Trash Microsoft Word? I don’t think so

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I’ve been reading Jeff Utecht’s blog for over a year now (if you don’t read it you should). Jeff is a wealth of information and I find nearly every post insightful, informative, or thought provoking but sometimes Jeff misses it. In September he wrote a post entitled 10 Reasons to Trash Word for Google Docs. I was curious and read on but at the end of the post I didn’t see eye to eye with Jeff. I just plain disagree with him on this point. Read on past the break to see why I think Jeff is wrong.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a little while and was wondering how to address it. I’ve decided to address each one of Jeff’s points and go with it that way, so let’s get going

Reason #1 – No more corrupt files

Jeff is pretty much saying that your files will never become corrupted using Google Docs. I’ve used them but clearly not extensively so I though I’d do a little research and I came across this Google Help Forum about corrupted files. While it is probably true that Google Docs files may corrupt less often than Word files (I have no data to back this up) I haven’t had a corrupted file with Word since using Word 2003 and then it was very rare. So basically it is possible to have files corrupted on either platform and it seems quite rare, but to say that there will be no more corrupted files is a little misleading.

Reason #2 – No more corrupt USB keys

This is not really a weakness of Word, but Jeff makes a point. USB drives can be stolen, lost, broken, or stop working (I guess that’s broken). Anyway, Jeff make the assumption that saving your Word documents locally (your computer or USB) is the only way to save your Word documents but this is not true. With Word 2010 you can save directly to Microsoft’s SkyDrive online. Heck you can even save it on your computer and then upload to SugarSync, Dropbox, Box.net, Zoho and a bunch others. Heck (that’s right two in one paragraph) you can even download and install a plugin (created by Google) that lets you upload your Word documents directly to your Google Docs account. Here’s the link to the info and the plugin (PC only there is no Mac plugin and there probably won’t be).

Reason #3 – .doc .docx who cares!

This is a pretty good question and when Office 2007 came out it caused more than few inconveniences and headaches for people. But this format is now going on 4 years and Microsoft offers a free compatibility pack for you if you have an older version of Word. You can install it for Microsoft Word 2003 by following this link. So why did Microsoft make this move? Basically it is a more open format for developers, it’s more efficient, and if you want more info click on this article from Inc. Tech which explains it a bit better than myself.

So while Jeff again makes a good point, Microsoft’s reasoning is to improve the current format and they’re looking to the future which is not a bad thing.

Reason #4 – Work collaboratively

OK Jeff is right on the money here. While you can work collaboratively with Microsoft Office 2010, you need to be a part of a Microsoft SharePoint to work directly from Word. You can also work collaboratively through the OfficeLive on SkyDrive, but it is no where near as easy as Google Docs. Microsoft does offer collaborative working but it’s not as good as Google’s options.

Reason #5 – Share and share alike

Well, it is pretty easy to share with Microsoft Office. Again you can send it right to Microsoft SkyDrive and in doing so you can share it with others, give them permissions to view or edit. If you don’t want to do it that you can share it through one of the other online options (check reason #3).

Reason #6 – Export to PDF or Word no problem

I don’t quite understand this point. If you want a word document why not just use Microsoft Word? I think he is trying to say that Google Docs can handle many file types, but then again so can Microsoft Word. You can also save your Word document as a PDF right from Word. It is an option when you’re saving. If you can’t find that option or are working with Microsoft Office 2003 or earlier, just download and install CutePDF. It’s free and lets you “print” files into a PDF file. If you’re working on a Mac, saving as a PDF has been a feature in Microsoft Office since the 2004 version-maybe even earlier than that.

Reason #7 – Make it public

Again, the SkyDrive will can make it public so it’s pretty much a push here, though Google Docs does make it a little easier for you.

Reason #8 – Work from any computer with Internet access

Again, with Microsoft Skydrive, you can also edit and create documents from any computer with an Internet connection, but here’s the downside to that. If you use GoogleDocs and haven’t downloaded a copy to your computer and need to work, you need an Internet connection. Without that you are like a sailboat with no sails. You can’t really go anywhere. If you have a copy on your computer and Microsoft Word (or any stand-alone word processing program) you can continue to work.

Reason #9 – Work on the go

Jeff points to some very cool and useful apps you can download and install for Chrome (and Jeff is right about Chrome, if you’re not using it you should be). They allow you to work on your documents off line, and then syncs them when you have a connection again. Very handy indeed, then again, if you have Word (or any stand-alone word processing program) on your device, then you can work anywhere at anytime as long as you have power, so it is a push. If you want those apps for Chrome you can get them here.

Reason #10 – Because it’s the future

I don’t know about this. Using exclusive online word processing is not the future in my mind. What I do see as the future is people working offline, uploading and sharing through their word processing program and then collaborating in real time through these programs. I don’t see people going online to do their work for everything. I think people love having the ability to just power up their device, open a document and get working. They don’t want to have the hassle of opening a browser, navigating to Google Docs, logging in (unless you have Chrome that is) creating a new document, then getting to work. It seems backwards to me. I know there are people who try to use these online tools as much as possible, but I don’t think the masses will head that way.

Now that I’ve addressed Jeff’s 10 I’ve got a few reasons of my own why not to abandon Word.

1) Power

Google Docs is not as powerful as Word: plain and simple. It simply doesn’t have all the features and power that comes with Microsoft Word. Even Office 2003 is way more versatile than the current version of Google Docs. Templates (I know you can find many Google Docs templates online, but they’re not as good). Don’t believe just compare the resume templates on Word to those on Google Docs.

Also you can really format your Word document (special margins, styles for certain sections and as many fonts as you want to install). These options just are not available yet with Google Docs. Who knows if they will ever be available. Special characters, Word Art, fonts (I think I mentioned those), more options with images just to name some more).

2) Online

You don’t have to be, but you have the option to be! While you can work on your Google documents offline (using a great app from Chrome), what if you’re on your friend’s computer and they don’t have that app? What then? If you had a copy of it (physically) you can open it up on word. When you did get back to the old InterWeb you can then upload your changes to SkyDrive or one of the other cloud storage options (mentioned above). You have a choice in short.

3) Price

I know this point sounds like a losing one but think about it. You can use a free service that is nowhere near as powerful or versatile and learn how to work around its shortcomings, or you can purchase a program that will last the life of your computer that you can use anytime and be even more productive. To me it sounds like the price will be worth it and will pay itself off in time.

Wrapping it all up

Jeff makes some good points, but I don’t think it is the whole picture. If he wants you to ditch Word because there are cheaper and effective alternatives out there. I can get behind that though I still think Word is the best. Here are some free stand-alone options: Open Office, Libre Office, and Neo Office (Mac only) are all free office suites that can be installed on your machine. They work pretty well too. If Jeff is saying to ditch Microsoft Word and use a primarily online word processing program because it is as good as Word, then I can’t get behind that . . . at least not yet.

I like GoogleDocs and have used it in the past and will use it in the future (especially for collaboration), but I won’t ditch Word for it and can’t see myself doing it ever. Microsoft Word is the industry standard and has been for nearly two decades. Like Photoshop, Google’s search engine and Michael Jordan (I guess you could debate Michael but it’d be tough), these are the best of the best. Undisputed really, and Word is right there with them. It is what all other similar programs are measured against. Google Docs is not there-at least not yet. I look forward to the day that it rises to that rank, but I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, keep Microsoft Word (or whatever you use) on your machine. There’s no harm in doing so and when you fire that program up don’t feel guilty. Feel happy, you’re using a superior platform to be more productive. You’re not shunning technology or the advancement of it; you’re choosing something that is currently better. There’s no shame in that. That’s just a better decision.

About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
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3 Responses to Trash Microsoft Word? I don’t think so

  1. Pingback: GoogleDrive – Offline usage and better than ever | Technology in the Classroom

  2. i think its all preference on what people decide to use. Both are good programs with their own pros and cons. Google Doc is certainly starting its trend, but a majority of people nowadays would rather stick with Word.

    http://triviayourmind.wordpress.com/

    • Dear TYM,
      Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you but I just couldn’t recommend anyone throwing away such a good program like Word. I like Google Docs and I clearly prefer Word, but why not use both? If push comes to shove and you have to chose one (I don’t why this would ever be the case) then I would chose Word over Google Docs 10 out of 10 times. That’s just my opinion and what’s great about blogs is that people can come and discuss. Thanks again for stopping by and good luck with blogging 🙂

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