For decades, Microsoft Office has been the go to solution for pretty much everyone when it comes to getting work done. Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint were essential tools for anybody working with a computer, be it students, freelancers, or the working class. How we use computers has changed though over the years. No longer are we restricted to just one computer, and collaboration has become an essential part of modern productivity. With that in mind, Google released its own suite of productivity tools to compete with Microsoft, with a focus on online collaboration.
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are Google's answer to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively. They work in your browser, don't require any licence to use, and were built with the internet in mind. I've been using them for years, and I vastly prefer them over Microsoft's traditional Office tools.
The biggest advantage is how multiple people can collaborate on a single copy of a file, which eliminates the need to toss a document around between colleagues. This is a huge time saver as everybody can view and edit a single document simultaneously without needing to wait for a colleague to edit a file before sending it off to the next person. If you're working on a document, say a proposal, progress report, an article etc., you can grant access to your supervisors or colleagues who can view your progress at any time they want and give comments/feedback while you're still working on the document. With Microsoft Word, you'd need to finish the document, send it to your supervisors or colleagues, and wait for them to email it back. It gets even messier with multiple contributors. Each one will send back a different copy of the file each with their own comments and feedback, which means you'd have to compile all changes that need to be made from multiple copies of the same document. And because they are unaware of each others' comments, they might provide contradicting feedback which makes it difficult to proceed. In a Google Doc one person could give a comment, and others could see it and then agree or give an alternate view on it. A group of people could have a conversation directly in the document itself to resolve any confusion, which is much more convenient than sending emails back and forth within a group.
Many of the other features of Google's productivity suite have to do with simply being created for the internet. Need to look up something while you're writing? There's a built-in explore function which lets you perform Google searches as you write. Not too sure what a word you want to use means? There's a built-in dictionary too. Want to ask a collaborator a question about something in a document? Tag them in a comment and they'll receive an email notification. Want to look back at an older version of a document for something that was removed? Google's apps track a file's version history, so you can look back at past versions and even restore them if you want. This links to another useful feature, automatic saving. Your file is automatically saved after every keystroke. There have been so many cases where people lose hours of work because Microsoft Word or their computer crashes and they haven't saved their work. Not a problem with Google's apps. Want to open a new document? Just open a new tab and write docs.new into the omnibox. Need to look for an image for your Google Slides presentation? You can easily search the internet for images while creating your presentation, or grab an image you've saved in Google Drive, or look for a photo from your Google Photos, all within Google Slides itself. Speaking of Slides, there's a handy Q&A tool for people who give talks and lectures which allows your audience to ask questions via their smartphone (or their laptop/tablet), and you'll receive it on your computer. You can even install a Chrome extension which allows you to control your presentation from your smartphone (this is especially cool for me because the developer is a Malaysian). But perhaps one of the biggest advantages of being created with the internet in mind, is that each app can receive updates at any time, and all users will be able to enjoy them. Unlike Microsoft Office which relies on the traditional "version" format where you need to install newer versions to get newer features. Google's productivity tools are just, evergreen. No version number, no outdated software or formats, everything is up to date, all the time.
Of course it's not all good. There are some glaring weaknesses in Google's productivity tools. As a postgraduate student, I'm forced to use Microsoft Excel for data analysis because Google Sheets just doesn't have the tools I need. Google Docs doesn't allow you to change the orientation of a single page in a document. It's either entirely in portrait or entirely in landscape. Basically, Google's apps are great for basic productivity with some exceptional online tools and features, but they tend to lack some of Microsoft Office's more robust functionalities, something that was probably built-up (and patented?) over years and years.
I started this conversation because of frustrations I felt dealing with some personal documents for work (tweet above), but honestly every now and again I feel like productivity in the workplace can be improved significantly if more people just used Google's online productivity tools. I'm fairly certain the majority of people in my workplace (everybody?) already have a Google account, so it shouldn't be that hard to start using Google's productivity tools. Whenever possible I try to convince my team or colleagues to use Google's tools instead of Microsoft Office. Sometimes when I'm out in public and I see people using Google's apps instead of Office, I silently give them an approving nod. What about you? Do you prefer Google's productivity suite over Microsoft Office? Or do you need the feature-packed Office tools for your work?