This post is a menu-by-menu comparison of Word Online, available through an Office 365 subscription, compared to features available in Google Docs online. Any discrepancies are documented here, and features available in both Apps are not called out. On the following screens, the first image or image group listed will always be a screen shot of Word Online, the second image will be Google Docs. The screenshots show the differences in the two applications through the browser, keep in mind this post does not cover desktop features. Word screenshots were captured using Internet Explorer 11, and Google Docs screenshots were captured using Google Chrome. Included with Office 365 subscriptions is a desktop version of Office, these features that are not in Word Online but are available in Word on the desktop are listed at the end of this document. Google Docs is online only, with limited offline availability through the Chrome browser.

This is a snapshot of available features as of July 28, 2015. Features and options can change in the future.

Microsoft Office 365: https://products.office.com/en-us/products
Google Docs: https://docs.google.com/

Initial screens for Word and Docs

Office 365 has official templates built-in and available to download directly from Microsoft. Docs doesn’t have templates built-in, they have a location to download from google.com, which include many templates that are created by others outside of Google. Docs templates are found from the File menu > New > From template option, which opens another browser window to browse the directory. Word’s official templates are built-into the initial screen.

Word Online

Google Docs

Formatting Options

Office 365 has a more intuitive ribbon (toolbar in Docs) with formatting options readily available. Google Docs has some of these options tucked away on menus. Office 365 has a larger variety of built-in styles, available from the ribbon. Docs has the standard six styles of text.

Word Online

Google Docs

New Document screen comparison

Word Online

Google Docs

Embed & Publish to the web

Word has an Embed feature to embed a document on a web page. Docs has a Publish to the web feature which allows you to Link to a file stored on a server, or embed the document on a web page. Docs also allows you to save as a Web Page (.html zipped). There is no option to save as a .html file in Word.

Word Online

Google Docs

Document Modes & Sharing

Docs has 3 modes; Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing. Word has Editing View and Reading View. Suggesting mode in Docs is the equivalent of the Shared feature in Word. Docs collaborates using Suggesting mode, shared users make changes, and these show up as suggestions for the owner to accept or reject. Sharing in Word allows others to edit the document and make changes to the document without the original owner accepting. Viewing mode and Reading View are the same. Below are Sharing options for collaboration in both Apps:

Word Online

Google Docs

Fonts

Word offers a standard collection of fonts from their server. Google offers a much larger variety, around 700 fonts, pulled from the Google Fonts directory.

Word Online

Google Docs

View Options

Docs has an Equation toolbar as well as an option to turn on a Ruler. These are not present in Word. Word has an option to turn on or off visible Page Ends, which is not available in Docs. Below is a screenshot of the Equation toolbar and ruler in Docs:

Google Docs

Insert Options

Docs has an option to insert an Equation on the View menu, not available in Word. Also not available in Office 365 is Google’s Drawings feature. You can easily create, share, and edit drawings online with Google Drawings. Whether you want to create a chart or diagram to add to another file, or paint an image, Google Drawings can help. Edit drawings online in real time with anyone you choose, and invite others to view your edits in real time.

  • Chat with others who are editing your drawing, from within the drawings editor.
  • Publish drawings online to the world as images, or download them in standard formats.
  • Insert text, shapes, arrows, scribbles, and images from your hard drive or from the Web to enhance a diagram or painting.
  • Lay out drawings precisely with alignment guides, snap to grid, and auto distribution.
  • Insert drawings into other Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides using the web clipboard, then tweak them inline.

Word has options to Insert Footnotes and Endnotes. Docs has options to add Footnotes, Bookmarks or a Table of Contents, not Endnotes. Table of Contents or Bookmarks cannot be added natively in Office 365, the option to Open in Word must be used to add these. Word does not have an option to add a horizontal line, Docs does. All other Insert features can be performed on both.

Word Online

 

Google Docs

Tools options

Docs has a handful of built-in tools that are not available in Word. Research, Define, Translate, Script editor, and Personal dictionary. These tools are available in Google Docs through the Tools menu. All of these features are available in similar fashion in Word for desktop, but not through the browser. Below are tools available in Docs:

Google Docs

Table Formatting

Word has many different formatting options available for Tables including Table Styles, Color schemes, Cell Shading, Row features, available on two tabs; DESIGN and LAYOUT.

Word Online

 

Docs has basic options for formatting a table, shown below:

Google Docs

Add-ins & Add-ons

Both Docs and Word have Add-ons and Add-ins to extend the functionality of their Apps. As of the time of writing, it appears Office Add-ins is down for maintenance. This is an available feature. Docs Add-ons are more frequently used than compared to Word and have a much larger library of available downloads. Docs Add-ons are developed externally, by sources outside of Google.

Word Online

Google Docs

Differences between using a document in the browser and in Word

Microsoft Word Online lets you make basic edits and formatting changes to your document in a web browser. For more advanced features, use Word Online’s Open in Word command. When you save the document in Word, it is saved on the website where you opened it in Word Online.

File formats supported in Word Online

Word Online opens documents in these formats:

  • Word Document (.docx)
  • Word Template (.dotx)
  • Word Macro-Enabled Document (.docm) or Word Macro-Enabled Template (.dotm)
    The document can be opened, but macros do not run.
  • Word 97-2003 Document (.doc) or Word 97-2003 Template (.dot)
    Word Online displays documents in these formats, but to edit the document in the browser, Word Online saves a new copy of the document in .docx or .dotx format. Word Online can’t save documents in the .doc or .dot formats.
  • OpenDocument Text (.odt)
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)

Word Online can’t open documents in other file formats. For example, these formats are not supported: Rich Text Format (RTF), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions HTML (MHTML).

Features supported for viewing and printing

When you view or print a document in Word Online, the document looks the same as it does in Print Layout view in the Word desktop app. Word Online uses a PDF reader to print documents (see the list of supported PDF readers). If you want Word features for printing (such as adjusting page margins), click Open in Word, and print in the Word desktop app.

When you are viewing a document, some features work differently in the browser than they do in the Word desktop app. To use features that are not available in Word Online, click Open in Word.

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Print Layout view In Reading view, Word Online displays a document as it looks in Print Layout view. Other views available in the Word desktop app (Outline, Draft, Web Layout, and Full Screen Reading) are not available in Word Online. Likewise, the Navigation pane, side-by-side viewing, and split windows are not available in Word Online.
Rulers and gridlines Word Online does not display rulers and gridlines.

Features that differ between the browser and the desktop

When you edit a document in Word Online, the document is presented in Editing view so that you can edit and format text. Editing view doesn’t show page formatting, such as margins or page breaks, cover pages, or headers and footers. Additionally, many kinds of objects are displayed as placeholders.

The following tables describe how Word Online supports features that might apply to your documents. To use features beyond what’s available in Word Online, click Open in Word.

Opening and saving

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Information Rights Management (IRM) In Outlook Online attachments and SharePoint libraries that are IRM-protected, Word Online opens documents for reading, but not for editing. IRM protection can’t be added to documents in Word Online.
Password protection Word Online can’t open documents that are encrypted with a password,
Permission to modify A document that requires a password to modify it opens in Word Online in Reading view, but the document cannot be edited in the browser. Click Open in Word to remove editing restrictions.
Save You save a document manually in Word Online; there is no auto-save feature.
Manage Versions Versions are managed on the server rather than in Word Online. If your document is stored on OneDrive, use the Version History feature in OneDrive. If your document is stored in a SharePoint library, see if the Version History feature has been configured for the library.

Editing and formatting

This feature Works like this in Word Online
Copy and Paste Copy and paste text, and copy/paste pictures from the web. Text is formatted to match the text surrounding where it is pasted in Word Online.
Font formatting Apply bold, italics, underline, strikethrough, subscript, superscript, font, size, color, and highlighting. You can also clear font formatting.
Paragraph formatting Align paragraphs left, right, or centered; run text right-to-left or left-to-right; increase or decrease indentation; adjust line spacing; format paragraphs as a bulleted or numbered list. You can also clear formatting.
Numbering and bullets Apply one of several built-in numbering or bullet styles.
Styles Apply one of a gallery of built-in styles. You can also clear formatting. You cannot create new styles or modify styles in Word Online.
Find Find is available only in Reading view. Find and Replace is not available in Word Online.
Zoom Zoom is available only in Reading view. Use your browser’s view settings to zoom in or out in Editing view.
Line breaks and page breaks Breaks between lines and pages are displayed in Reading view. In Editing view, line breaks look the same as paragraph breaks, and page breaks are not indicated.
Columns Page layout is preserved but can’t be edited in Word Online.
Theme, page color, watermarks Theme and page background are preserved in the document but can’t be edited in Word Online.
Co-authoring Multiple authors can work simultaneously in Word Online. Co-authoring works across Word 2010 or later and Word for Mac 2011.

Reviewing

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Proofing tools Check spelling and set the proofing language, using the built-in dictionary. Word Online does not use a custom dictionary and does not include grammar checking, translation, or a thesaurus.
AutoCorrect Word Online corrects common mistakes as you type, such as switching letters that are typed in the wrong order (for example, “teh” is changed to “the”). If Word Online makes a correction you don’t want, press Ctrl+Z to undo it. Unlike the Word desktop application, Word Online does not include a way to customize the AutoCorrect options.
Tracked changes Tracked changes appear in Reading view. To turn Track Changes on or off, click Open in Word.

Objects

This Feature Works like this in Word Online
Hyperlinks Insert, edit, and follow hyperlinks. Bookmark and cross-reference links work, and you can edit their display text, but not their destination, in Word Online.
Tables Insert tables. Select by table, column, row or cell; delete by table, column, or row; Insert rows and columns; align cell text left, right, or centered. More sophisticated table features–such as table styles, cell size, text direction, and sort order–are preserved in the document, but cannot be configured in Word Online.
Pictures Insert pictures or clip art stored on your computer or from Bing. You can apply a number of picture styles, write alt-text, and change the size, but pictures cannot be dragged to a new location. Instead, press Ctrl+X to cut, and then press Ctrl+V in the new location to paste. More sophisticated features for working with pictures, such as cropping, are not available in Word Online. You can’t create screen shots directly in Word Online, but screen shots in a document display as pictures in Word Online.
Shapes, charts, text boxes, SmartArt, WordArt These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Equations, symbols, ink These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Fields, content controls, cover page These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view the content of fields and content controls are displayed but cannot be edited or updated. A cover page appears as a series of placeholders for elements like text boxes.
Headers and footers These display in the document as expected in Reading view. Headers and footers, including page numbers, are hidden in Editing view.
Footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, table of contents, index These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit or update.
Macros You can view, edit, print, and share documents that contain macros, but to run the macros click Open in Word.
ActiveX controls, embedded OLE objects, signature line These display in the document as expected in Reading view. In Editing view they appear as placeholders that you can delete but not edit. They cannot be moved or resized in Word Online.
Linked pictures, embedded files These are preserved in the document but are displayed as placeholders in Word Online.

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