In the first part of this article I reviewed some of the main features of Microsoft Windows Live. I wrote that article using the Microsoft Word Web app on my Mac. Now, I want to review some of the main features of Google Apps. This time, I’ll use Google Docs on my PC.
Google Apps consists of many different online applications that make up a complete computing platform. Gmail is the most widely known, but there are also Google Docs, Calendar, Sites, Reader, and many more applications. There is in fact a Google Apps Marketplace where third-party vendors offer applications that are built on top of Google’s platform. You might like to explore this link: http://www.google.com/enterprise/marketplace/. Below is a screenshot of the Marketplace. It is like the iPhone App store, but for the Google cloud.
Google Docs allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, survey forms and drawings. Writing a document using Google Docs is easy. It has all the formatting tools you would expect. It automatically saves your work. Adding images, hyperlinks, tables, lists etc all work just as you’d expect.
Google uses their own file formats, but you can convert documents from Microsoft Office formats if you need to. You can also share documents easily if you are collaborating with your team.
My concern with moving to Google Docs would be whether it would work for users all the time. I did a little testing with some things I commonly use. For example, I tried converting the Excel spreadsheet I use to submit invoices to Learning Tree to Google docs format. It did work, but the formatting was a bit off. I also opened the Learning Tree exercise manual template in Google Docs, and that did not work at all. To be fair, it is a very complex template and I would have been shocked if worked.
As general purpose word processor and spreadsheet builder, Google Docs is great. I would only worry that I’d end up buying Microsoft Office for everyone anyway.
For me the great thing about Gmail is how easy it is to integrate into your domain. Why anyone would want to run a mail server is beyond me when Google and many others are willing to manage mail for next to nothing.
In addition, Google makes it simple to integrate your domain into all their applications. Not only can you have email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, you can map Google Docs to docs.yoursite.com and Google Sites to sites.yoursite.com and so on.
One of the big features of Microsoft SharePoint is the ability to create Web sites for projects, teams and collaboration. Google Sites allows you to do the same. There are built-in templates for making this easy. You can control who has access to you sites. It integrates into Google Docs and the other Google Apps. Check it out at http://sites.google.com.
In summary, I really like Google Apps and I also like Microsoft Windows Live. Both are affordable, and make computing easier, more accessible and add great new features. You should do your own analysis on which would work better for you and your organization. The competition between the two will certainly benefit us all.
If you want to learn more about cloud computing, come to one of Learning Tree’s cloud computing courses. We cover not only Google Apps and Windows Live, but also Amazon EC2, Google App Engine, Microsoft Windows Azure and more.
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