We put Microsoft's Office Web Apps head-to-head with Google Docs and Zoho Office to see just which web-based office suite is best for you.
With PowerPoint files, Docs does an adequate job of preserving the basic look and feel of presentations, but again, it's a poor substitute for the original. Graphics appear blurry and re-sampled, text moves around without warning, and animations and transitions are eliminated. And here, Google doesn't bother making a pretence of supporting PowerPoint 2007.
Despite its faults, Docs does incorporate some intriguing, even revolutionary ideas. If the goal was simply to mimic the current office paradigm on the web, Docs would be a miserable failure, but Google is looking at the bigger picture. If outside-the-box thinking excites you, you may want to give it a try.
For example, in keeping with Google's idea of working in 'the cloud', Docs discards the usual files-and-folders desktop metaphor. Instead, it presents your documents in a chronological view resembling an email inbox, based on what you worked on most recently.
Similarly, you don't need to save multiple copies of documents as you make revisions because Docs maintains an internal version history for each document that allows you to view or revert to an earlier draft at any time.
Rather than simply re-creating desktop apps in the browser, Docs is web-centric. You can import documents via email or from the web, or embed them in blogs or websites to share with the public.
There's a UI for embedding YouTube videos in your presentations. There's basic version control to allow multiple authors to work on the same document. Forget paper; with Google Docs, it's all about sharing, collaboration, and online publishing.
But most of us in the real world have given up on the 'paperless office', and once your feet land back on the ground, Docs disappoints once again. In keeping with its Spartan feature set, printing is thoroughly mediocre.
As already noted, Docs seldom gets pagination right, particularly where images come into play, and it thinks nothing of breaking a page midtable. Fonts that render correctly onscreen might not print, and graphics come out blurry and jaggy.
Joel Spolsky once wrote that the problem with lightweight office suites is that 80 percent of users need only 20 percent of the features of Microsoft Office, but it's a different 20 percent every time. Google Docs doesn't give you all of the features of Office and it doesn't try to.
Unfortunately, in its present state it's missing so much that it's sure to lack something for just about everybody.
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