chrome on OS X.) Compared to the OS X version of Word, which reminds me that the The Spinning Beach Ball of Death is still a real thing, I almost overwhelmingly preferred Goog.

      There are a few things it won't let me do that I'm used to. Captioning images is one. Which doesn't work well in Word either, but is apparently not possible in Docs. I also use tables a lot and the table formatting options stink. But otherwise I found it met all my needs and worked better and faster than Word.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord Maud'Dib (611577)
        I've been using OpenOffice (and then LibreOffice, since around when it forked) for writing scientific papers for a few years now. For referencing I use Zotero which works really well ( I can't stand Endnote!!!). Recently I had to switch to Word for a collaborative project and I absolutely hated the way it tried to take control of everything. The way LibreOffice handles captioning and just everything in general is much better than MS Word. The formula input and formatting is much more like Tex than MS Word t
    • My rant-of-the-day goes to Google (docs). I also thought that after all these years Google must have built a robust and intuitive product able to compete with MS office in terms of feature and compatibility. And decided to give it a try (using the latest Chrome). Conclusion is disappointment. Small docs lightly decorated (bold, italics, colors...) are usually ok either from MSO to GD or straight from/to GD. When it comes to create numerated chapters, margins, headers footers etc... you must count on your b
  • I know it's popular to bash Microsoft on Slashdot, but this is as absurd as asking if Windows Phone 8 is as even matchup to Android or IOS. The story and article are flame-bait and should be treated accordingly.

    • by lilfields (961485)
      Windows Phone is a LOT closer to those two platforms than Google is to Microsoft in Office suites...it isn't even close in this comparison, at least with mobile platforms some comparisons can be argued reasonably.
      • Re:Absurd (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:14AM (#42401543)
        I'm going to have to agree. Google docs is in the ~1993 stage of office suites. Windows Phone is in the ~2009 stage. The nice part for Google is that word processing is a largely solved problem. Google is chasing a largely static target. Unfortunately for MS, they are chasing two competitors that are anything but a static target.
  • Depends on the use (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Google docs is great for anything involving collaborators. It's really easy to send out the link to other students I have been grouped with for projects, and explain how it works.

    However, for the final copy, we have one of the team members copy it into word and do the prettying up there.

  • by lilfields (961485) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:35AM (#42401365) Homepage
    Can you do a linear regression in Google Docs or find R-Squared? If not, then no, it's not.
  • reveal codes FTW (Score:2, Informative)

    by aepurniet (995777)
    i still use word perfect. being completely OCD about formatting, i cannot stand anything but that old standby. using word is just frustrating. how come my table just got deleted? why is it typing in italics now? everytime i use it, these questions just take more of my time than actually typing the document. with word perfect, there is a legitimate explanation every time this happens, and since you can see all the markup codes, it most likely wont happen.
    • by beep54 (1844432)
      Word Perfect was what I first used, back in DOS days. The 'reveal all codes' feature was nifty. You can get some of that in LibreOffice, but not ALL codes. But, actually, usually enough to be very useful.
    • Out of curiosity, if you're that obsessed with formatting, why don't you use LaTeX?

      Granted, it provides many formatting rules behind the scenes. But they're generally really good formatting rules.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:42AM (#42401391)

    I think he is using the wrong tool for the job, and then blaming the tool. I don't know about the collaboration features, having never used them. But Google docs was never (IMO) intended to be a replacement for a professional editing tool.

    He talks about style sheet feature in the professional writers world. I don't know what that is, because I use Google docs for simple things. Sharing a to-do list with colleagues. Sharing a grocery list with my family. Short story writing in my spare time. Yes, a lot of professional writers need particular features - but MOST people don't. If you try to include features that everyone and their dog would want, you'd get a mess that is unusable, especially in a browser (I can configure MS Word to some extent. Change the layout, add shortcuts to the ribbon, etc).

    The closest I have come to a specialized writing software is Scrivener - and I love it. It has features MS Word doesn't have. And I don't expect Word to have them. But that isn't Word's fault - not everyone wants a pinboard and notes section while writing technical papers. They want to send a letter to Grandma thanking her for the check.

    And while Word might have some of the features he wants, that comes at a cost - I think MS realized it when they made Microsoft Works. A simple Word editor, a simple spreadsheet etc. It was much easier to use. But it tanked for reasons I don't know. Maybe (pure guesswork) because the mentality while buying software is - "I don't know what this feature is. But hey, I might want it some day!".

    Do you expect Paint to have all the features of Photoshop? Frankly, I couldn't use photoshop because I found it too complex, and I use Paintshop Pro. But that isn't Paint/Paintshop's flaw - if I need the features, I'll find the tool that fits the job.

  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:11AM (#42401529) Homepage

    I recently used Google Drive with directory sync to "collaborate" with two others on a presentation. It's not true collaboration in the sense of how multiple developers could use something like CVS and merge, but it was useful enough. LibreOffice will create a lockfile that is also synched, so at least can tell you if someone else has the document open.

    The process was:
    1) Create a shared directory in Google Drive.
    2) All team members installed Google Drive and synched that folder.
    3) One member uploaded images to a subdirectory, another generated a layout in Scribus, another created copy.
    4) Finally everyone uploaded PDFs to another subdir so everyone could view.

    Normally we'd do this over a local fileserver but even though we were all sitting around the same table, it was just easier to do it via Drive because everyone was using their own laptops.

    I'm not a professional writer so LibreOffice is good enough for me. This is why feature creep happens in Word. Without all those "pro" features, there would be no reason for most folks to pay a premium for Word when LibreOffice suffices.

  • Really, the story here is the following: 1. Google Docs sucks 2. There is nothing in Word that makes it peculiar compared to other traditional offline editors 3. The guy uses Libreoffice. So: How's Word really winning here?
  • I use Google Docs for collaboration, and LibreOffice for my own work. Clients sometimes have MS specific Visio needs, and so I pull out that and integrate with Word.
  • The wordprocessor had about as many features as wordpad on windows 2000, the spreadsheet was compariable to gnumeric, and the whole cloud interface made things feel shakey at best ... in late 2011

    MS Office vs GDocs, heh yea dont even bother. Libre / Open office vs MS Office, very comparable (if your looking at MS office 2000 or 2003, but that does quite a freaking bit)

  • by inflex (123318) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @06:56AM (#42402685) Homepage Journal

    The fact that "professionals" are using Word ( or similar ) for their work for quality output betrays the lack of their sanity in the first place. 20 years ago Microsoft-Word was a joke of a tool for legitimately professional publishing tasks, a Fisher-Price mallet in a world of steel hammers. Back then it was LaTeX, Quark or some other probably-insanely-obscure DTP system, even WP5.1, but over the years people have forgotten how it was (probably with good reason though, none of them were all that fun and easy to use and never came with cheesy clipart). As a publisher, I still find ms-doc files to be inconsistent a lot of the time (especially from some writers) and almost always needs to be fixed up by selecting the text, copying in to a fresh file with a very strict style and manually reworking it; as opposed to LaTeX (hand generated or via LyX) where you can generate print-ready novels consistently without all the screwing around.

    It would seem we've traded the steeper learning curve for substandard results and since it's been happening long enough now, it has become the 'professional way'.

    Now get off my lawn!

  • by pruss (246395) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @11:41AM (#42403973) Homepage

    While most users most of the time don't need the extra features of Word, some users need them much of the time, and I expect many serious users would benefit from learning about them and using them on occasion.

    In my own discipline (analytic philosophy), it is very common to have numbered propositions in articles, which are then referred to by number. The right way to do this in Word is to set up an automatically numbered list that allows for the list items to be noncontiguous but still numbered sequentially, and then to refer to the numbered propositions via the cross-referencing feature. This way, as you insert more numbered propositions while editing, the numbers and references get automatically updated. As far as I can see, Google Docs supports neither noncontiguous lists nor cross-referencing. That said, it is my feeling that while most people in my discipline use Word (a few use LaTeX, and I use it myself for symbol-heavy articles), most don't know about these features and just number and cross-reference manually.

    For non-fiction writing where one needs to refer to other chapters, sections or footnotes (e.g., "See footnote 17, above" or "As we shall see in Section 4.3.1.a"), cross-referencing is pretty much essential if one wants to avoid error prone manual references, fixing which up can be nasty if the editor calls for revisions. Again, that's a reason to use LaTeX, but there is no need for LaTeX given that Word's alt-I,N does this quite well.

    Assigning keys to special symbols is also very useful--sometimes I don't want to bother with LaTeX for something that just has some symbols from the Symbol font, but I certainly don't to be pressing alt-I,S and using the mouse to select the symbol (or alt-I,S,Tab,arrows,enter) each time, and a keyboard shortcut is just what the doctor ordered.

    And while most of the time, macros aren't needed, there are times when they greatly reduce labor. For instance, recently I indexed one of my books. To do that, I used a perl script that uses in-text ASCII codes marking index entries and page breaks on the Word file back-generated from the galley PDF (the press refused to give me a copy of their Quark or InDesign file). But I had to insert all those ASCII codes to mark areas of text to reference, e.g., {{IndexEntryA:}}Text to which the index entry should point{{:IndexEntryA}}. Typing in the codes would be error prone. So I wrote some super-simple macros which greatly reduced labor. It still was a ton of work, but without macros it would have been very hard. How often do I index? Only once every couple of years when I have a book coming out. But when I do, I need all the help I can get from the software.

    And there are little conveniences of macros. I was once writing something that didn't have much in the way of symbols, but kept on having italic variable letters with numerical subscripts in the text. I could have switched to LaTeX, but I liked writing in Word and that was about the only bit of technical symbolism I routinely needed. Without macros, a typical such sequence (T subscript 1, say) would be: ctrl-I, T, ctrl-I, ctrl-=, 1, ctrl-=. Easy to slip up, and a nuisance. With macros, I could just type T1, alt-S, and it would format it correctly. (A more sophisticated macro would check whether the subscript was numerical or a variable letter and italicize the latter but not the former. I can't remember if I had it do that.) The macro made it possible to more fluently, without the annoyance of slowing down to format subscripted variables whenever they occurred.

    Whenever one is doing anything repetitively, a macro will help. I suppose for simpler cases when it's just a keyboard shortcut, one could use Google Docs and a keyboard macro program on one's desktop. But sometimes the macros need to aware of what's in the word processor text.

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