OpenOffice vs. Google Apps: Page 2

Posted November 11, 2008

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield

(Page 2 of 2)

Google App Spreadsheet vs OOo Calc

Google Apps' Spreadsheet does somewhat better against OpenOffice.org's Calc than Document does against Writer. Or, at least, Spreadsheet has a well-rounded set of functions, which many people consider the basics of a spreadsheet.

Yet even at this level, Google Apps is lacking. While help is a click away when you select a function, and functions are inserted with a summary, Spreadsheet has nothing compared to Calc's Function Wizard, which helps you to set up a formula properly before you insert it. To make efficient use of Spreadsheet, you really need to be already familiar with the concepts with which you work. It is definitely not a tool on which to learn spreadsheet basics.

Just as importantly, Google Apps has none of the function utilities of Calc: Nothing whatsoever like Goal Seek, Solver, or Datapilot. Nor can cells be grouped for convenience.

Google Apps does allow sorting in ascending and descending order, but no other kind of sorting or filter, not even autofilters for the top of a table. Cell, formatting, too, is confined to a few features like text color and background, without any of the customization that makes a spreadsheet more easily read, such as hyphenation. Such limitations seriously hamper Spreadsheet's use for non-numerical lists -- a common use of spreadsheets that Google Apps' designers apparently overlooked entirely.

Google Apps Presentation vs. OOo Impress

Google App's Presentation has more templates -- or themes, as it calls them -- than ship with OpenOffice.org's Impress, but Impress users can quickly nullify this advantage by a few downloads from the Internet.

Otherwise, working with Presentation is a study in limitations. You can add sound, video, and a few basic shapes to a Google Apps Presentation, and some speaker notes, and very little more. If you want master slides with reoccurring objects like headers or footers, you are alone with your ingenuity. The same goes for handouts. And you have only a few options for pre-designed layouts. Sound? A choice of slide transitions? Better forget about those, let alone tables or animation.

But probably the biggest advantage that Impress has is the fact that it shares much of its code with OpenOffice.org's Draw application. This little fact makes Impress outstanding for diagrams, especially organizational ones. By contrast, all that Google Apps has to offer is a library of a dozen shapes, all arrows or callouts.

As for options for running a slide show -- don't even think of them if you're working in Google Apps. Calc, needless to say at this point, has a large number, including how you want a show to run unattended, and setting up a custom slide show that only uses some of the slides you have created.

But I repeat myself

I could continue, but I would only be repeating the same refrain. Compared to OpenOffice.org, Google Apps is a sub-standard set of productivity tools. It might fare slightly better against KOffice and AbiWord and Gnumeric, two other FOSS office suites that have traditionally been less full-featured than OpenOffice.org, but not significantly so.

Similarly, you might find network apps that would far better than Google Apps, although they are less well-known. But, again, the advantage would lie with FOSS.

Which leads to one simple question: With all these politically free, feature-rich alternatives available for the download, why would anyone choose to work with Google Apps?

This is one case in which free software philosophy and pragmatism are in complete agreement. Once the novelty wears off, Google Apps is simply an inferior set of tools.

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Tags: open source, Google, Sun Microsystems, FOSS, OpenOffice.org

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