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Online Office Suites Part 1: Google Docs

Microsoft Office is without a doubt the most popular office suite right now, finding an online replacement for it is not easy. Office has every imaginable feature available, but most of us only use a handful depending on what is needed. The benefits of having an online office suite is pretty obvious, it is possible to access your documents from anywhere, you can write on the go and it is possible to use lower spec computers such as netbooks.

When it comes to office suites there are three viable online alternatives, Google Docs, Zoho and Microsoft Office Live Workspace. Google Docs is the most basic and slimmed down online office suite with a word processor, spreadsheet program and a presentation program. Zoho is basically an online version of Microsoft Office on steroids with tons of applications and features and Microsoft Office Live Workspace falls somewhere in between the two.

Google Docs is the easiest among the tree to get started with. Most people already have a Google-account mainly because of popular Gmail. If you just want a an online application for taking notes Google Docs is the perfect match, however it has a lot more features than is visible at first glance. The Revision History for example shows each saved version of the document, allowing going back to previous versions or just seeing what changed.

Google Docs also has a good and straight-forward spell and grammar checker, the option to add comments to a document and decent table features. Another strength with Google Docs is the easy to use collaboration features. Compared to Zoho they seem tiny in comparison but for sharing documents quickly to a small group nothing beats Google Docs.

The spreadsheet application in Google Docs is slimmed down compared to Excel or Gnumeric, yet I am not sure what is missing. There are charts, forms (for online surveys) and lots of formulas. For example there are financial and engineering formulas. A pretty neat feature is the ability to easily connect to Google Finance and get import real-time stock quotes using formulas.

Creating presentations in Google Docs is easy, as long as you keep your presentation basic. The presentation application is similar to PowerPoint without any animation, effects or on-the fly drawings. For creating a presentation that should be viewed online it is sufficient though.

Google Docs can export documents to a number of formats such as PDF, RTF or any of the Microsoft Office formats. If you would like your documents in another office suite format you are out of luck.

If you are on a slow connection Google Docs is the way to go, it is way faster than Zoho and Microsoft Office Live. For smaller writing, spreadsheets and presentation tasks Google Docs works just fine, but if you use more advanced features there are better alternatives out there, especially for a small business.

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