Microsoft Word has long been the preferred word processing application for business, but Google’s free, cloud-based Docs has become a worthy contender, gaining popularity among students especially.
Does it matter which one you use? Is one better than the other? Each program offers students different advantages, and selecting the right tool for you will depend on your personal school needs.
To help you with your decision, we compared Microsoft Word and Google Docs on five key criteria.
1. Cost and accessibility
Microsoft Word is included in the Microsoft 365 Office Suite and there are a variety of different plans available to suit your individual needs. The Office Home and Student package is available for a one-time fee of $149.99 and includes classic Microsoft applications: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You will need to download and install the applications on your PC or Mac.
Google Docs, on the other hand, is a free online tool. To access it, login to your Google account on any browser and access your Google Drive. Google Docs might be ideal if you are not yet sure what your word processing needs might be and are hesitant to make an expensive purchase ahead of time.
Which is better? It’s a tie. Google Docs is the more economic choice for students, but Microsoft Office Suite includes many useful applications that can benefit you well beyond your student life. Proficiency in Excel and PowerPoint are valued skills by employers.
2. Features and functionality
Word offers a robust selection of templates, formatting options and features to make your writing projects easier. Word can also be integrated with other Microsoft tools, such as Outlook for mail merges and Excel for charts and graphs.
Google Docs offers all the same basic word processing functions that Word does, but does not offer as many templates, outlines and enhancements that are helpful for complex writing and research assignments. However, the tool does offer a library of add-ons that are similar to the advanced features offered in Word. This allows users to customize their Google Docs experience with the tools that are most relevant to their needs.
Which is better? It’s a tie. Microsoft Word’s advanced capabilities are convenient and can be helpful for different assignments, but Google Docs allows you to build a tool that fits your exact needs without extra clutter.
3. Collaboration and editing
Both Word and Google Docs facilitate collaboration and sharing. Using Word’s track changes function, users can make edits that replace the text in the document. Other users can see what has been modified and can choose to accept or reject the changes.
Google Docs allows users to make suggested edits to a document as well as edit the text directly. However, it does not have a smooth, easy-to-use track changes function that Word does. Google Docs’ real advantage is the ability for multiple users to work on a document simultaneously, reflecting edits in real-time. This is ideal for group projects and collaborative research and writing assignments.
Which is better? Google Docs is the go-to collaborative tool for students.
4. Saving your work
Another advantage of Google Docs is that the tool automatically saves your work to the cloud-based Google Drive every few minutes, so you never have to worry about losing your progress. Like most websites, however, Google Docs can experience technical difficulties. In a worst-case scenario, you might not be able to open or retrieve your work when you need it, such as during a presentation.
With Word, you save your files to your computer’s hard drive. You’ll never have to worry about not being able to access your work, unless you accidentally spill coffee on your computer and wreck your hard drive. Then you’ll probably wish you had a backup saved to the Cloud.
Which is better? Google Docs offers peace of mind with auto-saving and a cloud-based backup system.
The Google Docs app is available for both iOS and Android devices. The app has all of the same functionality as the website, making it easier for you to create and collaborate while on the go. Word also has a mobile app, but it is not as user-friendly or versatile as the computer program.
Which is better? Google Docs is the preferred tool for working on the go.
For basic writing needs, Google Docs is the clear winner. The online tool is fairly comprehensive and makes it easy for students to collaborate with others on group assignments. With Docs, your work is always secure and accessible anywhere, anytime.
It is important to note that Word also offers students many important advantages. While expensive up front, the Office Suite includes tools that can be helpful – even essential –to you throughout your college career.
Excel, in particular, is ubiquitous in business and Google’s Sheets is not nearly as robust. The Office Suite is worth the one-time investment if you are pursuing a degree in business, technology, finance, accounting, or related field.
Word will also be the best option if you expect to have complex writing and research assignments. Having a vast array of tools and features at your disposal will ensure that you never have to go hunting for the document solution you need.