While there are many benefits to the Microsoft Office suite, there are also a number of alternatives – with Google Docs being at the forefront. Google Docs has the potential to be very helpful to you at University – and especially in group work! The most-used Microsoft Office programs are Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Google Docs offers a great alternative to each – called Docs, Slides and Sheets respectively. In this article, we take a look at Google Docs, and the benefits it can provide. Also, other alternatives to Microsoft Office will be discussed.
As mentioned, Google Docs provides a suite of three programs – Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets. All three are free, more details on that below. At first glance, you will see very little difference between the Microsoft programs and the Google alternatives. While Google may lack some of the functionality of the Microsoft programs, this is part-and-parcel of using a free product. Everything you need to complete your assignment will be there – and the formatting, functions and image options are all available. You can download Google documents too, and even save as a PDF – which can be very helpful.
Google Slides as well gives you all of the transition and animation options that PowerPoint so famously offers. While there isn’t such a great choice of themes or graphics, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the range of fonts and styles. Google Sheets offers a lot of functionality. For heavyweight users of Excel, a switch to Sheets will be arguably more difficult than the other two options. But in general, Google Docs provides a very solid package that includes many options to make your life at University easier!
Where to Access it
The great thing about Google Docs is that it is free. All you need is an internet connection and Google ID. When you are signed in to Google, clicking the square in the top right hand corner will provide you with a list of options. Somewhere the Google Docs logo will be there, and clicking on that will send you to the homepage. Switching between Docs, Slides and Sheets is easy – achieved by clicking on the left hand side of the program. When you want to open a document, you can either access it through your Google Drive (where all documents are backed up to), or when you navigate to Google Docs, your most recently used files will be there, ready for your perusal – not bad!
Where it helps
Google Docs can help in many ways at University. Perhaps the best thing is that your document is automatically backed up to Google Drive – eliminating the worry of having to constantly save your work. While the OneDrive can provide a similar feature – Google Docs backs up documents seamlessly. The second major area where it can benefit you is in teamwork! Multiple authors/users can write one document at the same time. So if you are working on a group assignment, the days of using email to send parts of it to group members is gone, now you can all do it together! While this will no doubt lead to some turf wars, it is mostly a positive thing! And to retain full control on the team, by clicking on ‘last edit’, you can see a list of who has contributed to what. Working as a team is easier than ever courtesy of Google docs! See an image below to see the interface.
Other Office Alternatives
Aside from Google Docs, there are some other options available. Microsoft Office Online offers a similar product to Google Docs, with collaboration and automatic cloud saving a part of the product. Only a small portion of functionality is lost and it is therefore a great option. Libre Office is another free alternative which offers a suite of office options. Finally, WPS Office is another alternative – also free – which like the other options covered in this section, offer strong functionality for its users.
This article has shown some of the positives regarding Google Docs. It is important to mention that Microsoft Office is a better all-round product. The intention of this article wasn’t to engage in an aggressive diatribe against Microsoft Office – it has been the market leader for decades, after all – instead, just to inform. If your budget allows Office to be purchased, then great – we firmly recommend going ahead. Otherwise, Google Docs, or a different alternative, should fill the void nicely. Happy word processing!
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