Google Drive and Google Apps vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office 365 – revisited

I ran into an issue using Google Docs for my week class presentations.

First, the web interface is incredibly confusing and awkward to use. I’m forever being bounced into the Docs section when I just want to go back to the Google Drive itself and see the folder/file hierarchy. And I find it hard to figure out where I’m at in the Google Docs hierarchy.

So instead of doing this via the web, I tried using the Google Drive folder on my Mac (conceptually like DropBox) for organizing folder and files. It was then I ran into a weird – possibly showstopper – oddity.

Very often I will duplicate a Doc to use as a template for the next class presentation. Then I’ll move it into a new folder and rename it. I think that’s a pretty typical thing to do.

This works ok in Google Drive on the web (if you can stand all the tabs that open and not exactly knowing where you are at any given time).

But if you duplicate a Google Doc on your Mac in the finder (Command+D) it doesn’t create a separate file. It creates a shortcut to the original file!

It even warns you that if you move the shortcut that if you later delete the original file you’ll lose the contents.

That is incredibly clumsy I think. People want to duplicate and rename files all the time. Why should we have to go to the web and do it?

So I was back to OneDrive, which comes with 1TB of space with Office365. The same problem doesn’t exist with OneDrive. If you duplicate a file in the Mac Finder you get a whole separate file and can move it around and edit it without affecting the original file.

The downside of OneDrive compared to Google Drive seems to be that sync doesn’t appear instantly across devices.

With Google Drive, any time you edit a file on any of your devices – Mac, iPad, etc. – the changes magically appear on all the devices. It’s quite cool to watch.

But with OneDrive, on the Mac side, you have to close and reopen the file to see changes. And on the iPad and iPhone, I was just experimenting, and it seems you can pull-down to resync, which is “ok I guess,” but it doesn’t “magically resync” like with Google Docs.

I’m trying to decide which to go with going forward for class presentations.

Another advantage of Office365 with OneDrive is that on your Mac you have actual, real files instead of pointers to documents in the cloud only accessible via your browser, such as Chrome.

In other words, there are no true “Google Docs apps” for your computer. It’s all browser based. But for Office365 you get actual, real, native Word, Excel, etc. apps.

Come to think of it, that probably explains why, when you duplicate a Google Doc on your Mac, you end up with a shortcut instead of a real file. There is no “real file” there at all.

Tech Note: Google Apps and Google Drive vs Microsoft Office and OneDrive syncing

Just an update of Google Apps vs Microsoft Office on OneDrive –

There are a few nuisances with Google Apps, such as it not recognizing the iOS keyboard Control-Shift shortcut to switch between languages, and no laser pointer in the iOS version of Slides. But when it comes to syncing, Google Apps (Docs and Slides) and Google Drive is a whole different world from Microsoft Office (Word and PowerPoint) and OneDrive.

In Office, with documents syncing through OneDrive, you don’t see the synced changes on either the Mac or the iPad side until you “save” the document. Then syncs are brought in from the iPad and syncs are sent to the iPad (after a bit of time). In other words, there is no real-time collaborative editing of documents. That surprises me. I did a Microsoft Support chat just before, and that was the Microsoft tech person’s opinion as well.

On the other hand, with Google Apps on Google Drive, if you have a file (Docs, Slides) open on the iPad and the Mac at the same time it’s a real-time change that occurs. You can even select text on one device and instantly see it selected on the other device. Very cool! All changes are mirrored instantly on both devices.

Google Apps is a clear winner here on that point. That plus the fact that you can edit for free on all devices (which you can’t do with Office) makes Google Apps the obvious choice to use for class presentations, and for students to learn these basic apps.

Tech note: Google Drive and Apps vs DropBox vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office

I found this article interesting and useful (

One error was that the author says the free 15 GB of Google Drive space is also used by Mail and Google Photos. If you use the default high-quality optimized photos option then Google Photos is unlimited and doesn’t eat up your Google Drive space.

I did finally buy a yearly 100 GB Google Drive subscription recently, because decades of email had finally reached 15 GB. That’s only $20/year.

Currently I pay for that, $100/year for 1 TB of DropBox space and $70/year for Office365, which includes 1 TB of OneDrive space.

I don’t find the OneDrive space that useful because of file size limits and things break when folder or filenames are in Japanese. That doesn’t happen with DropBox. So I find I’m not really taking advantage of the included OneDrive space.

I find the DropBox syncing speeds generally faster, and find it easy to use and share different DropBox folder with different friends and clients. It has been very reliable. I would hate to give that up. DropBox doesn’t really have “apps” so DropBox is just my go-to solution for file syncing and sharing.

I’ve been playing more with Google apps the last few days and have been impressed with how well they work for a browser-based solution. It’s pretty cool. I can actually watch myself select text on my Mac and see it selected at the same time on my iPad. It’s eerily fast considering that it does this via the cloud. I can move lines around on my Mac and see them move at the exact same time on my iPad. And vice versa. Same with my iPhone. My impression was that this is faster than with Office apps.

Of course with Office365 you get the actual desktop clients to work with. It seems those are generally easier to use on my Mac than doing things in the Chrome browser interface. While I’m impressed with how well the web interface does work, there are also web-based limitations and awkwardness in the UI that you don’t see in the Office apps on your desktop. Still, the web-based apps work surprising well.

So right now I’m paying a total of $190/year for 1 TB of DropBox, 100 GB of Google Drive and 1 TB of OneDrive bundled with Office365.

Note: I have an old “grandfathered-in” Google Suite account for my personal domain and company domain, so those accounts remain free for up to 50 users in each domain.

It’s not bad in total, but I feel I get the least use out of OneDrive.

I have a question I’m pondering right now. I teach a volunteer class in computer skills for seniors and disabled people on Sundays. I’d like a free solution for them. I am debating whether to start the students with Google Drive plus Google Apps, or OneDrive plus I’m leaning towards Google because (1) there is more free space; (2) many people already have a Google account for email, YouTube, and Google Photos; and (3) it’s completely free.

I think is free for most iOS and Android devices, but not for the iPad Pro. I guess that would be the deal breaker for right there. Plus the limitations on free disk space.


Excel in Office 2016 is very buggy – so I installed Office 2011 and it is better – wondering why I upgraded from Office 2008 now

I had been an Office 2008 user. When Office 2016 came out I subscribed, deleted Office 2008 and installed Office 2016. But Excel in Office 2016 is very buggy!

For example:

  1. When editing text in a cell, the blinking vertical cursor input point is different from where text actually gets input, which makes editing difficult.
  2. When trying to format an entire column to “wrap text” it doesn’t work.
  3. When in a cell in one spreadsheet, if I use CMD-tab to switch apps and then CMD-tab to switch back I end up in a completely different spreadsheet in a different cell! This makes copy/pasting from another app very error-prone and time consuming.
  4. Large spreadsheets open up slowly.

So with Support’s help I installed Office 2011 side-by-side. I’ve never used Office 2011 before.

All the above-mentioned bugs don’t occur in Office 2011 (they didn’t in Office 2008 either).

Anyway, since both versions are installed and Office 2016 should get automatic updates I can check periodically to see if the new bugs introduced in Office 2016 are fixed.

But I have to admit I’m wondering why I upgraded at all at this point. The 1 TB OneDrive was one attraction, but the limitations (10 GB files so I can’t backup Parallels VMs, inability to sync certain folder hierarchies because OneDrive thinks there are strange characters in folder names) made that fairly useless to me as well.