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Microsoft Office vs. Open Office vs. Google Drive

Small businesses and individuals who wanted a spreadsheet, presentation, and word-processing package once had one option: Microsoft Office. But now, Apache Open Office has become a viable open-source option, and Google Docs is gaining in popularity.


One key, underlying difference between Microsoft Office and Open Office is that Microsoft office is produced by a for-profit company that uses some of its revenue for research and development.

Open Office is open-source software. It was developed collaboratively by mostly volunteers, and is free to use. Other factors:

    • The code for open source goes beyond a company’s reach

    • The code for open-source software can be used for whatever you like

    • It costs nothing to use open-source applications

    • Open standards are used by open source

    • With commercially licensed software, there is a company behind the code for support

  • It costs nothing to update open-source applications

Google Docs is classified as freeware. It’s a web-based office suite and part of Google Drive. Users can make and alter documents online, and the interface has collaborative properties, too. Tonic Systems developed a presentation program for Google Docs, incorporating Writely and Spreadsheets.

User interface

Microsoft Office’s popularity makes it the default for many users. But, with a few upgrades, the interface has changes so much that its use required some training. Open Office’s appearance remains basic, while more sophisticated operations have been added to keep it relevant and competitive.

Google has a collection of apps and programs that modify and customize Google Docs.

All work well with any computer purchased in the past 10 years. They’re all MAC compatible. For older computers, Open Office is the better choice, because Office is supported only on computers with minimum specs of Pentium 700MHz with 513 MB of RAM, and requires at least Windows 7.

Microsoft Office’s support blows Open Office out of the water. It offers dozens of books, Microsoft licensed support providers, sites offering guides for configuring, using, and modifying Office software, professional call centers, and official support directly from Microsoft.

Open Office has discussion forums and documentation projects driven by the community.

Google support is comprehensive and top-notch for its programs, and getting help for Google Docs issues is no exception. The program’s help page contains step-by-step guides, policy guidelines, troubleshooting options and a contact us link.

Sharing documents

All these software packages offer the ability to share documents you’re working on, an important element, as offices become more collaborative. But it is easier with Google Docs and Open Office, because of the open standards of their files.

With Microsoft Office, it might be hard for most users to switch between the .doc and .docx files or .xls and .xlsx.

To solve this, Microsoft introduced SkyDrive, which allows online collaboration using Microsoft’s online server. They’ve also integrated these ideas with Facebook for collaboration through that social-media site. Open Office has nothing like this.

Google Docs, Microsoft Office and Open Office are as secure as the user wants them to be. If you maintain antivirus protection, install patches and updates as soon as they’re available, maintain antispyware, and keep firewalls in place; you’ll be fine.


There’s no cut and dry answer to which software package is better for you or your business. The answer will be different depending on your needs. If you’re able to get free or donated Microsoft Office licenses, that is probably your best option for the support and security.

But, if you’re using a computer with an older operating system, Open Office is the no brainer. And your budget should also play into your decision. There are a variety of ways to get discounted Microsoft Office. Contact Microsoft for these options.

Google Docs’ ability to work with other Google programs, and its ease of access, make it a great option, too. Some users are concerned over Google’s practice of saving users’ online searches, though.

Now that Docs is no longer Google’s default storage program, too, Google Docs is developing into an even more intuitive, collaborative and powerful tool.

Alexis Caffrey is a freelance writer with a focus on technology, new media, and design. In a former life, she was a graphic designer based out of New York, NY. As a freelancer, she works from home and makes use of the cloud every day. You can reach Alex via her email.

Photo:  Ethan R  via  Compfight

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