I actually prefer Google Spreadsheets over Excel. That said, I’m predominately using Excel for Mac OS X, which is horrible. Google Spreadsheets doesn’t have as many esoteric features, but it does have Google Apps Script, which lets you do all sorts of crazy stuff with the other Google Services.
Doctopus is one example of what you can do with Google Apps Script. According to it’s creator, Andrew Stillman, “It’s a way of automating document creation, revision and management, so as a teacher you can spend more time on instruction and less time on the cumbersome administrative tasks that make classrooms so inefficient.”
The Google Drive office apps are free and that’s definitely a big reason they’ve been widely adopted, but I don’t think that’s the only reason they’ve become some popular. Most people in offices and schools don’t pay for Microsoft Office.
Google Drive has incredible sharing functionality. Sure, Office has sharing, but it’s painful. I tried using Office’s sharing features in conjunction with SharePoint and it was unintuitive. In addition, Office’s version of sharing involves checking a document in and out. This means that if your colleague opens a document and then goes to lunch, you’re hosed. It’s a lot like using FileMaker in the late ’90s.
Google’s apps on the other hand offer collaboration. That’s their killer feature and I suspect that on a long enough timeline, it might be enough to chip away at Excel’s walls.
There was a good, brief discussion on Twitter tonight about Microsoft Office. Specifically, the fact that it’s 2014, so why the hell is anyone still using it?
To be clear, I know that a lot of people have to use it in their work environment. But that’s more because their office buys it for them and forces them to. It’s a strong method of lock-in that is seemingly still going strong after all these years.
The reality is that there are now more than enough solid-to-better alternatives for much of what Office offers. And some, like Google Docs and now even the Apple iWork suite, are free.1 And so it seems to me that increasingly, Office persists more out of habit (“I don’t know how to do this without Office”) and misguided fear (“what if I need Office for some reason?”) than necessity.