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Product manager and guest blogger Jennifer Kensok takes a look at the differences between Office Web Apps and Google's new offering, Cloud Connect. For more information, see Windows SkyDrive gets better with Office Web Apps.
Google released Cloud Connect yesterday. (Here's a summary about that from The Wall Street Journal. And Office Web Apps are now available worldwide.) We figured lots of Office Web Apps fans would be curious. The Why Microsoft blog put together a video on what breaks down when you try to co-author using Cloud Connect. (People considering using Cloud Connect at work will definitely want to check that out.)
We want to give our Office Web Apps + SkyDrive customers a look at using Cloud Connect to get anywhere access to their documents. We've noticed a few important differences between the Microsoft approach and the Google approach. (Can you guess which one we think is better?)
Here's a quick comparison, showing an Excel file with a few basic features like a bar chart and Sparklines.
First, look at the process of saving the doc to the cloud. With any version of Office, no plug-in is needed to sync documents with SkyDrive. And in Office 2010, "Save to Web" is built right into the product.
With Google Cloud Connect, you have to download a separate plug-in to use. Below is a screenshot of our Excel file in the Office client, with the plug-in installed.
Now we've saved our document online in both places. Let's try leaving Excel on the desktop and travelling to a different computer, where we can work only from a browser.
Formatting is a non-issue with Office and the Office Web Apps. No matter which version of Office you have, the file's formatting is preserved from the desktop to the Web App and back again. Here's that same Excel spreadsheet in the Excel Web App. You can see that even when in edit mode, the chart and Sparklines render just as they do in the rich desktop Excel. (Of course, there aren't nearly as many features in the Excel Web App as in Excel on the PC. That's why it's easy to "Open in Excel" with one click from the Web App.)
Now try the same thing when you've synced the file to Google Docs with Cloud Connect:
Oops. Looks like when you try to edit, you've lost the chart altogether, and the table's formatting and Sparkline trending indicators are gone as well. Not quite such a useful jumble of numbers anymore.
And to top it all off, when you decided to edit this file in the browser, Google Docs actually had to create a second version of the file (a Google Docs version), so the original is still an Excel file, and now you've got this poorly formatted Google Docs version to reconcile, too.
Which experience do you like better?
-- Jennifer Kensok
Interesting stuff, thanks. One question, though perhaps a bit off-topic:
"With any version of Office, no plug-in is needed to sync documents with SkyDrive."
How do you save to SkyDrive from Office 2007?
I have been using msft skydrive for about a year now. I like it very much. However, I have not been able to successfully download a file directly to skydrive; I always get an error message. Inevitably, I must download the file to my computer and then upload into skydrive. It is fantastically frustrating. Other things to like about skydrive are: 1) it has more storage space than google docs, and 2) msft office software is better.
The one feature that is absolutely compelling with Cloud Connect however is simultaneous editing in the native apps. There is no reason to even open them in Google Docs format. I have wanted this forever and I have been wishing the Office Webapps would do this. In fact, I'd much prefer to use the native apps with simultaneous editing than the webapps which have limited functionality.
@jvd897 - thanks for the comment! It seems my writing wasn't clear - what I meant to indicate was that no plug in is needed to use SkyDrive to store your documents, and once stored there, you can open them in the Web App or Office 2007 (or 2003); however there is not a direct "Save to Web" button in Office 2007. This is new with Office 2010.
@salenp - this is great feedback to give to our engineering team. can I ask where you're attempting to download files from? (for example, an email attachment from Hotmail, etc)
@mtmjr90 - Have you had the chance to try simultaneous editing in Word 2010 or PowerPoint 2010? Pretty slick. Again, we (and especially engineering teams) really appreciate hearing your point of view. Thanks for taking the time!
@jkensok: OK, thanks for the clarification!
Many thousands of Google users have had their account accidentally deleted this week, affecting Gmail and all Google services, and the problem is still not resolved.
I use msft office 2007; everytime I try to save a document from powerpoint typically with the save to skydrive button; I get an error message. I usually load the powerpoint document into my documents on my computer then I go to skydrive through my IE 8 and upload from there. It would be more convenient though just to save directly from powerpoint.
@salenp - Using Office 2007, uploading documents to SkyDrive from your web browser is your best bet. "Save to Web" is available in Office 2010 - try a free trial here - www.office.com/try - and see how you like the functionality.
"Formatting is a non-issue with Office and the Office Web Apps." really? Why in my MS Excel 2010, the date is formatted as 11/3/2011 (11 march 2011) as I purposely formatted. But in the Office Web App, I got 3/11/2011. Why ??
Cloud connect supports Office 2003, 2007, 2010 whereas only 2010 is integrated directly into Office Web Apps. That is a mistake for Microsoft. We are not going to upgrade to 2010 (it was hard enough to get some of us on 2007). More collaboration is needed so users internally are going to Google Docs and Cloud Connect. It is free and does not require much help from IT. MSFT needs to step up and integrate support into Office 2007 as a plugin to allow some Office Web App integration.
If not, you are just giving Google another selling point.... especially at the end user level who needs to get work done now, and can't sit back and wait for IT to rollout some grand new project or upgrade.
I work for a corporation with tens of thousands of employees. The route microsoft has taken, to change the user interface (menus) in 2007, has been an extremely costly productivity drain. Thank goodness nost of our users here are still on Office 2003! And I can understand how this could hinder adoption of new versions from any users (except those who are at their first computer experience). It was quite myopic to adopt this path in order to differentiate the product from OpenOffice.Org and other Office suites. One can only assume that those in charge of that decision have lost their jobs and have been replaced with heads having a more sober vision.
@ Timmi, I'm sorry your company has been having problems with the change to the new interface. You're not alone, many people have expressed frustration with it. One thing that seems to help a great deal is making training material available right before you get the new version. Even if it's too late for that, here's a page with lots of stuff that helps people make the change.