Tools for Small Businesses Online – Google Docs

March 1, 2012
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You’re not just limited to Microsoft for your office productivity in your small business today, there’s Open Office and Libre Office if you like installed products, or you could always put your data in the cloud and in the secure hands of Google with Google Docs.

So how does Google Docs compare to Microsoft Office, and is it worth the effort to change over?

Word Processing

The interface for Google Docs word processing offering is simple and easy to use, and you never have to worry about losing data as the document auto saves every single time you make a change – without the noticeable slowdown you get with Microsoft Office.

There are some drawbacks in that Word documents may not open correctly in Google Docs and you might have to spend some time re-adjusting the format. But if you haven’t established total dependency on Microsoft or your documents are mainly simple without any of the complex bells and whistles that Word can offer – it should be too hard to move over, without missing much. And to be fair, Google’s collaboration tools aren’t bad either. In particular real time sharing and editing between multiple users is a piece of cake – something that Office struggles with.

Spreadsheets

While not as strong as Excel in some areas, particularly when it comes to scripting – though Google’s offering has some great pre-written scripts and is improving every day, it’s still pretty good.

There’s an emphasis on sharing that’s absent in the Microsoft range and Google Docs brings you an alerts and e-mail facility, which can let you know as soon as a team member updates so much as a single cell of any sheet you’re working on.

Presentations

This is still a weak link in comparison to PowerPoint, in that many of the “bells and whistles” like animations are missing from the Google Docs equivalent. Having said that – it does shine in terms of adding video (from YouTube in particular) and photos where you can utilize Google Image Search as an additional powerful library of images to choose from.

It’s up to you decide whether you can afford to let all the animations features of Microsoft’s PowerPoint slide when it comes to presentations.

Overall

One of the areas that Google Docs really suffers is that you must have an Internet connection in order for it to work. No connectivity means no productivity and while there are rumors that this will change in the future, at the moment it’s an inconvenience that in some places will be very hard to overcome.

The standalone version of Microsoft Office, just edges out Google Docs for functionality but at a hefty price tag and the gap is getting narrower with more regular updates for the latter than the former.

Microsoft’s own online offering is much more basic than Google’s and offers much less functionality than the desktop variant, so if you’re pursuing a cloud based alternative to computer based installs Google wins hands down.

The future is looking bright for Google Docs as more companies move to laptops and small devices and away from desktops – there’s far more data security in cloud based applications, than there is on device specific applications. For now, it’s your choice but Google Docs is certainly in the right ballpark now.

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