I have just bought a new lap top and refused to pay for $200 plus for Microsoft Office. So I have been using Google Documents, and now Open Office for all my "office" work. Both systems are free and are worth considering if you do not want to buy into Microsoft Office. Jerry Brockmeier has written an in-depth comparison of the two systems "Small Business Software: OpenOffice.org vs. Google Docs". Here are some thoughts I have from my own personal experience.
1. How can I integrate Google Docs and Open Office with Microsoft Office?
The main concern I had about moving to Open Office was how I was going to manage the huge amount of work I have in Microsoft Office formats? And further more, how can I collaborate with people who are still using Microsoft?
The beauty about Google Docs and Open Office is that they convert Microsoft files into formats you can work on, and then convert them back to Microsoft. And I think (but don't quote me before I check this) that you can now save files in an Open Office format in Microsoft.
2. Google Docs and Open Office are integrated
The beauty of both products is that you can switch back and forth and save documents and presentations in formats that can be opened in both Google Docs and Open Office.
3. Google Documents is portable
This means you can take your work wherever you have Internet access - this is particularly useful if you move between a number of computers. The downside to this is you're stuck if you have no Internet access. In contrast, Open Office is embedded in your computer, as is Microsoft. So you have to install Open Office on every computer you work on.
4. Which is more secure?
Any data you store in Google Docs is hosted on a server somewhere in the world. This means that if the server goes down for whatever reason, you will not have access to your data. I have to say that I have never had this problem in the two years I have been using Google Docs but the potential is always there.
The other potential problem is that your data is not as secure in Google Docs as it is when it is stored in Open Office on your own private computer.
5. Which is best?
I think that Open Office is better than Google Documents for what I call 'long term' work. It has more functions and is easier to manage. But Google Docs is brilliant for collaborative work - more than one person can work on a document at the same time which gets rid of emails going back and forth with track changes and so on.
What are your experiences of using Google Docs and Open Office? What would motivate your move to Open Office? What do you feel are the benefits of staying with Microsoft Office?