When Google first introduced real-time collaboration for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, the way millions of people collaborate online fundamentally changed. That was the case back then, however, and Google is no longer the only company offering a web-based suite of office applications. If you're not happy with Google Docs, there are a variety of alternatives for you and we've rounded up the best.
Microsoft Office Online: Better than Google in many ways
If you're used to Microsoft's desktop suite – and hundreds of millions of users – Microsoft Office Online is the first alternative you should try. The service offers web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote, as well as a number of other tools. The service is free for home users and a license for the desktop version of Microsoft Office is not required. The big advantage here, however, is file compatibility. Office Online is full document fidelity, so you can view Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents on the web as if on your desktop. Your files should look exactly as you remember them, and Excel formulas or PowerPoint slides should transfer as expected.
Another potential benefit for long-time Microsoft users is the user interface, which is based on the same familiar ribbon that Microsoft has used since Office 2007 was released over a decade ago.
With the latest version of Office Online, you can upload documents directly from your computer. Files can also be downloaded as Office files, PDFs, and even open document format if you are a Libre Office user outside of the browser. All of this makes Microsoft Office Online the most complete alternative to Google Docs, especially for long-time Microsoft Office users.
Zoho Docs: An Often Overlooked Alternative
Zoho Docs is not as well known as Microsoft Office Online or Google Docs, nor is it similar to either service. Lately it has become a kind of productivity app of its own. You can still create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Just don't expect the user interface to look like Google Docs or Microsoft Office. This user interface itself is clean and easy to use, but Microsoft and Google enthusiasts may not like the unfamiliar layout and have a number of hidden menus. However, Zoho offers more options for importing documents from other cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
The free version of Zoho Docs includes 5 GB of storage per user, a file upload limit of 1 GB, two-factor authentication, the mobile app and use of the Zoho Office suite.
OnlyOffice: Solid open source suite that is also offered as a service
OnlyOffice is a relative newcomer to the world of online office suites, but the company does offer a free version of its software for personal use. The software makes it easy for users to upload documents, spreadsheets, and presentations made with Microsoft Office or Libre Office. Android and iOS apps also offer mobile access.
A major strength of OnlyOffice are the cloud-based storage options, with which you can connect your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and Yandex.Disk accounts. If you're using a major cloud service, OnlyOffice can likely connect to it. The package is also based on a ton of open source software, which means real geeks can review the source code on GitHub. It is even possible to deploy OnlyOffice on your own server, which further increases the potential for power users or network administrators.
Etherpad: Open source editor for self-hosted documents with real-time editing
Etherpad is not a complete alternative to Google Docs as it focuses solely on text editing. There is no spreadsheet app, presentation app, or compatibility with Word and Libre Office documents. If that's what you want, Etherpad isn't a viable alternative to Google Docs. Etherpad is a great choice if you only want to use your browser and collaborate on formatted text in real time.
The Etherpad software is open source, so you can download it, put it on your server, and optimize it as you wish. You can tailor the program (and your full system-wide usage) exactly to your company's needs. Mozilla Also hosts an online version of Etherpad if you need another option. While this is a simple alternative that doesn't have as many features as the Google suite, it can work great if all you need is a text editor.
Google isn't the only game in town
While Google Docs is the go-to place for many businesses, professionals, and organizations, it doesn't mean that your only choice is yours. It offers an impressive range of features and is a challenge to compete with as they make the vast majority of their features available for free.
However, alternatives to Google Docs are still worth considering if you prefer open source software. It's also interesting to see how other developers adapt to the monopoly of Google Docs for Office suites, potentially releasing something that Google Docs can fully complement or replace.