Google Docs vs Microsoft Word – What are the differences?

Have you ever wondered what the differences were between Google Docs and Microsoft Word? While both word processors may look similar at first glance, they are actually different in many ways.

In this article, I want to point out the key differences to help you decide which option is best for you.

Functionality – Microsoft Word wins

Since Microsoft Word has been around longer than Google Docs, Microsoft has had more time to bundle features and build a stronger piece of software. It’s safe to say that Microsoft Word is easily the most advanced option when it comes to functionality.

That doesn’t make Google Docs useless, though. In fact, Microsoft Word only really comes to the fore here if you can actually make use of more advanced functionality.

For 90% of users, Google Docs word processing capabilities are more than adequate. But for some, the advanced features of Microsoft Word will be important. Word’s advanced features focus on better table formatting and controls, more control over text styles, and better graphics and image implementation.

Page numbering and organizing your document is also much easier in Microsoft Word. You also get much more powerful templates, which can speed up your work depending on what you’re using Word for. Finally, simple things across the board, like lists and bullet points, are better in Word.

When using this functionality in Docs, you sometimes encounter minor issues that include adding line breaks, removing bullets, or losing formatting.

Collaboration – Google Docs wins

Microsoft Word and Google Docs both have collaboration features as Microsoft 365 brings Word to the cloud. However, Google Docs wins in this category for a number of reasons.

First, with the Google Docs built into Drive, it becomes very easy to see what files you have shared and also to easily navigate to the files that have been shared with you.

Sharing is as easy as clicking FilePart and create a link. Alternatively, you can also send individual emails. The beauty of the sharing functionality in Google Docs is that you can easily control who can edit the document, who can view it, and who can comment on it. In fact, this makes Google Docs a great platform for creating public documents that you can let the world view and download.

Microsoft also has collaboration – just click the Part button in the top right corner. From there, you can save to OneDrive and then add the names of the people you want to share with. Unlike Docs, you are forced to send the document to specific people, so giving it access to a large open audience becomes more challenging.

You can track changes made by any author in Word and review those changes before they go to the final version, and you can also add comments to documents.

All this functionality is available in Google Docs and Google Docs also has a very powerful timeline feature that shows all the past edits and who made the edits. At any time, you can click to revert to an old version of the document, or simply preview the old version to compare the changes.

Cloud and Sync – Google Docs

Both Microsoft Word and Google Docs now offer some great cloud capabilities. You must be an Office 365 subscriber to access, edit, and automatically sync your files online with Microsoft Word. Otherwise, you need to set up a OneDrive backup with your Microsoft Office 2019 files.

With Google Docs is automatically saved in the cloud. In fact, every time you make a change, your document is saved, so you never have to worry about hitting the save button.

In addition, you can view and review all of your changes from now to when you started your document by clicking the “all changes saved to Drive” text at the top of the page.

For storage limits, Microsoft Word wins if you have Office 365, but if you don’t, Google Drive gives you more free space than OneNote. Fortunately, both Word and Google Docs are accessible on all major platforms, including Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and the web.

In summary, Google Docs and Microsoft Word are very close in this section, but Google Docs is only slightly ahead thanks to its great autosave feature.

Offline Access – Microsoft Word Wins

Microsoft Word is without a doubt the best option for those who need a document processor with offline access. With Microsoft Word, be it from Office 2019 or Office 365, you can easily create new offline documents and once you are online, they can be uploaded to the cloud.

You will not lose any functionality when Microsoft Word goes offline, although co-authoring will not be available. On the other hand, Google Docs is more limited when it comes to offline functionality.

Google Docs doesn’t really have offline functionality by default. However, you can add offline functionality with the Google Docs Offline Chrome Extension† Once installed, you can enable ‘offline’ mode from the settings menu on Google Drive.

For the most part, this extension will then allow you to access and edit your files while offline, but the extension is not without its problems. Many reviews suggest problems with the extension and claim that the software does not work or only works sometimes.

I can’t recommend Google Docs for offline use when Microsoft Word is built from scratch to be an offline word processor.

Formatting – Microsoft Word Wins

Microsoft Word wins hands down in the formatting game. It’s much easier to create unique text formatting rules in Microsoft Word than in Google Docs. In fact, I’d say that Google really needs to work on their formatting as it has some issues at the moment.

When you attach images, tables, or spreadsheets, you can’t be sure that the file will be formatted the same way it would be opened in a third-party document processor. Microsoft Word does not have this problem.

Availability – Google Docs wins

In this category, Google Docs wins easily because you just can’t beat it. Essentially, Google Docs is a slightly less versatile word processor, but when you consider that it’s completely free, it more than makes up for it.

Microsoft Word, on the other hand, is not free. You must either pay monthly for an Office 365 subscription or pay once for the full Microsoft Office 2019 suite.

Overview

Google Docs and Microsoft Word are neck and neck, but in many areas Microsoft Word is just ahead of the curve. If you need the extra functionality and formatting power of Word and don’t mind paying for it, we recommend it.

If you just need a word processor with basic functionality, you should be happy with Google Docs. Enjoying!

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