Over the past few weeks I have tried a few different office suites for personal applications and my experience has crowned a definitive winner. The applications that I have compared are Google Docs, Zoho Office, and Edit Grid. For the most part, I care about the performance of the spreadsheet application (that is why Edit Grid is included although it is only a spreadsheet application-I’m an accountant so the spreadsheet the most important part of the suite in my opinion), but I have had cause to evaluate the word processing applications as well.
The most important part of any online application for my purposes is speed. For an online application to be a viable substitute (or even a good compliment to) for a hard disk based program, it must offer similar performance in terms of responsiveness to the user and speed of loading a document.
Both Zoho Office and Edit Grid strive to give you the familiar look and feel of the Microsoft productivity suite (for Edit Grid this is only Excel), while Google shows no respect for the leader of the pack and gives you a bare bones utilitarian feel. Google offers several top level toolbars on tabs that may make you think you have less options available because the extra functions you would normally have in toolbars stacked upon one another are really on a different tab. However, Google does make good use of most standard shortcuts that regular users utilize reflexively.
I was rather impressed with both the Edit Grid and Google spreadsheet programs. Google was by far faster than Edit Grid, although I may not have the fastest connection at my office. The connection was fast enough for Google’s spreadsheet to respond with little lag or delay. One feature in Google’s spreadsheet program that was missing from both Edit Grid and Zoho was the ability to duplicate an existing worksheet into a new sheet. In Edit Grid and Zoho one had to insert a new sheet and copy and paste the information into the new sheet. Had these programs accomplished this task quickly, it would not have caught my attention as a problem, however, they both stalled terribly in the copy and paste function of one whole sheet to another whole sheet. They eventually got the job done, but it consumed a lot of resources on my machine to accomplish what seemed to me to be a rather simple task.
Overall, neither the familiarity oferred by Zoho nor Edit Grid was substantial enough to overcome the shortcomings associated with consumption of resources and slow speed. Another annoyance specifically associated with the Zoho writer (which looks great) is that it frequently autosaves and on my machine it stalled what I was typing and returned my cursor to the top of the page (thus I am writing this in Google’s writer). In my opinion, Google’s web based applications would make a suitable compliment if not nearly a replacement for my desktop applications if I were not a professional consumer of Excel. For my personal needs, having Google based documents is handy and provides a quality experience that doesn’t lead to more frustration than productivity.
I would love to see the other applications become more competitive, but until they adopt a “function over form” mentality, they product will continue to be subpar compared to Google.