By Gavin Phillips
More and more word processing is moving to the web these days. This has many advantages. The documents are accessible from anywhere, they’re open to collaboration and sharing, it’s easy to import and export, and it’s just a better way to do work in this constantly connected world.
For a while, one of the most popular solutions has been Google Docs. It’s a great service, and one that has served me well over the months and years I’ve been using it. Google Docs, though, is not without its downsides, some of which have left me in constant search for the best and brightest of the online document managing application.
Well, I haven’t found it yet, but I’ve found five pretty great alternatives to Google Docs that you might want to check out. All of these, and Google Docs, offer the same basic editing features; instead of rehashing them over and over, I’ll point out the best features that put the application on this list.
The offering is so good that some people have entirely eschewed purchasing Microsoft Office 2016 in favor of the free online suite. The introduction of collaborative tools has only strengthened the free service, too.
However, Microsoft has not given us the crown jewels. No, there is a catch. The Microsoft Office applications are extremely handy, but lack some key features. For instance, the number of templates available is reduced. As well as this, you can use the integrated styles, but cannot make your own. Office Online contains a number of these “half-features” that you’ll encounter from time to time. Some are negligible. Others can be massively frustrating — I’m looking at you Merge Formatting.
Office Online is still an excellent alternative to Google Docs, despite the shortcomings found in several of the applications.
The writer itself is excellent, with a ton of editing options, organized in a succinct and aesthetically pleasing sidebar. Almost anything you can do in Word can be done in Zoho, from adding a header and footer to directly posting a document to your blog. It also features advanced options, such as mail merging and electronic signature support. Another extremely handy feature is the integrated Zoho chat, so you can chat with collaborators while working.
If collaboration is what you’re into, give Etherpad a good look. There’s no need to sign up or install Etherpad. You can simply select one of the public instances running Etherpad Lite, many of which feature secure encrypted connections. Once you’re connected, either share a link to the pad or send invitations to your contacts by email.
As users come in, you can edit the text on the pad in real-time, and changes automatically appear. You can chat in the sidebar, highlight which user made a given change, and save revisions in order to revert if someone made a mistake.
Etherpad is perfect for coding and programming, but it’s also great for writing and editing documents. There aren’t as many features to Etherpad, and all your editing is in plain text, but it’s so collaborative and useful that it deserves a mention anyway.
Dropbox Paper clearly has some excellent features. Adding and curating images is exceptionally easy, especially if you already use Dropbox as an image host. Similarly, embedding other content is just as easy. You’ll be able to embed YouTube, Vimeo, Spotify, SoundCloud, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Docs.
Another handy collaboration feature is Task Assignment. You can quickly turn any bullet-list into a task list to be assigned to your collaborators.
Nonetheless, writing and editing in Nuclino is aided by the clean aesthetic and easily implemented editorial tools. Nuclino is versatile, too. Multiple groups, multiple boards, easy invitations, smart tags, and integration with services such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud provide an expansive service.
However, Nuclino doesn’t have much in the locker if you wanted a pure editorial experience. Similarly, there isn’t an integrated spreadsheet application. Consequently, if your team depends on advanced document editing and formatting or even just basic spreadsheets, you’ll be importing to Nuclino from another source.
An Alternative Ending
Google Docs is still an excellent tool, but there are alternatives out there. You can choose a more traditional editor experience in Office Online or Zoho Writer, or try a collaborative experience with Dropbox Paper or Nuclino. Needless to say, you have a handful of options to consider before starting your next big project!