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

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 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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • reveal codes FTW (Score:2, Informative)

    by aepurniet ( 995777 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:39AM (#42401377)
    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 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.)

  • by lokedhs ( 672255 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:05AM (#42401501)
    Well, if you actually tried it you will see that the Web version is so feature-limited that it might just as well not even exist. I think the original release of Google Docs was more feature-complete than Skydrive Word, and that's saying a lot.
  • by feranick ( 858651 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @01:24AM (#42401591)
    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?
  • 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.

  • 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.


    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 []. 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 martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:57AM (#42401941)
    It's quite trivial for this to happen. Suppose someone writes a Word document (with the latest version of Word), then sends it to another person who has Word 97, who maybe opens and edits it, then passes it along to someone with another version of Word again. Somewhere along the line the document will get corrupted, as the classic Word format is just a memory dump of the objects that happen to be alive during editing.

    This is the reason why it's difficult for other word processors to read and write Word, they just don't have the exact same COM object hierarchy in memory. So they can only support a subset of the full "format", but on the other hand they can often read a broken document much better than Word itself because they literally only extract the bits they need.

  • 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 alcourt ( 198386 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @08:00AM (#42402831)

    I've seen this happen so many times it's not even funny. OpenOffice/LibreOffice weren't brought in for any part of it until people couldn't open it and in desperation they agreed to try the suggestion to try opening the file in LibreOffice. File opens fine, is saved in the MS format, and the result is openable in MS Word again.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @08:10AM (#42402857)

    > Aren't those documents created or edited by LibreOffice by any chance?

    Not in my direct experience. MS Word format has _never_ been fully standardized or had a robust API, standards for which features are compatible with which revisions of MS Word. The result has been absolute chaos with old documents, and is part of the reason that governments have tried to switch to an "open" and documented format such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice use. Microsoft finally published an API, referred to as "OOXML", to get by government requirements for documented formats.

    But the history of the lobbying to get OOXML passed as an ISO standard was a horrific abuse of a standards process. It should _never_ have passed in that broken state,and Microsoft _does not follow the standard_ they worked so hard to legislate. The result is disastrous and unpredictable loss of document content. And _LibreOffice can often recover content that MS Word cannot_ in such corrupted documents.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.