Word versus Google Docs: Offline vs Online Word Processing

Word Versus Google Docs

Word processing has come a long way. Before word processing software and computers came word processor machines. Before that electric typewriters and even manual typewriters. Manual typewriters are mostly found in museums now, but they may be hiding in your attic or the bottom of a dusty closet.

If the thought of typing on a manual or electric typewriter brings back memories, these nostalgic sound effects are available as an option in text editing programs. Check out word processing software like FocusWriter and Ommwriter if you feel the need.

History of Word Processing

In the late 1970’s, WordStar and WordPerfect dominated the word processing scene. With the advent of microcomputers, MS Word was introduced for MS-DOS in the fall of 1983, and for Mac in 1985. But during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s many folks migrated from WordStar to WordPerfect 4.0 due to its wide availability on different systems.

WordPerfect dominated the business world until they tried to release a version of WordPerfect for Windows, which failed miserably. This caused many businesses who had adopted it office-wide to distrust it and make the big switch to its competitor, MS Word. By the mid-1990’s MS Word had become the dominant word processing program in the business world. The lone holdouts seemed to be Mac users and the legal industry who needed the capability to redact text that WordPerfect provided.

Transition in Process?

There appears to be a similar transition in the works now between MS Word and Google Docs. Businesses love MSOffice applications, but they need something more collaborative without the costly fees that come with licensing. Early attempts to make MSOffice more collaborative were fraught with frustrating errors and maddening file corruptions. With the introduction of Google Drive storage and Google Docs (word processing), some people have found the combination they need to do collaborative projects without all the headaches.

So, it looks like Google Docs may be the apparent heir to the throne when it comes to collaborative word processing, especially in the world of business. The attraction of Google Docs has long been its ability to work in real-time. Documents in Google Docs can be seen and edited by multiple users. Microsoft Word attempted to provide collaboration through its Office Live offering but it was incomplete and glitchy, and many people and businesses began using Google Docs instead.

Word versus Google Docs: Pricing

When it comes to price for Word versus Google Docs, those who are already using Google Docs lack incentive to switch to MS Word or Word Online, because the cost of Google Docs is free, just set up an email account. MS Word for the PC or Office 365 will cost for annual licensing or subscription fees. View and edit documents in Word Online for free just by setting up an account. But for those still trying to decide between Word versus Google Docs, here’s the rundown of features for reference.

Word versus Google Docs: Usability

If MS Word is your main word processor, there is a slight learning curve to use Google Docs. But the look and feel of Google Docs will be similar to MS Word. And for anyone using something like LibreOffice or OpenOffice, there won’t be much difference either. When it comes to visual appearance, the user interface of Google Docs is extremely similar to that of MSWord. The pull-down File menu in Google Docs includes File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, etc. and all the formatting options present in MS Word.

Word versus Google Docs: Add-Ons

Upon opening a new document in Google Docs, the “Explore” add-on feature immediately pops up on the left. With this built-in add-on, a handy little window appears on the right side of the screen and provides suggestions for websites and information related to the topic of the document. MS Word does offer a ton of add-ons and even a similar “lookup” feature, but Google Docs wins here for simplicity of use.

The information suggested by “Explore” was all more than relevant and it was helpful. When it comes to Word versus Google Docs, finding, and using add-ons seems much simpler and intuitive in Google Docs and just a little too complicated in MS Word. Google Docs offers several different add-ons specifically useful to writers at all levels including:

  • Better Word Count (word, character, character-no spaces)
  • Proofread Bot (spelling, grammar, tense)
  • Document Navigator (outliner)
  • MindMeister (mind mapping)
  • Highlight the Music (sentence length highlighting)

Word versus Google Docs: Final Thoughts

When it comes to comparing MSWord versus Google Docs, writers may prefer the simplicity of Google Docs. The only negative experience with Google Docs as a writer, is when it comes time to save, rename, and close a document. There is no file save option because Google Docs saves everything automatically as you type on the Google Drive. Figuring out how to name the file and get it saved on your computer or a private storage site was trickier but doable. If you use it in combination with Google Drive, you’ll have no trouble.

In conclusion, there may be less fancy tools and add-ons available in Google Docs, but the ones that are there are simple and intuitive to use. Some features available in MS Word just never seemed to work correctly in my experience with Word but worked perfectly in Google Docs. MS Word does have its place as a word processor for documents that will be presented or published.

For those who need to do detailed formatting such as headers, footers, footnotes, etc. or who want more choices for fonts and themes, MS Word is best. But if you haven’t tried Google Docs yet and are looking for a simple alternative to MS Word for writing, I would highly recommend you give it a chance.

1 Comment

  • S T says:

    I do both. I’ll write a document in MS Word, then copy and paste it to Google Docs. I like the collaboration features of Google Docs, but I think that Word is more intuitive when it comes to things like shortkeys for formatting, etc.

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