Google Docs vs Microsoft’s SkyDrive Apps

The options for your word processing, presentation making and spreadsheet creation needs have expanded significantly with the advancements of technology, both in native and web-based apps. The apps you need for your business work and more are available now not only on traditional personal computers, but also on mobile devices and the web. The two main options for document processing on the web are Google’s incredibly popular Docs app, and Microsoft’s version of Office inside SkyDrive.

In this article, we’ll be pitting them against each other to decide which is better, Google Docs or SkyDrive. Many web app users would be more likely to use Google’s apps, and often not even consider trying out Microsoft’s Office web apps. Instead of bringing company biases to the table, let’s take them each for what they offer, and let the best apps win!

User Interface

There are, of course, differentiating factor between Google Docs and SkyDrive other than user interface, but it’s the most visible since it’s the way we actually communicate with the app itself, and, therefore, the most important.

Ultimately, both apps are a blank canvas for your work, devoting most of the available space to your actual content, whether it be a word processing document, presentation or spreadsheet. Likewise, the other elements are similar, although SkyDrive opts for an organisation akin to the current generation of the native Microsoft Office suite. SkyDrive’s ribbon UI splits up formatting from media, but achieves very little more functionally than Google Docs does on it’s single line of icons. Nevertheless, it acts as a more familiar interface to users who’ve become accustomed to the Office way.

However, Google’s design is much cleaner and minimalist, which offers it the edge over SkyDrive.

Winner: Google Docs

Comparing UIs in the respective word processing apps.

Features and Functionality

Microsoft actually ran a marketing campaign claiming that SkyDrive was better for formatting than Google Docs. However, it turns out that this is only really the case when comparing Google Docs to SkyDrive documents originally created in Microsoft Office for PC/Mac.

There’s subtle advantages of Google Docs, such as the ability to insert images by URL, although you do get access to Microsoft’s library of Clip Art. I can’t even find a word count in the SkyDrive apps. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to come up with anything that can be done in SkyDrive but not in Google Docs.

SkyDrive does have a trump card, however, integration with the native desktop apps. SkyDrive allows user to click one button to open a document in the respective native application meaning, while it’s not exactly automatic syncing à la iCloud, it does link much more seamlessly than Google Docs.

Winner: Tie

Presentation making in Google Docs (top) and Microsoft's SkyDrive (bottom).

Mobile

With the ever increasing mobile and tablet landscape, it’s pretty important for vital services like office suites to abide by an “everything everywhere” manta. Thanks to them being web based, it’s possible to login to a computer anywhere and pick up from where you left off, without needing any physical movement of storage. However, not every web app “just works” on mobile.

Google Docs has a reputation for incompatibility, especially on a wide range of mobile devices. SkyDrive, on the other hand, boasts it’s compatibility by offering up native mobile apps. And not just for Windows Phone; you can get the app on iPhone too.

Winner: SkyDrive

Success for SkyDrive.

End Product

Microsoft has went pretty far into showing the Office ecosystem’s advantages over Google Docs. However, that claim only stands when you’re using SkyDrive alongside a native copy of the Microsoft Office suite. It turns out, documents created in the cloud are functionally very similar in both services. However, the end product does differ and it’s worth mentioning.

The stock design templates that come with SkyDrive look immensely better than those that ship with Google Docs, mirroring the offering within the native Microsoft Office suite. However, more simple tasks like just writing a letter or a basic spreadsheet offer up no cause for preference in either of these two services.

For the integration with native Microsoft Office, and for the higher quality stock templates, Microsoft wins this round.

Winner: SkyDrive

Microsoft's bias attempt at "recreating" a document in Google Docs.

Winner: Microsoft’s SkyDrive Web Apps

I’m going to go ahead and name Microsoft as the winner of this battle. From an interface perspective, Google Docs is a refreshingly clean experience that is far superior to what Microsoft has on offer. Functionally, the applications in both cloud-based suites are hard to distinguish, although with a few advantages in Google Docs evident.

So, why did I say SkyDrive? Ultimately, the end product is what’s most important and what’s possible with Microsoft’s suite is better than what’s possible with Google’s. Plus, with better, more stable mobile integration and natural integration into the enterprise and education markets, Microsoft’s overall offering comes out superior.

However, if you’re not significantly invested already into the Microsoft way of life, you can easily be forgiven for joining Google’s crew.