The one thing I don't like about Google Apps

As a long time Google Apps user and observer, there's only one major problem with the otherwise solid service, and it's a big deal for small business.
Written by Josh Gingold, Contributor

Google Apps now claims "4 million businesses and growing" and many of those are undoubtedly growing businesses themselves.  After all, what's not to like about Google Apps if you're a small business?  It's highly useful for much more than just email and calendars.  It's also great for file sharing (including video), collaboration, advanced communication, and the list goes on and on.

I've been using it for over a year, both the free and business editions, and have to say I'm very happy with it despite some initial objections that were mostly due to my general aversion for change.  I like Google Apps and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for practically anybody.

But there is one thing that I really don't like about Google Apps: Google Docs.

Although I really appreciate the ability to save and view documents in the cloud (I'm now completely independent of any single computer!), it hasn't quite become the Microsoft Office replacement I thought it might be.  A good alternative, yes, but not yet even close to a replacement and here's why.

It just doesn't work very well when it comes to actually creating new documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  I still use Office for those sorts of things and then maintain their formatting when I upload them to Google Docs.  If I don't maintain the Office formatting, and instead let Google Docs convert the files to its own formats, then it rarely if ever gets saved correctly.  Headers and fonts may be different, graphics misaligned, you get the idea.

No biggie, right?  Well, no, I guess not, but it is a hassle so instead I just use Office and then upload and download the Office files to and from Google Docs whenever I need to edit them as opposed to editing them in Google Docs as it was intended.  Plus, it means I still need Microsoft Office, which I have nothing against, but I would really rather not have to pay for it if it isn't necessary.

See also: Google Docs previews collaborative presentationsGoogle Docs gets comment-only collaboratorsGoogle adds offline mode to Gmail, Calendar, Docs appsGoogle Docs on-the-go: The clean UI makes it better

It's not too much of a reach to say that I'm pretty sure other small business owners would probably feel the same way.  My teenage daughter certainly does.  She complained about it this week and now wants a copy of Office for her own computer (cha-ching).

In fairness, I must admit that I tried saving money by convincing her (and her brothers) that she can do anything with the free version of Google Docs that she can do with the paid version of Office.  "Give it a try!" I remember saying.  Well, she did and she doesn't like it.  Unfortunately, she's also the primary influencer in her younger brothers' lives so of course they don't like it now either.

Dang.  Well, Google has a lot of really smart people and I hope they figure this one out sooner rather than later.  Small business owners... and the Gingolds... are waiting.

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