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For a while there, I was truly, madly, deeply in love with Google's products. They could do no wrong. Gmail? Brilliant. Google Apps? Yes, please. Google Docs' collaborative editing? Oh yeah! Android OS and Nexus devices? But of course.
But the world wasn't with me. Google Docs, while used by a significant number of teams for project management or quick collaborative edits, hasn't become the full-fledged Word replacement that many of us hoped for. Have you ever tried to create legal briefs, motions, and memos in Google Docs? It's not easy.
Plus, Google Docs seems to have languished. When was the last time it was updated with new or improved features? In general, Google seems to have product ADD - release a couple versions, get bored, move on.
Apparently, along the way, Microsoft released free Office Web Apps. When? Not sure. Most law offices were using the desktop version of Office. Anyone using a browser-based word processor was probably tinkering with Google Docs, despite its limitations.
Think regular Office without all of the features that you don't actually use. This post was written in Word's Web counterpart and spell check, word count, and the basic formatting options are all available. We were left with similar favorable impressions after toying with web versions of PowerPoint and Excel.
And when it comes to Google Docs' one defining feature, collaborative editing, they are supposedly no longer alone. The difference between Google's multi-user editing and Microsoft's version is that Microsoft supposedly locks a paragraph when it is being editing by one user, while Google allows collaborative editing by the letter (two people can edit one word at the same time).
You know what that means? Time for a test.
I typed "TEST THIS MOTHA[expletive] OUT!"
My coworker typed "Epic word battle!"
I hit save. So did she.
Neither of us saw the other's edits.
Until she was presented with the following message:
"Sorry. This document can't be saved because some of your changes conflict with changes made by someone else."
She was then presented with a choice: her paragraph edits or mine.
Of course, after she quit, the paragraph locked and was uneditable -- even though she had signed out. I couldn't edit my own paragraph. Damn you, Redmond. Damn you.
If you ignore functioning collaborative editing, Microsoft's Office Web Apps are by far the better choice. The apps' interfaces are familiar, yet simplified. However, if you are still the type of team player who likes to edit documents simultaneously with other users, beware: Word's Web App will likely have a mild stroke.