As the push towards web apps has evolved, we’re now met with two powerful cloud solutions — SkyDrive and Google Drive. These two options offer all the tools needed for file synchronization and office productivity.
However, while both of them can be great, only one of them can be the best solution for office productivity. In order to objectively evaluate which solution is more ideal, we will take a look at which file types can be edited, amount of editing functionality when working on files, compatibility with Microsoft Office as it is still the most used office suite today (despite an increasing emphasis on open source office suites like LibreOffice), and the ease of sharing files from SkyDrive or Google Drive.
Both SkyDrive (or more appropriately, Office Web Apps) and Google Drive can edit a number of different formats, including .doc(x), .rtf, .ppt(x), .xls(x), and other commonly used office file formats.
However, while SkyDrive can edit these files natively, Google Drive requires that you convert them to a Google Drive format before editing them. After you finish editing, you’ll have to re-export the file into the corresponding .doc(x), .ppt(x), .xls(x), etc. Otherwise, if you don’t convert the file, you’ll just have an office file that sits on Google Drive and cannot be edited — just stored or shared. SkyDrive can also edit a few more files than Google Drive.
While Google Drive focuses on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, SkyDrive can also work on OneNote (which is great for notes and research) and other Microsoft Office products’ files. People who are highly invested in the Microsoft Office suite may value this ability.
It’s also very important to be able to do what you need to do with your office files, so the amount of functionality is key. Both SkyDrive and Google Drive offer the basic formatting tools such as fonts, font sizes, bold, italics, underlining, and insertion of links, pictures, and tables.
However, SkyDrive offers better support for the use of different styles, and Google Drive offers a Research interface, more insertion options such as Google Drawings and comments. SkyDrive doesn’t even offer support for headers and footers, while Google Drive does.
Winner: Google Drive
Compatibility with Microsoft Office
Compatibility is highly important because you want others to be able to read your files. While you won’t be able to be 100% compatible with everyone (unless your document is very simple), it’s best to make sure that your document is compatible with Microsoft Office as it is arguably the standard for office suites, especially in an office environment. Both solutions provide excellent support for Microsoft Office formats, and as such they both are very compatible.
However, Google’s solution cannot be guaranteed to be perfectly compatible, and it’s safe to assume that SkyDrive is virtually perfectly compatible as both SkyDrive and the Office suite both come from Microsoft. Heck, you can even open a file you’re working on in SkyDrive directly into Word if you have it installed. So, while you can generally bet that both solutions will have good compatibility, at the end of the day you have to pick the better one.
Once you’re done editing your files, you’ll want to share it with other people so that they can either view and/or edit the document. Google Drive provides excellent sharing options, allowing you to share your documents to anyone with a Google account and assigning a number of different permissions, including view only, edit, and owner permissions. There is also a link you can email people who have permissions, as well as send the link over Gmail, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. The only downside to Google’s sharing features is that others, like yourself, can only edit files that have been converted into a Google format.
As for SkyDrive, you can also share files to whomever, and allow them to view only or edit, without having to convert the file. It’s straightforward and gets the job done.
Winner: Google Drive
Syncing & Desktop Apps
Of course, as a Windows user you may wish to use the synchronization features offered by both SkyDrive and Google Drive. This can be accomplished via their respective apps. Both apps are available for Windows and Mac OS X, and SkyDrive support is somewhat available in vanilla installations of the Gnome 3.6+ desktop environment.
However, Google Drive’s app also displays files that have been converted to a Google format (double-clicking on these will open your browser) and you can even be selective in which folders you’d like to sync. These features are not available under SkyDrive.
Moreover, Google Drive offers users 15GB of storage space, and SkyDrive offers 7GB. Besides this, both apps synchronize at decent speeds, as you would expect.
Winner: Google Drive
After five different categories, Google Drive wins 3-2, for a number of reasons. First, most office needs boil down to the three common file types — documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Anything besides those are just bells and whistles, or are special needs for some people. Google Drive supports these very well, and it offers plenty of functionality to accomplish a number of tasks.
Compatibility really isn’t an issue as support for the standard file formats is near perfect. Finally, Google Drive offers the best sharing options, and allows you to easily share links to the document via Gmail, Google+, Facebook, or Twitter. SkyDrive offers a decent solution, but the fact that it doesn’t offer as many features while editing is a big turn off for me as it is a major part of what defines “office productivity.” However, there may be other reasons for using SkyDrive anyways.
What solution do you think is the best, and why? What needs to be added next in that solution? Let us know in the comments!