February 20, 2013, 4:22 PM — The war between Google and Microsoft is heating up. Each tech giant offers a productivity suite serving the essentials for serious work online: word processing, spreadsheets, email, and calendars. Should you ally with Google Apps for Business, or root for Microsoft's Office 365 for Small Business?
My experience with both brands' productivity tools reflects the workflows many small businesses face. In 2007, with staff scattered across several countries, my editorial company started using Google Apps for Business. It offered email, plus shared text documents and spreadsheets all under our company domain name and logo. Meanwhile, on the desktop, we used Microsoft Word and Excel, particularly for complex documents that we shared with clients.
If we were starting over today, we would seriously consider Microsoft's Office 365 for Small Business. For years Microsoft wasn't putting significant functionality online, but next week's release of Office 365 Small Business Premium is a big step forward.
Google and Microsoft each allow personal and business use of their online platform, as well as simultaneous logins to multiple accounts in different browser tabs. Beyond that, however, their platforms differ greatly in usability, functionality, and mobile support. Read on to discover the standout features and surprising weak points of each.
Word processing and collaboration
\Google's word processor offers more features than Microsoft's Word Web App, and they work extremely well. Google's word processor can't create an index, but it has all the standard formatting, as well as hundreds of fonts. If I have a document pulled up in my browser while someone else is editing it on, say, their smartphone, I see the changes as they are typing them, letter by letter.
Google's word processor is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get app--unlike Microsoft's Word Web app. The way a document looks onscreen is the way it will look when downloaded to your PC as a Word or PDF file, when printed, or when published as a Web page.
Critically important: Google saves your documents automatically. Back in the old days--2008, say--you might lose all your work at any moment. Today, changes are saved instantaneously, and if you lose Internet connectivity, you're alerted immediately.