Thoughts on Office 365 vs Google Apps…

I have an Office 365 subscription. It’s inexpensive – like $70/year, since I can get by with a personal subscription.

It sounds very attractive because the subscription includes the latest Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) for my Mac, plus an hour of free world-wide calling on Skype, plus 1 TB of OneDrive space.

But in practice, except for a few personal spreedsheets, I find I prefer Google Apps instead.

What’s good about Office 365 vs Google Apps:

1. The native Office apps have some nice features which aren’t implemented in the browser-based Google Apps on my Mac. For example, even something as simple as dragging over a selection of cells to select them all doesn’t work in Google Sheets. You have to manually enter the cell range for something like summing up numbers. That sort of thing is easier in Excel in the native app. Also, with Google Sheets there is no easy way to get back to the end of a long spreadsheet other than scroll down. It doesn’t remember where you were last. In Excel I don’t have that problem.

2. And, of course, with Office you always have the actual files on your computer. Unless you download files from Google apps your files are just in the cloud. That sort of concerns me. I don’t mind syncing, but I’d also like to have the actual files themselves locally on my Mac.

Problems with Office 365 include syncing for one thing. I was on a customer call with a client last night and we were both editing the same spreadsheet in Google Sheets. It’s like magic – you can see where the other person is editing and things are updated in real-time. You simply cannot do that with Office 365. It’s not supported on the Mac.

In fact, I can’t edit a spreadsheet in Excel on my Mac, that is stored on OneDrive, and then go to my iPad and open it up and edit it. It’s locked until I close the spreadsheet on my Mac! Very inconvenient!

With Word it’s almost as bad. You can open up the same file on your Mac and iPad and edit, but in order to see the changes you have to close the file and open it up again.

Meanwhile with Google Docs you see the same magical updating in real-time across all the devices.

I’ve also been disappointed with my experiment with OneNote. I have 1,000+ notes in 23 notebooks with multiple sections and pages. Searching via multiple devices just doesn’t work well. Finally I gave up and stuck with Evernote for that. Searching through all the notes in Evernote – even when the notes are in the cloud – while quirky and not perfect – works much better than trying to do the same thing with OneNote.

So in the end, I find no real use for the OneDrive space. And there are so many limitations there as well – such as file size limits, and problems with folders with Japanese names.

I keep wondering what the benefits are of keeping my Office365 subscription. I probably will keep it just for the convenience of having the native apps.

But Office365 cloud features are nothing to write home about.

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 Drive and Apps vs DropBox vs Microsoft OneDrive and Office

I found this article interesting and useful (https://www.cloudwards.net/dropbox-vs-google-drive-vs-onedrive).

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

 

Enjoying new iPad with keyboard case

Since I got my new iPad 5th generation in a trade-in with my carrier (traded in my old iPad Air, which itself was purchased used after selling my iPad 2 at an auction site) I find that I’ve been using it quite a lot. In fact, I’m using it to create this blog post.

Yesterday I brought just my iPad, and a tiny Bluetooth speaker for extra volume when playing songs for the class, to my weekly volunteer teaching at Hibikinokai. It worked great.

The Logicool keyboard case really makes a difference for productivity on the iPad, as opposed to mostly consuming media and checking email and Facebook.

The tablet features are great, and the keyboard just makes it easier to use for things like writing this blog post.

Some nice things about using the keyboard with the iPad include:

  • There is a special row of iOS keys, so you can easily go to the home screen, bring up your current open apps, do a search, switch languages, bring up the keyboard if you want to, control music, control speaker volume, lock the iPad and more.
  • You can use tab on the keyboard to go to the next field when filling out a form instead of tapping on the next field on the screen (which you can still do, of course – either way is fine).
  • Copy/pasting is easier because in addition to the “tap on screen” method you can use CMD+V on the keyboard. Similarly you can use CMD+L in Safari to go to the address field, CMD+A to select all text and CMD+Z to undo.
  • There is a cool Documents 6 app by Readle which essentially adds a Finder-like feature to the iPad. I understand a Finder-like feature will be standard in iOS 11 too. I used that for class by downloading some YouTube videos for class and keeping them local for playback.
  • The keyboard helps save space on the iPad screen, because when typing it’s not on-screen by default taking up screen space.

So it’s a convenient mix of keyboard and on-screen tapping tablet features.

The only problem I noticed is that when I go back to my MacBook Pro I find myself tapping on the screen now to do some things instead of moving the cursor and clicking!

Since this iPad is the wi-if plus cellular model, it’s also convenient outside. I even have a Terminal app running on it so I can connect to servers in case of a customer emergency.

Anyway, it’s quite fun. I think I’ve used my iPad this past week more than I have all my other iPads together over the past 5 years!

 

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