Google Docs & Spreadsheets Could Replace Word & Excel for the Average User

I have always liked the online word processor that Google bought a few months ago, and I have also found Google Spreadsheets to be useful for simple tasks. These 2 products are now combined in the newly-launched Google Docs & Spreadsheets. See the product tour here.

This "Google Office" is a part of the Google for Educators collection of useful websites and services.

These are the main advantages of Google Docs & Spreadsheets from my perspective:
  • Available anywhere. Documents are available from any place with an internet connection since they are hosted on Google servers. It does not matter if you are on the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic or in an internet cafe in Papua New Guinea.
  • Online collaboration. Several authors can collaborate on a paper in real time and the "central document" is stored online.
  • Free. There are few reasons for the average user to spend $ 200-400 for Microsoft Office.
  • Not available without an internet connection. If your connection is down, you cannot access your documents which are stored online. Of course, you can back them up on your local hard drive, and use the free Open Office to edit/create and upload them back to Google Docs & Spreadsheets, but this is a hassle.
  • Storing sensitive data on a 3rd party servers. For example, no HIPAA-identifiable information should be stored in Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
In conclusion, Google Docs & Spreadsheets could easily replace Word & Excel for the average user but this is far from where the main change is. The big advantage of the online platform is in sharing, collaboration and availability from anywhere.

Google Docs in Plain English

Update 1/17/2007:
According to Digital Inspiration:
"Users can simultaneously work on the same spreadsheet and see the changes made by each other in real time. They can even text chat with each other inside the spreadsheet webpage which makes it all the more useful. "

Update 4/18/2007:
Google Spreadsheets Adds Charts. Google Operating System.
Google Spreadsheets finally gets charts. Googling Google.

Update 07/31/2007:
Google Spreadsheets adds automatic sum, average, the minimum/maximum value and the number of selected values (see the screenshot below):

Sharing an Excel Spreadsheet Online with Colleagues in a Collaborative Manner. Digital Inspiration.
More Sorting Options in Google Docs. Google Operating System, 07/2007.
What Do You Use Google Docs for? Google Operating System, 08/2007.
Image source: Google Operating System.
Google Presentations Launches Today, 9/18/2007.
Adobe joins rest of industry in going for Microsoft’s throat., 09/2007.
For Educators: Teach Collaborative Revision with Google Docs. Google. 11/007.
Google Docs Mobile Released. Google Blogoscoped, 11/2007.
Office 2.0 Database: A list of Web 2.0 replacements for MS Office, 2007.
Video presentations: Novel concepts and easy-to-use web tools for researchers. European Molecular Biology Laboratory, 2006.

Updated: 12/08/2007


  1. I have been trying so hard to use Writely. It has so much going for it. However, whenever I export documents with images, they are completely malformed. It's a showstopper.

  2. Checkout They have a free suite of web based office applications that are getting rave reviews.

  3. Talking about HIPAA, has anyone had experience using Google Docs or Zoho for patient lists or any patient-related information?