Office Document editing choices
When it comes to working with Office Documents within Chrome OS you’ve got a choice of web-based Office suites.
- Using fully featured web versions of Microsoft Office via the office.microsoft.com website (an active Office 365 subscription required).
- Using fully featured web versions of Microsoft Office via Microsoft SkyDrive (free but requires a Microsoft ID).
- Using web versions of Apples iWorks on icloud.com (free but requires an iCloud account (only available to Mac or iOS users & requires Chrome up to & including Chrome 26, but I got it to run fine on Chrome 32 which is the latest version & also the latest stable version of Chrome OS).
- Using Google Drive (probably the easiest method to work with Office Documents as it uses your Google Account which new users to Chrome OS that don’t have a Google Account have to set up to use Chrome OS).
When Microsoft first introduced Office web apps was when they introduced live.com as the replacement for hotmail.com and office.live.com was the easiest way to get to the Office web apps, but since introducing outlook.com as a replacement for live.com and the office.microsoft.com as the web home for Microsoft Office 365 2013 users it’s been shunted off to skydrive.live.com for users who have only got a Microsoft ID, but the web apps seem to be pretty much the same as the subscription based Microsoft Office 365 versions, The only difference is that the access to the Web apps is hidden away in the SkyDrive Create menu.
The iWork iCloud solution is only limited to users who have ether an iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac device as there is no way to create an iCloud Account without one of the above mentioned Apple products.
The web versions of the iWorks apps seem a little too basic for Office Applications, I don’t know if they’re a mirror image of the real iWorks Apps but Pages seems more like a notes Application than a fully fledged Word Processor, but if you also have a Mac at home and don’t have a Microsoft Account then iWorks might satisfy your needs.
The Pages web app seems lacking compared to the Microsoft Word web app considering that it’s made by Apple. The last option is Google Drive, and there isn’t really an excuse not to use Google Drive as if a Chromebook is your first Google device you have to set up a Google Account during the first setup of a Chromebook if you don’t have one already and the 100GB of free Google Drive Storage on top of what you get as standard is a great bonus.
The real plus for using Google Drive is that you can use it while Offline to create and edit Google Docs, Slides & Sheets document while Offline and everything syncs up to your Google Drive Account once you’re back Online. The only thing you can’t do in Google Drive while Offline is rename a document, also Google Sheets Offline features might not always work as expected as Google Sheets Offline is still in beta. The Google Docs web app is less feature rich than the Microsoft Word web app but it has more features than what the Apple Pages iCloud app has. To me the UI of Google Docs looks like that of a blog editor e.g. the WordPress editor that I’m using to write this post, but of course more geared towards producing documents that can be printed out and not posted Online.
When using a metered connection
The only reason that I’ve mentioned both Microsoft Office web & Apple iWorks on iCloud is that I’ve already got Microsoft ID’s and I’ve also got an iCloud Account for my iPhone but my go to Office Suite is Google Drive since I’ve got the 2 years free 100GB of storage on top of the default 25GB. Also since I’m using a Chromebook the Offline support in Google Drive beats being stuck without anything when I’ve not got a net connection plus the clean UI makes it easy to use while I’m using my Phone as a personal Hotspot as it’s not having to load a complex UI like the picture laden iCloud or the ribbon UI of the Microsoft web apps.
I’d recommend Google Drive as the Office suite of choice for anyone looking to get a Chromebook as it offers a fully functional Office suite & Cloud Storage rolled into on. Offline support may be limited, but not being able to rename any newly created Documents from what you named them when you created them isn’t really a deal breaker & may actually make you think about what you name a Document first. The extra 100GB of free Google Drive Storage only sweetens the deal as it allows you to have a chance to see if you actually need more than the standard 25GB that you get with a Google Account.
I’ve tried I’ve tried Pages on iCloud when I first got my iPhone and found it really to limiting & I see it more as the Apple equivalent to Microsoft Word Pad that comes with Windows as it has more functionality than a notepad app but not at the level that you could use it to create your CV or letters.
I’ve used the Microsoft Word web app before and find it an excellent way to use Microsoft Word without having it Installed, but the only downside is that when you Print from the Word web app it converts your Document to a pdf and downloads it before Printing and at best gives a draft quality Printout and probably not something that you’d want to send to a perspective employer.
For anyone that’s got a Windows-based Desktop or Laptop, even if you’ve got an iMac, Mac Pro or even Macbook there is an alternative method to get access to Microsoft Office or LibreOffice on Windows or Mac & iWorks on Mac, or LibreOffice on Linux by using Chrome Remote Desktop. I’ve not given Chrome Remote Desktop a go yet even though I’ve got it Installed, but that’s really for another post as it doesn’t fall under the scope of this post.
If you’ve got another Desktop or Laptop running a more traditional OS such as Window, Mac OSX or Linux as well as a Chromebook and want the best of both worlds by being able to work with Office Documents in the Cloud Online & Offline as well as using more traditional and powerful Office suites such as Microsoft Office, Apple iWorks or even LibreOffice then I’d recommend using both Google Drive and Chrome Remote Desktop, and if you leave the Machine you want to remote Desktop into Powered on you’ll even have access to it outside of your private Network.