Writing a document used to require an offline office suite, often developed in conjunction with the operating system, to handle everything from the initial outline to the final edit. Microsoft Office is famous for including its newest features on Windows first, and iWork (now Apple Productivity Apps) is designed to take advantage of the unique multimedia integration features of OS X.
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With people spending more time online, it is natural that the largest multimedia companies would incorporate office suites into their offerings. The most famous of which are Microsoft’s Office Online, which is tied to a free Outlook.com account, and Google Docs, which is likewise tied to a free Google account.
Both of these office suites feature multimedia integration features and allows the user to export the finished work in a variety of formats and mediums. Porting over existing documents to these two services is as simple as copying the files to the respective cloud storage systems, and either converting or upgrading the files.
This article will discuss the difficulties in moving over to either platform, and how to make both of them work effectively on a Chromebook. Additionally, after making the transition to an online office suite, an introduction to some of the tools available for use on the Chromebook will be offered.
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File Fidelity and Continuous Access
When depending on any tool for work purposes, consistency and ease of access are vital. Microsoft and Google both have distinct ways of handling this challenge. Google builds in offline capabilities in its office suite, allowing basic use regardless of the situation. Microsoft tends to rely on users switching to traditional versions of its operating system, ignoring the online connectivity issues.
Office Online on a Chromebook
Office Online is the web version of the famous Microsoft Office. It strives to incorporate as many features of the desktop version of Office possible while integrating new publishing technologies that ease incorporating text into blogs. Thanks to Microsoft’s efforts, it is possible to collaborate with desktop Office users in near real-time, creating documents that will open with perfect fidelity on any device.
If the writer is using Windows 8.1, then transitioning over to this platform may be seamless, since many people save to their OneDrive accounts automatically. If you are using a Linux distribution, or Mac OS X, then it is a simple matter of uploading the files through either a desktop program or the web interface.
If the writer is using anything other than Office 2013, the files will be upgraded to the newest format. Open source supporters have the option of using the Open Document Format instead. The final result will be a collection of documents that can be shared, presented, and edited from any computer running a modern web browser.
For users wishing to guarantee fidelity of the files, then this online suite is vital. However, there are a few drawbacks to using Microsoft’s offering. Primarily, if the Internet connection drops, access to the document is lost as well.
Additionally, there is a distinct lack of integration between this service and its primary competitor, Google Drive. On the Chromebook, you have to manually sign in to the site to access/upload any new data.
Google Docs on a Chromebook
Much like Office is developed to shine on Windows, Google Docs and Drive is fully functional on the Google Chrome OS platform. It started with the goal of providing a barebones solution for people that did not need many of the features included with Microsoft Office. Over the last several years, features have been slowly added with an emphasis on improving compatibility with Office and increasing use as customers’ needs changed.
When a writer first logs into a Chromebook, up to five gigabytes of the most recently accessed data on Google Drive is downloaded to the device. This means that as the writer progresses, older materials will be removed and stored solely in the cloud. The user does have the ability to store items locally though the actual Doc files are not transferable.
Additionally, as an acknowledgement that Internet connections are not guaranteed, Google has made basic document creation and editing features available offline.
When uploading a current archive of documents to this service, the end user is given the choice to convert the files or leave them as-is. However, editing these documents will require that they be converted to Google Docs.
Exporting is very easy, with a range of options varying from Microsoft Office to Public Document Format (PDF.) The resultant files are exceptionally easy to use, and are often exceptionally compact, compared with the large file sizes of documents saved with Microsoft Office directly.
There are still some issues with file fidelity, mainly with odd features and graphics. However, that will impact only a very small subset of the writing field.
The creation of a decent document is the main purpose of any word processor, regardless of the form it takes. Stripping the issue down to its core, it is possible to create anything with a basic text editor and an excellent grasp of the English language.
A word processor is designed to help eliminate issues that come up when handling complex documents, and in sharing the completed texts in a digital form. Both Google Docs and Office Online are capable of doing so admirably. However, there are some minor differences between the two that help differentiate their use cases.
Both suites offer the ability to create direct links to the files, in-document comments, and offers exemplary change-tracking features.
The greatest asset this office suite has is the native file format. For people that frequently have to export and email documents, the ability to be guaranteed that the saved document will accurately reflect what is on the screen is a major asset. Beyond that, Skype is integrated into the interface. If your Skype username is tied to your OneDrive account, then you will be able to communicate with collaborators without having to create a thousand comments throughout the document.
The interface is designed to be reminiscent of the newer versions of Microsoft Office, including the infamous Ribbon. It is possible for those who have only had experience with the desktop versions of Microsoft Office (from 2007 on up) to get to work without any issues.
The service also has Bing Images integrated, giving the writer the ability to locate freely usable (through a license option in the appropriate section) images to include in the document.
The greatest asset Google Docs has is the ability to integrate third-party features into the interface. The writer is able to include everything from real-time third-party editing services, to online bibliography managers. Since this is tied to the account, and not the computer, these features are available on any computer the end user logs in from.
The service is integrated with Google Chat/Hangouts, making it easy to communicate with multiple people, regardless if they are working on the document.
The interface uses what can be considered to be a classical look, with traditional menu bars dotting the top. The only changes to this comes in a novel approach to change tracking – on the top right hand corner of the editing window is an option to change how text placed in the document is handled. The default manner acts like any other text editor. The second option, Suggestions, allows you to input text but designated all changes as suggestions that have to be approved by all document participants before it is integrated with the final copy.
The final option is perfect for those who need to pass a laptop around the office, but do not wish for people to make any changes. View mode blocks all changes, giving the end-user the luxury of reading the document without accidentally changing it.
Which One is Better?
Both office suites can be used by a dedicated writer on a Chromebook. If the writer is expecting to be offline for any time, or requires a third party tool, then Google Docs and Drive will be a better option. It is a simple matter to export the final copy, with great assurances that the file will be fully compatible with any other tool available.
Microsoft’s Office Online is better suited for those that are guaranteed to be online, and need to collaborate with those currently using modern versions of Microsoft Office. It does not fully integrate into the Chrome experience and does not currently allow third-party extensions to customize the experience.
Both services offer communication tools that integrate into each companies’ in-house services, and can easily be shared with other people.
The final choice depends on how the document will be handled, and what sort of collaboration is needed. The best advice is to maintain accounts with both services and utilize either one on a case-by-case basis.
Beyond the Word Processor
Chrome OS is designed for those that live online. An astute writer may already have accounts with a dozen web services, ranging from Evernote to Zoho. With many services integrating with Google Drive, it is possible to create something using Chrome on Windows, and then immediately continue the task on the Chromebook.
Many of these services are now offering offline applications that work in Google Chrome. The best way for a writer to determine if he or she is ready for the plunge is to simply turn off the wifi on their regular computer. If their workflow is not negatively impacted, then the web apps in use can be counted on to work perfectly on the Google Chromebook.
A Chromebook offers a relatively cheap option for people looking to be productive on the go. Thanks to the cloud-centric design, it is possible to complete several documents in one sitting and have the laptop destroyed, without having any concern. All the writer will have to do is log on another computer, and pull up the relevant data.
It is imperative that professional writers look for ways to minimize their dependence on any particular device for work. A Chromebook offer a cheap and effective insurance policy against anything that life can throw his or her way. It does not matter what tools are used – the data will always be secured.