Do you have an important report to hand in at the office on Monday? Maybe homework to rush through before school tomorrow? Perhaps you just want to flex your creativity and write the next great novel. Whatever you want to do, you’ll need a word processing app to get the job done. If you’ve done some basic research on which program to choose, you’ve probably seen Google Docs and Microsoft Word at the top of most lists. But which should you choose? In my Google Docs vs Microsoft Word comparison I’ll help you decide.
In one way or another, these two services are the best word processing tools on the market. Whether you are a business owner or someone writing once a week in their bedroom, Microsoft Word and Google Docs will probably work well for you.
While both programs do much of the same things, there are some clear differences that are worth knowing about.
In this article, you can read about those differences, understand the different features between Google Docs vs Microsoft Word, and I’ll help you to decide which is the best tool for you.
When it comes to word processing, no name stands out like Microsoft Word. It has been around for decades as part of Microsoft’s amazing Office suite and is the gold standard in terms of basic writing tools. So much so, Word helped the world move away from the pen and paper, for better or worse.
Microsoft Word has become such a complete exercise in stellar word processing over the decades that all following rivals are simply offering riffs on the same theme. In other words, all of Microsoft’s rivals have largely copied Word, or at least what it does successfully. That’s why when you tap into Google Docs, you will instantly be familiar with the general idea behind the service.
Microsoft deserves a ton of credit for basically fine-tuning word processing. Google is essentially standing on the shoulders of giants. They have put enough of its own stamp on Docs to make it an interesting service in its own right. In fact, it has some features that make it stand out even against Microsoft Word.
Functionality – Word is Best
Word has been around for decades. Over the years, Microsoft has incrementally updated the program with more and more features. These days, Word is completely full of tools that have been honed for years. Microsoft Word is an ultra-functional app that’s fully innovative in terms of modern tech.
Google Docs is no slouch either, but when it comes to advanced features and controls, it does not match Word. For many users, that may not be a dealbreaker because most will only ever use the most basic of the word processing features.
Still, Word delivers more features. It has more:
- Text styles, more
- Formatting options,
- Better integration with graphics and images
- Simpler ways to organize your documents
- Can comfortably better templates
Collaboration – It’s a Draw
In terms of collaboration, both Microsoft Word and Google Docs have robust features in place, but also some glaring problems. Looking at the bigger picture, Docs offers more collaboration and at least more efficient collaboration.
Both services can function entirely in the cloud, allowing robust collaboration. Google Docs scores well because it is built directly into Google Drive, the company’s cloud storage and file sharing service.
Sharing files from Docs is just so easy and fast. Additionally, you can customize sharing options such as who can view and edit the document. It’s also great as part of a Google Workspace license, which will allow you to easily collaborate with your team – either in the office or as a distributed workforce a-la-pandemic.
Microsoft Word has solid sharing but more limitations. Sharing is slightly more time consuming because you must send to contacts individually. Docs allows you to send to a selection of contacts.
Both Word and Docs allow authors to revise changes and add comments, although Google’s app has a timeline tool. This is a nifty feature that allows you to see previous actions and edits easily.
Because Google Docs is entirely cloud-based, you also don’t have to worry about losing work. Microsoft’s service has tools built in to stop this from happening, but sometimes accidents can happen, and you lose content.
One area where Google struggles is in sharing on Drive. Recipients receiving documents must have a Google account to be able to edit a file they receive. Microsoft Word and OneDrive (the company’s cloud sharing service) has no such limitation.
Syncing and Cloud – Google Docs is Better
If you’re using Microsoft Word, you can access a breadth of cloud capabilities since the app became available in Office 365/Microsoft 365. For example, you can share, open, and edit files online, while the app automatically syncs across devices and platforms.
Despite that solid effort from Word, it’s hard to escape the fact Google Docs was built for the cloud and feels like it.
Docs is not an app that has been repurposed to work in the cloud. It was built from the ground up with cloud connectivity in mind.
Undoubtedly the biggest perk from this is the fact you never have to save your work. Most of us know the terrible moment you realize you’ve closed a Word document without backing up and forgot to save it. On Google Docs you will never need to worry about this as the app is always saving and always connected to the internet/cloud.
Docs also keeps a running history of any document you’re working on from the moment you create it. This means you can jump back to any previous state of the document by choosing the “all changes saved in Drive” option.
Offline Access – Microsoft Word Easily
Simply put, there is little competition in this area because Microsoft Words blows Google Docs out of the water. It is worth remembering Word was originally and offline app and remains so in many aspects today. You can work entirely offline and save documents to your PC or phone storage without ever needing to be connected.
There are no compromises and no lost features when you work offline in Word, although obviously you will not be able to perform sharing activities like co-authoring.
Google just cannot compete in this area because Docs was built as a cloud app, with always on connectivity. We have discussed the perks of this concept above, but it definitely hampers the offline experience. In fact, Google Docs barely has any offline functionality.
Google has made strides in this area by allowing users to create documents that will sync the next time they connect. However, it is only available in the company’s Chrome browser and honestly, the extension often crashes or otherwise doesn’t function properly.
Availability and Price – Google Docs Wins
Both Word and Docs are widely available across all your devices and across platforms. Whether its mobile, tablet, or PC, there are apps available for Windows, Android, Chrome OS, MacOS, Linux, iOS, and more.
Here’s the thing that makes Google Docs such a powerful tool… it is completely free. Of course, free does not always mean good and often means the opposite. However, in terms of Google Docs, free is excellent!
You are getting a fully-featured word processing tool that costs nothing.
Is it as feature rich and powerful as Microsoft Word? Probably not, but then you will have to pay to get the most out of Word. Microsoft does provide a free version, but all you can do is view documents and not edit them.
Google Docs vs Microsoft Word (the results are in)
Here’s the truth.
Neither of these apps are outright bad at any of the criteria above, or at anything at all really.
Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs are all-around excellent tools for word processing.
Choosing between them may be as simple as assessing your own needs, which could hinge on connectivity and availability.
That said, all things being equal, Microsoft Word remains the more robust of the two and still the best mainstream word processing tool available to businesses.
However, there’s no denying that as a free service for students, startups, and young professionals, Google Docs is just so hard to beat.
If you only write occasionally and have no interest in the other aspects of the Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs is the obvious choice.