I am confronted with this question quite often while conducting Office Efficiency sessions.
In spite of writing 716 blog posts as on date, I have not covered this topic – intentionally. Why not? Because if you actually compare the products, concluding that Microsoft Office (and Office 365) is better is a no-brainer.
Problem: There seems to be a lot of confusion and ambiguity in the minds of decision makers, users and IT professionals about this issue.
Solution: Let us compare some features and try to reach a conclusion.
Don’t worry too much about the content of this visual. I just tried to make it look like a poster with lot of filler text.
Example: Typing a document
In order to be fair, I am taking an activity which is universally applicable. It is not some arcane and sophisticated feature which a small subset of user population uses occasionally. What can be more common than typing? So let us start with this and compare the features.
Typing with styles
Word offers many styles. But for base document creation there are 9 styles – Heading 1, 2, 3 and so on.
- Once styles are applied, a Navigation pane is available for quickly moving from one place to another.
- It also helps you reorganize the document by simple drag drop operation.
- Multi-level numbering is also available in few clicks. It is completely customizable.
- Table of Contents can be created in few clicks as well.
- The styles can be customized (without any programming or third-party intervention) to match the corporate branding guidelines of your company.
- Custom Styles are easy to create and manage.
- Once created, a base template using corporate styles can be deployed across the organization using AD and Group Policy (along with SharePoint, if required).
- In order to enforce corporate branding, users can be made to use only the approved styles for formal documents.
- Google offers only 3 styles. No customization is possible. Three levels of depth is grossly inadequate even for a student level project report.
Another example: Copy Paste
Again a very common feature used by EVERYONE.
Text with different formatting is pasted. Left side is Google docs.
Microsoft Word knows what are the common variations people will want and provides all those options in a smart menu which appears automatically when needed. Here we have to choose the last option Keep text only. These options change automatically depending upon the source, destination and clipboard content.
In case of Google Docs, the text has to be manually formatted to make it look like the surroundings. Additional manual work – repeatedly. Obviously, this is inefficient.
If you end up choosing the same option Keep Text Only again and again, you can even change the default behavior of Word using Set Default Paste… In addition, Paste Special offers a large number of options including Paste Link which is extremely useful and versatile.
Wait. There is more…
There is more to Copy Paste than what we just saw.
In fact I have written 21 articles about Copy Paste – and I am still not finished!
Even though you are convinced that you already know how to Copy Paste,
take few minutes and read a couple of these articles.
There is even more. Eliminating Copy Paste!
Ad-hoc copy paste is necessary. No doubt about that.
However, .,,,,,another common reason we copy something and paste it somewhere else is because we want to REUSE that thing: paragraph, table, header/footer, cover page, textbox, etc.
Microsoft Word offers a revolutionary method of managing reuse of content called
Quick Parts (or Building Blocks). Have a look and you will be amazed.
And of course, there is the good old AutoCorrect which automatically corrects typing mistakes. Try typing wuold and notice that Office automatically changes it to would.
Did you know that Microsoft Office automatically corrects 2400+ commonly misspelt or mistyped words across 80+ languages.
In the context of these two features, MS Office is eminently better than Google Docs.
Wrong! Not so soon. There is one more thing to be noticed.
What percentage of users are using these impressive features of MS Word?
The answer is: a depressingly low percentage!
Many of us are aware of this underutilization. Do we think about it?
Pseudo-justification: “I only need these features”
We tell ourselves (and others) that we are utilizing a small set of features because we need only those features. Those other features are too advanced for me.
In reality, you have absolutely no clue what those “advanced” features are. So you have no right to comment on their usefulness or otherwise.
You are making an authoritative judgment which is based upon ignorance.
Secondary problem: Flaw in comparison methodology
Usually, while comparing product features an existence check is done.
Nobody has time to go deeper into the feature on each platform.
Therefore, the comparison is essentially a spreadsheet with three columns like this:
The spreadsheet itself may have been downloaded from some site or
provided by the vendor.
I call this False sense of equality.
Depth of design and feature maturity is rarely compared
This leads to statements like “both platforms have most commonly used, basic or fundamental features”, “the feature set is comparable”, “a regular user will find all the commonly required tools in both platforms”.
Why do we indulge in such an inadequate and misleading comparison?
Now you know the reason. Those comparing the features themselves are using a small sub-set of available MS Office features. Their mindset is exactly the same as described above.
Extent of underutilization
Here is a comparison: Out of around 12,000 + features available in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote, only about 120 are used per user. Yes of course there is some variation in the exact feature set from person to person.
However, the remaining 99.9% features are never looked at seriously. That is the reality.
Whatever features I want are available in Google Docs
Finally we reach this conclusion. Probably Google did a survey as to what most users want and they created those features. Sounds like a fair approach.
Why does Microsoft add those 99.9% features?
Yes, even if we take into account of person specific variability in feature set, a vast majority of features are not even known to a vast majority of users.
The real question is – why is Microsoft adding so many features which nobody wants and nobody is noticing?
The answer is simple. Microsoft does not just give you features you WANT. That is not enough. You yourself may not know what you want or what exactly you want. Therefore, Microsoft goes BEYOND delivering what you want.
Microsoft Office is designed to provide features that the world NEEDS. Users don’t even have a clue as to what they need. Because they have not analyzed their work and thought seriously or deeply about their method of getting the work done. Microsoft has!
Need vs. Want
That brings us to the another conclusion.
Microsoft provides what users NEED and others provide what users WANT.
It is called User Focus. If you are a software developer, you know that every feature originates from a use case. Use cases originate from users. Developers analyze what users need and provide solutions. Microsoft has been doing this for decades.
On the other hand, other products which are compared with MS Office are just focusing on what unsuspecting and ignorant users seem to want and providing those features.
Ignorance based comparison
Consider this… MS Office has 12000 features, Google Docs has, say, 2000 features.
These numbers are gross approximations.
Don’t get worried about exact numbers. I am discussing a different issue here.
The issue is, as a user I am using only 50-200 features. To make matters worse, the features that are used are – more often than not – misused!
Under such circumstances, feature based comparison does not sound like the right way to approach the problem. We have to rethink on a completely different level.
Well, this article has already become lengthy. But there are more issues to be discussed. I will cover these in separate articles.
- As a typical user – “Do I really care?”
- What about the cost difference?
- Why am I paying for something which I am not using?
- How do we maximize the ROI of investments?
- Why do users not end up using features which may actually be useful to them?
- How should technical comparison be conducted in a thorough and fair manner?
- Who is comparing? Who is paying for it? Who is using? Is there a disconnect?
All articles in this series are listed here:
Knowledge Pack: Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office 365
Your comments please…
If you have any queries, comments or suggestions, feel free to post comments here.