SideXSide: Which Office Suite is Right for Your Users?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 02-01-2011

If you've had enough of Microsoft Office, or if you simply want to know more about the other productivity suites are out there, you've come to the right place. In this edition of SideXSide, we examine the major differences between four of the most prominent productivity options on the market -- Microsoft Office 2010, Google Docs, Apple's iWork platform, and OpenOffice.

Depending on what you're looking for, any of these might prove worthwhile for your company. Microsoft Office undoubtedly has the most name-recognition and familiarity in the enterprise, but now more than ever, it's facing stiff competition from suites that deliver comparable functionality.

The table below provides an overview of some of the enterprise-friendly features available in each solution to help you determine which offering -- or combination of offerings -- can deliver for your organization.

Features

Microsoft Office 2010 

Google Docs

Apple iWork

OpenOffice

Enterprise edition available?

Office comes in three flavors. The software's Home and Business lacks Access 2010 and Publisher 2010, while Office Professional comes with all Office programs, including Access 2010 and Publisher 2010. Office Professional Plus includes InfoPath, SharePoint WorkSpace, and several other tools.  

Google Docs is a single, Web-based tool available to any user. It's also included as part of a suite of products in Google's Business apps offering.

Like Mac OS X, iWork is one-size-fits-all. No enterprise-focused editions with more features are available.

Just one version of OpenOffice is available. However, that version includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, a Paint-like program, and a database application.

Integration with mobile apps?

Available on Windows Phone 7 devices. Other apps available to other platforms work in the same file extensions Office uses.

Although it's Web-based, Google Docs is available on mobile devices via Google's mobile application.

iWork is available on the iPhone and iPad for an additional fee.

OpenOffice is not available as a mobile application at this point. However, as an open-source alternative to Office, users can transfer mobile documents to the platform.

Web-based option?

Microsoft offers Office Web Apps, an online alternative to Google Docs. It features less functionality than its desktop alternative for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. 

Google Docs is a Web-based application.

iWork is not available on the Web. However, it is available in mobile version in Apple's App Store. Apple also offers a Web site where users can share iWork documents.

OpenOffice itself is not available as a Web application. However, the product's lead developer, Oracle, offers Oracle Cloud Office for those who want to work on the Web.

Support for key Office formats

Yes. Office 2010 includes support for .doc, .xls, .ppt, and many others.

Yes. Complete support for key Office formats, including .doc, .xls, and others.

Yes. Files can be saved from iWork in several Office formats, including .doc and .xls.

Offers full support for .doc, .xls, and .ppt, among others.

Spreadsheet, presentation considerations 

Office 2010 delivers some of the most robust functionality when it comes to spreadsheets. The platform supports pivot tables, advanced formulas, and ample room for the most sophisticated spreadsheets. Microsoft's PowerPoint delivers more transitions and customization options than the vast majority of programs available to enterprise users.

Due to its Web-based functionality, Google Docs fails to deliver as many power-hungry features as Office. The platform supports less sophisticated formulas and has fewer data-modification features as Excel. Its presentation offering offers fewer transitions and less control than competing products, like Microsoft's PowerPoint.

Apple's iWork platform is somewhat lacking in its Numbers spreadsheet application. It offers graphing and formula support, but it lacks some of the more advanced formulas that have helped keep Excel ahead of much of the competition. Keynote, iWork's presentation application, is widely complimented for its top-notch functionality. 

OpenOffice's spreadsheet application, Calc, offers Excel-like functionality. One of its core features is the ability to pull raw data from databases into the application. Debate rages over whether or not it can stand up to Excel in terms of overall usability. The platform's Impress application features many of the same features as PowerPoint, though Keynote typically delivers more usability.

Tracking options?

Collaboration features are available in Office 2010. However, tracking of employee use isn't so easily achieved.

Although Google Docs lacks actual "tracking" tools, users can collaborate with others in the program and see changes made.

iWork lacks actual tracking options that would be useful to IT staff trying to get more out of employees.

We are not aware of any tools that allow IT staff to track use of OpenOffice. However, a Google search revealed some solutions could be in the works.

Pricing

Pricing depends on the option your company chooses. Office Professional is available for $349.99, while Office Professional Plus is available only through volume licensing.

Google Docs is available as a free application to Google users. Google also offers Business Apps for $50 per user per year. 

iWork is available for $79. Volume pricing is also available with 10 or more licenses. 

OpenOffice is available for free, no matter how many licenses customers require.

OS availability 

Office is available on both Windows and Mac OS X. 

Since it is Web-based, Google Docs can be used on any operating system.

iWork is available only on Mac OS X and iOS via the iPad and iPhone. 

OpenOffice is available to Windows and Linux. A Mac OS X version is also available, though many of those running that operating system prefer an alternative, NeoOffice.

Security features

Like other Microsoft products, Office is often targeted my malicious hackers. Office 2010 features several security options for IT, including controls on file execution in the program, file validation, the ability to view unprotected files in a sandbox, and much more. The platform also provides IT with more control over all.

Google Docs lacks many of the security features available in Office. However, all files are set to private by default and do not appear in Google search results. All files are kept behind the person's Google username and password, making that combination extremely important in a corporate environment. 

Apple's iWork platform features standard security features, including the ability to password-protect spreadsheets. It's also important for users to keep iWork updated when each new software update is released.

A key component in the security of OpenOffice is the fact that it's open source. The community often sifts through the code and finds vulnerabilities that are then made public to the user base. Security updates are made available through software updates. For the most part, that security protocol has kept OpenOffice quite safe.

Source: CIO Insight, February 2011.