Microsoft Office used to be the only office software that mattered (at least in the business world). Now, Microsoft is working to sideline its traditional office software in favour of its cloud-orientated counterpart Microsoft 365. That in turn is facing
serious competition from Google Workspace.
If you’re choosing between them, this is what you need to know.
Security and privacy
This is baked into both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. The exact security options you get depend on your price plan. This is because they reflect the anticipated needs of users on that price plan. For example, people on higher-grade price plans are
likely to have more users and hence need more robust user-management tools. Both options are also GDPR compliant.
The pricing structure
Both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are delivered as services rather than one-time purchases. This means that you pay recurring fees. These are based on the number of users you have and the services you require.
The details of what’s included in each package can and do change, albeit not very often. If a change to your package does put you at a disadvantage, then you can switch to the other. Technically, this is not particularly difficult. With that said, it’s not
something you want to do regularly either. You would, however, need to think about the impact on the user experience.
How the services are accessed
Microsoft 365 is still based on a desktop client. This can be installed on devices running current versions of Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. It also has a web interface that can be accessed through all current browsers. At present, however, the functionality
of the online apps is more limited than the functionality of the desktop client.
Google Workspace, by contrast, is web-based by default. This means that it works on any device that can run a browser and go online. If you want to work offline, you can do so on Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. You can also install local clients on Android
and iOS devices.
The core functionality
At a high level, Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are effectively identical. Microsoft set the standard for office software. Google simply replicated it. For example, Microsoft has Word, Google has Docs. Microsoft has Excel, Google has Sheets. Microsoft
has PowerPoint, Google has Slides and so on.
Once you go more in-depth, however, you will notice differences between the two offerings. These differences typically reflect the fact that Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace have different priorities. Microsoft 365 typically prioritises functionality over
ease of use. Google Workspace does the opposite.
Microsoft Outlook versus Google Gmail
This is one area where the functionality of the two options is virtually identical. There is, however, one key difference between them. Outlook supports folders. Gmail doesn’t. What’s more, it’s probably not going to. This was not an oversight. It was a
design decision Google made at the launch of Gmail.
The decision not to support folders was controversial at the time. Even now, there are people who don’t like it and hence prefer Outlook (and alternatives such as Thunderbird). Overall, however, Google seems to have made its point. Its labelling system is
essentially the equivalent of the hashtags that now rule the internet.
Outlook and Gmail have very different interfaces and hence a very different look and feel. Arguably, neither is better than the other. Which one you prefer depends on your personal taste. Gmail integrates natively with Android devices and Chromebooks. Both
Outlook and Gmail can, however, be used on a range of devices, including iOS ones.
Outlook Calendar versus Google Calendar
In terms of functionality, both options are more or less the same. They simply use different terminology. There is, however, one, potentially, important difference. Google Calendar offers much more granular sharing and viewing permissions than Outlook Calendar.
This makes it a lot easier to adjust ownership of participation in and attendance at events.
Also, the fact that Google Calendar integrates natively with Android and ChromeOS does, arguably give it an edge. Android devices are already widely used in business. Chromebooks are steadily growing in popularity.
Microsoft Word versus Google Docs
It’s probably fair to describe Word as a slimmed-down, more user-friendly version of Microsoft Publisher. If you regularly need to create documents that impress, Word makes the process relatively easy.
Google Docs has a much more limited set of creative tools. This does, however, give it a simpler, cleaner interface and hence makes it easier to use. Google Docs also has much better support for collaborative working than Microsoft Word currently does.
For completeness, if you only have an occasional need to produce richly-formatted documents, you might want to consider using Google Docs plus Canva. Canva is available in both free and chargeable versions. Even the free version has a lot of functionality.
Microsoft Excel versus Google Sheets
At present, heavy-duty users will almost certainly see Microsoft Excel as the only feasible option. What’s more, this seems unlikely to change. Microsoft Excel is very much geared towards power users such as financial professionals. It is notoriously difficult
for everybody else.
Google Sheets is the opposite. It is designed to be a simple tool for regular people to create simple spreadsheets. It’s also designed to support collaborative working. That means Google Sheets is great if you’re using spreadsheets for tracking rather than
calculation. Users can access and update them easily and hence quickly.
Microsoft PowerPoint versus Google Slides
If your idea of a great presentation is multimedia and transitions, then Microsoft PowerPoint is probably the tool for you. It makes adding charts, graphs, tables and whatever else much easier than it is with Google Slides.
On the other hand, presenters emphasising impressive visuals over meaningful content is part of the reason why the phrase “death by PowerPoint” was coined. The fact that Google Slides has more limited options for visuals could potentially be considered a
Firstly, it means that Google Slides is easier to learn. Secondly, it encourages presenters to focus on their core message and their own presentation skills. As a bonus, Google Slides is much more geared towards collaborative working than Microsoft PowerPoint.