As I was doing some research looking for the appropriate web-based tools to teach an English online class, I started to read about collaborative documents. Newbie as I am to these new Web 2.0 tools (yes, I’ve always been geeky, I know, but this course is a whole new chapter), I must admit I didn’t know much about this particular topic. So when I first used Google Docs, my reaction was something like: “ Woooow!!! This makes pen drives and even emails unnecessary when creating, editing and handling documents!!! How come the “World Domination Boys" at Microsoft didn’t come up with something like this?”
Well, turns out they did. And maybe you knew this already, but hey, it’s new to me so I decided to post about it. Why? In our local environment MS Office is much, much more used than any other Documents Suite (i.e. Open Office or again, Google Docs).

So it’s Google Docs vs. Office Live Workspaces, ladies and gentlemen! Pick a favorite!

Let’s take a closer look at some of their features, shall we?

·         Both OLW (Office Live Workspaces) and GD (Google Docs), as some of you already know, are free services for storing and sharing documents online. In order to use them, all you need is a Windows Live or Google account. You can access them wherever you are. You can edit them and save a copy on your computer for offline viewing or editing.

·         They both offer a limited storage capability. While OLW offers up to half a GB (500MB) total storage (about 1,000 regular size, average documents), GD does not disclose the specific space provided for users, although they state each user can have a total of 5,000 documents and presentations, 5,000 images, 1,000 spreadsheets, and 100 PDFs at one time. 

·         In regard to the size of individual documents, GD varies depending on the kind of document (text, spreadsheet or presentation) between 2.5 (for text documents, 500k plus 2 MB per image) and 10 MB (for online presentations). OLW allows for 25 MB per document, regardless of the type.

·         GD is completely web-based, this is, there’s no need to acquire any extra software to work offline. You can download a copy of the document you’re working on and open it while offline using any office suite. With OLW you need Microsoft Office in your computer, as this is the only way to open any document for offline work. Nevertheless, if we consider our local context I think it’s a safe assumption to say that 8 or 9 out of every 10 computers in Ecuador have MS Office installed; so this wouldn’t really be a problem.

·         GD allows users to collaboration and editing among users and non-users in real time. Documents can be shared, opened, and edited by multiple users at the same time (I must admit I haven’t tried this feature yet). An OLW document on the other hand, can be edited by only one used at a time. If more people attempts to do so at the same time, they will be notified that it is temporarily locked for editing.

·         You can organize your documents in folders , however OLW calls them “Workspaces” and doesn’t allow for subfolders, unlike GD.

·         GD can be accessed from web-enabled mobile phones; this cannot be done when using OLW.

·         One feature that I really like, unique from Google Docs, is the creation of a form from a spreadsheet, which can be shared via e-mail. When the receivers fill it out, they’re actually collaborating with the editing of the spreadsheet. This is a great way to save time (instead of sending copies of the spreadsheet and then compiling the data one by one). 

So? Which one is your pick? The one that offers freedom and independence from expensive software, plus integration with many other free, web based services? Or the one that allows for complete integration with the software that –most likely- is already installed in your computer, the one that uses the same format as the important documents you store in your hard drive?
Me, I’m still testing OLW (all I had to do was open the webpage and access it using my Hotmail user and password) which so far is decent competition for GD. Time and more practice will tell. How about you also try it and let me know?


4 Responses
  1. Justin Says:

    Very interesting post. All of this is news to me so I would be interested in seeing how you enjoy using the office suite for online collaboration.

  2. Cesar, I love your blog. It looks awesome. I like the design, the topics that you present, and they are all useful tips for us. Congratulations!

  3. As the wife of an Open Source Believer, I think it’s time to try new things, free things. So I would definitely use google docs. It saved my life when I had to turn in one assignment and the door of my house locked so I had to go to my mom’s house to continue working. :) Nice blog, I loved the pictures. Very funny :)

  4. Irma Illonka Says:

    I love the cup of coffee!!! it makes the reader more than welcome to your blog. It was a great idea. Regarding this "fight" I can not say much. I am still learning, surfing the net, discovering what is out there and of course taking risks to practice and finding out what they are and what they do.