Liverpool Public Library

Expand Menu

Do You Need Office, Google or Both?

by Keith Gatling | 4 years ago

There are two big players out there in the productivity software world. One is the very well-known Microsoft Office, and the other is the slightly lesser-known G Suite. But which one is right for you? Should you go with Microsoft or Google (that's what the G stands for...not Gatling)...or is it maybe even both?

That's what we're going to talk about today.

Microsoft Office has the advantage of having been around forever. Rumor has it that the Ten Commandments were written on Word. But seriously, the very first version of Microsoft Word, the foundation of the Office suite, goes back to the 1980s. That's a long time. It also has the advantage of being available in both Mac and Windows versions. Those two things mean that there are a whole lot of people out there who know how to use the Microsoft products, and that they’re pretty much the world standard.

The G Suite, also known as the Google Suite, Google Apps or sometimes even Google Docs, has only been around since 2006. It has the advantage of being able to run in the web browser of any computer with an internet connection...Mac, Windows, Linux, you name it. If it has an internet connection and a web browser, it can run the G Suite. That's because all the work is being done somewhere else, and not on your computer; but we'll get to that shortly.

Both suites offer the three basic applications, or apps, of word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations; in addition to a bunch of other things, In Microsoft the big three are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. In the G Suite they're Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

So what's the difference? Let's start with the big one...price. Microsoft Office is paid software. But it gets a little more complex from there, depending on which version of Office you decide to buy. You can still get a disc-based version that you own forever, but it’s hard to find; you can get a one-year subscription for one machine for $69; or a one-year subscription for six machines for $99.

The G Suite is free. Yes, you saw that right...F-R-E-E, free.

The second difference is power. The Microsoft product is really powerful. A lot of people accuse it of being “bloatware,” but that’s only because they’ve never needed some of those features that other users couldn’t live without. Microsoft tries to make it possible for you to do almost anything you’d want to do with its products (and that’s why you have to pay for it).

The G Suite is what I call an “80/80” package. It doesn’t try to do everything, but it lets you do 80 percent of what 80 percent of the people want to do. And by the way, because it’s only an 80/80 package, the user interface is simpler. It actually reminds me of older versions of Office.

The third difference is how you work. The Microsoft product works right on your computer, right on the hard drive. You don’t need an internet connection. So if you’ve got a laptop and the power goes out, taking your internet connection with it, you can just keep on working, because everything’s stored locally. Of course, if your laptop crashes and burns, and you don’t have a backup, you’re in deep trouble.

With the G Suite, everything’s online. Everything’s on your Google Drive, on their servers. Nothing's on your machine, and you need an internet connection in order to do anything. On the one hand, that’s bad if your power goes out, because there goes your internet too. On the other hand, because all your work is stored on their servers, you don’t have to worry about anything happening to your machine. It can get hit by a truck, and all you have to do is sign on to your account from another machine to be back in business.

Oh...and the G Suite apps can save documents in Microsoft formats if you want to download them to your local drive or email them to someone else.

Both of them have mobile apps available to use on both Apple and Android devices.

So which is the right one for you? It depends. If you’re used to the Microsoft products, and are used to the power they give you, or need to be able to work without internet access, then spend the money for a subscription to Microsoft 365. $99 a year may seem like a lot, but I looked at it in terms of food, and that works out to 27¢ a day. I spend more than that on potato chips.

On the other hand, if you don’t need the power that Microsoft gives you, figure that you’re only an 80/80 user, and will almost always have internet access, then go for the G Suite. After all, it’s free, and if you decide you need more power and more features, you can always buy into Microsoft’s product later.

On the third hand...because I’m a mutant, maybe you want both. I’ve got a lot of documents that need the precision that Microsoft Word gives me...especially when it comes to resizing and aligning pictures in the family newsletter. But I also have documents that don’t need anywhere near that level of precision, that I want to be able to work on from any internet-connected computer in the world; or that I want to share with others.

Oh...and despite the fact that out of the metaphorical box, the G Suite apps aren’t as powerful as Microsoft’s, there are also online add-ons you can get. I use one of them with Google Sheets and Gmail to send out the family newsletter.

And speaking of the family newsletter, I should probably get to work on that right now.

But definitely take a look at the G Suite. It might just be all you need!