Google Docs vs Office 2011 vs iWork '09

Google Docs vs Office 2011 vs iWork '09

We've been doing a lot thinking lately about the word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet programs in our life, and yesterday's post on the need for Office put us over the edge in deciding to share our thoughts on the major options we Mac users have when it comes to creating these documents.

We use a Mac and work multiple jobs that require much word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations so Google Docs, Microsoft Office 2011, and Apple iWork '09 are programs we use on a daily basis. After some time using all three (all of which play nicely with standard Office formats, ie Numbers reads and exports Excel docs), it became pretty clear where each of their strengths and weaknesses lie.

The call on what to use for spreadsheets really depends on who you are sharing them with, why you are using them, and if collaboration is involved. If you are looking for a basic table that everyone can work on simultaneously that has an internet connection then Google Docs are for you. If you prefer to create visually compelling spreadsheets that are going to be shared via PDF and/ or via presentations than Numbers, FTW. If you need pivot tables and are working with lots of data and don't care very much about the aesthetics, Excel 2011 is a fine and speedy fit (2011 is incredibly quick with large amounts of data).

Powerpoint 2011 and Keynote are the strong choices, Google Docs is great for a collaborative viewing experience but cannot compare with Office and iWork in document creation. Powerpoint has a neat photo editing tool built in, making quick changes to images you want to use in your presentation a snap. Keynote has the overall advantage in the slickness of the transitions and iPad support. It's awesome being able to edit a presentation on the iPad minutes before needing to deliver it. The other advantage that Keynote has is how easy it is to export to Quicktime. We also love how the spreadsheets that we use in Keynote live update when the spreadsheet is changed in Numbers. Once Powerpoint has a strong mobile client the advantage Keynote has will lessen, although we would still like to see like to see better communication with Excel and simpler export options.

Word Processing
Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, depending on your take on Microsoft, Word 2011 performs really really well in this arena. We love the new more robust layout (dynamic re-ordering is amazing!) and font tools and we adore how well collaboration works. It's nice being able to see exactly what paragraph a colleague is working in and know at a glance what changes have been made. Google Docs is fine for creating simple documents, but we prefer the greater layout controls and options that Word and Pages offer.

Pages has long been our preferred word processing app, but with the changes in 2011, we have been using Word more than ever. Pages still has our hearts when it comes to templates, overall aesthetics, and working on our iPad (there is no Word app for the iPad), however if there were to be significant improvements in these areas, we could easily see Word become our default word processing choice.

One last thing on the topic of Office 2011...
Outlook in Office 2011 (home & business edition) is a huge improvement on Entourage. We love the improved calendar, editing tools, and threaded conversations. The experience on Outlook 2011 feels like the team at Microsoft were really listening to everything Mac users loathed about Entourage and they have truly delivered an experience that is on par, if not better, than that of using Outlook on a PC.

For more document software tips and reviews, check out these posts:

(Image: Flickr user Debby A under license from Creative Commons.)

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