Will Microsoft Office 2013 finally challenge Google Docs?

Will Microsoft Office 2013 Steve Ballmer

I would like current technology to solve a problem for me.

I hate the process of trading files with people through e-mail. Particularly I hate the fact that I, a Gmail user, have to download any files that I need to work from. As a writer and editor, this process is done quite a few times in a workday. Most documents I only have to use as a reference, which seems wasteful of my precious disk space.

What I need is an online office system that saves files to the cloud, where I can share the files with my clients and editors.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

I can’t say I have any complaints with Office. It does what it’s done for the past 20 years. I know it inside and out, even the confusing Mac versions. But just because I’m happily married doesn’t mean I can’t look around. As I tell my wife, how do you know the value of the merchandise you have if you don’t know what else is on the market?

She doesn’t like that analogy.

So I’ve decided to try and go Office-less, using Google Docs and Google’s new Drive system. Drive is like Dropbox or any other cloud-based file system, except that it seamlessly integrates into the Google ecosystem.

So I upload most of my client files into Drive and start working in the cloud. How hard can it be?

Google Drive

Well, first, if you want to open and work on an existing .docx file in Google Docs, it will have to transform it into a .gdoc. That’s fine, I guess, if you’re willing to divorce Word. Since I’m just browsing (or “swinging”, as I’ve taken to calling it this week), I wish I could still work in the native format. That, and 99 percent of the world still works in .doc or .docx.

So I’m typing and typing, doing a little formatting here, accepting a correction for my fat fingers there. Most of my projects aren’t very complicated. A couple of different styles and headings. Maybe the occasional outline. Google Docs does great with these. If I were doing a technical manual or something more complicated, I would probably find some features missing. But for my purposes, as a small-time freelance writer and editor, it works fine.

In my head, I’ve already saved myself whatever license fee Microsoft wants to extract from me for the next version of Office. Which is good because I’ll probably need it for alimony after the “shopping around” analogy.

Then it comes time to send this masterpiece to the client. Google Docs has no problem with sending documents to established Google contacts. It will even convert it to more palatable file formats, like .doc, before it goes.

But what if your document needs to be attached to a previous conversation string in Gmail? You would think the two would work seamlessly, considering they live right next to each other. There’s no option for that. No “Attach Google Doc” button in Gmail. And God help you if you want to use Outlook.

So you do the old Attach File. Your Google Drive shows up just where it should, and you browse to the file you were working on.

It’s still in .gdoc. And there are no conversion options.

Well, actually, there are. All you have to do is go back into Google Docs and download your file, specifying that you want a .doc format. Of course, it’s no longer in the cloud and you still get a build-up of files in your computer, but now you can attach the file to your e-mail string. But as you go through the process, you just have the nagging feeling that this was a lot more complicated than it had to be. And it was definitely more complicated than working in Word.

All because the market has been segmented into different file types.

Another consideration I need to make is how well whatever solution I adopt plays with future hardware. If my office applications can operate on an iPad without loss of functionality, I could move the majority of my computing to the tablet, saving quite a bit of money (and weight) over a new laptop. In my research, Google has been non-committal about Google Docs functionality on tablets in general and the iPad in particular. There are some third-party solutions, but so far none of them are integrated with Drive, so I might not be able to get my documents.

office 365 2012 documents

This is where the Office 2013, and in particular Office 365 (the cloud-based variant), needs to step up to the plate. Microsoft needs to do what it has done for 30 years now. Take someone else’s idea (Google Docs), make it proprietary (the new, online Office 365), and make it work with various hardware manufacturers (Apple).

The ability to work on Office files is the last hurdle for tablets to become full-service computing solutions. If the new Office is as seamless and robust as Microsoft’s marketing materials claim, the last barrier to the world of cloud-based tablet computing would finally fall for a lot of lightweight users.

Of course, I don’t have a way to check out Office 2013 preview myself. The demo doesn’t work on a Mac.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Deals

Best Labor Day sales: Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot drop early deals

Labor Day 2019 lands on Monday, September 2 this year. We've gathered all of the information you need to prepare yourself for the many sales to come, from REI to Walmart and everything in between.
Deals

Walmart drops $150 off the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 with S Pen included

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 10.5-inch Tablet with S Pen is available in 64GB and 256GB models and Walmart is giving $150 off to both variants, selling it now for $498 and $598, respectively.
Computing

The best Chromebook deals available in August 2019

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- that won't…
Deals

The 2018 Apple iPad Pro Wi-Fi tablet gets a huge $124 discount on Amazon

If you have been holding off on buying the Apple iPad Pro because of its price, now is the time. The best tablet for 2019 gets a $124 discount on Amazon today. This deal is more affordable than the one we previously found.
Computing

AMD Ryzen and Nvidia GTX join forces in HP Pavilion laptops and desktops

The HP Pavilion range has two new entries that are perfect for anyone looking for their first dedicated gaming system but don't have a fortune to spend. You even get AMD and Nvidia hardware in the same system.
Computing

Stuck in ELO hell? HP’s A.I. coach wants to help Omen owners become better gamers

HP has an exciting new update for its Omen Command Center software: A.I. coaching driven by machine learning. It uses the power of A.I. and analytics to figure out where you can best improve in your favorite game.
Computing

Visually stunning HP Omen X 27 HDR TN display closes color gap with IPS monitors

The HP Omen X 27 could prove to be the sweet spot for gamers everywhere. At a 1440p resolution, it's blazingly fast, with a 240Hz refresh rate and a 1ms response time. Better yet, its HDR support really helps colors pop.
Computing

Windows Core OS: Everything you need to know

Known as Windows Core OS, a new version of Windows will be a single universal operating system for all kinds of devices. It's expected to look very different, and here's what we know.
Computing

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for August 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Computing

The best web browsers for 2019

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

You can download Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser in a few easy steps

Microsoft's Chromium-based Edge browser has been downloaded over 1 million times. In this guide, we'll explain how you can download and install the browser on your PC or Mac in just a few quick and simple steps.
Computing

Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 vs. ThinkPad X1 Yoga

The Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 4 are both well-built and equipped business 2-in-1s. Which is better comes down to their displays and battery life advantages.
Computing

The best portable monitors for 2019

Portable monitors are smaller displays that can fit inside backpacks or cases. They're great picks for gaming sessions, extra screens on your desk, and more. Find the best portable monitors with our helpful list!
Computing

AMD Threadripper 3: Everything we know so far

AMD's third-generation Ryzen CPUs are amazingly capable, but what about the 3000-series Threadripper CPUs? Those are coming down the pipe and quite possible quicker than anyone expected.