Thoughts on Office365 vs Google Apps (a followup)

Here is a followup, if you are interested in using Office365 more.

I confirmed that I can open and edit the same Excel file on two devices at the same time (my Mac and my iPad) if I just use the web ( and close the file in the native Excel app on my Mac first.

If I have the file open in Excel on my Mac though it locks it and cannot be edited in the web or on my iPad, as reported in my original post.

So the secret of getting it to work “sort of like Google apps” is to completely stop using the native app it seems.

Synchronizing is much slower though. In Google apps you can literally see what cell the other user is in and get updates in real-time. In Excel via the web and the iPad, you can’t see what cell the other user is in, and while it does sync, it takes 30-60 seconds for the sync to come through.

I don’t know which is better as far as features or UI via the web at this point. Excel via the web does have some things that Google Sheets does not have. For example you can drag to select cells, and the file does open at the last row you were at. Those are pluses.

Also, with OneDrive and Office365 you have your actual files synced to your computer. With Google Apps you don’t.

Anyway, it does seem if you are careful not to leave your OneDrive documents open in the native app it does work. However if you leave it open in the native app you can only view on the other devices, not edit.

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 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.