Yesterday, Google released a tool that let's Microsoft Office users automatically sync and share documents on their PCs via Google Docs. Today, Microsoft fired back in a blog post that accuses Google Cloud Connect of being difficult to install, a potential cause of data loss, a drain on application performance and a security/privacy risk.
This from a company that discontinued Office Live Workspace! Microsoft currently only supports sync between a locally created document and its cloud apps (now called Office Web Apps) in Microsoft Office 2010. Previously, its cloud apps were called Office Live Workspace, and Microsoft offered a connector that worked with Office 2007 and Office 2003 – which are the versions the vast majority of Office users are using.
With no Live Workspace, Google Cloud Connected sounded good to me, so I put Microsoft’s claims to the test and concluded 1) the blog raised some valid points, but it also makes some ridiculous claims. 2) Instead of blogging about why people shouldn’t use it, why doesn't Microsoft make it easier for its Office users to backup to the cloud and collaborate?
Tony Tai, writing on the “Why Microsoft” on Technet said that Microsoft has offered such functionality for years and that Microsoft found it to be complicated to implement. “No small task, we should know – we released similar capabilities with Office 2003 called Document Workspaces and Shared Workbooks, and Word 2002 Compare and Merge,” he wrote.
So, I opened up Microsoft Word 2007 to write this blog post. Prior to writing it, I downloaded Google Cloud Connect. Tai claims this “is a multi-step process and is not intuitive for most users.” If you are old enough to read and operate a computer, I assure you, this process is intuitive.
I clicked on the download button, fired up Word, granted the application the requested permission, logged into Google when prompted and opted for the manual sync. My documents will only go into the cloud when I tell them to. It took me literally less than three minutes.
In contrast, I tried to do the same with the tools Tai said Microsoft offers. I hunted through six Ribbon menus looking for something that said “share” or “Document Workspaces”. That failed.
I hit F1 and searched for “share” and found no information. I happen to know what the precise feature is called, so I tried “Document Workspaces.” And I was told:
“To create a Document Workspace site, you must have permission to create workspace sites on the Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services site where the Document Workspace site is located. For more information, see your administrator.”
I need SharePoint and I need an administrator. That's a multi-step process for me, and an IT administrator. Not intuitive.
I have a Windows Live account. I can access those documents from any computer (even Firefox on my Ubuntu Linux box). I don't share them with people, mainly because I’ve never successfully been able to do it. Like Google Docs, it’s not accessible to people without a Windows Live ID, but even when they have one, I've had nothing but problems.
But I wondered, can I use Office Live to automatically backup and sync my documents from Office the way Google Cloud Connect does? So, I hunted around several Microsoft sites and after 15 minutes, I had my answer. This is the process per the Microsoft Office Web site.
In Word, Excel, or PowerPoint
- Open an existing document or create a new one in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
- Click File, click Save & Send, and then click Save to Web.
- Click Sign in. enter your Windows Live ID and password, and click OK. If you use Hotmail, Messenger, or Xbox Live, you already have a Windows Live ID. If you don’t have one, click Sign Up to create a new Windows Live ID.
- Select a folder on your SkyDrive, and click Save As. Type a name for your file and click Save. The document is now saved on SkyDrive. Click File and Close.
- In your web browser, go to http://office.live.com.
- Select the folder where you saved your document, and then click the file name The document opens in the appropriate Office Web App.
One problem: It only works with Microsoft Office 2010.
All that said, Google Cloud Connect is far from perfect. It installs a giant useless toolbar on the top of every Office document that you can’t turn off, or even minimize. As my co-worker, Jon Brodkin, told me, “I just wish Google wasn't being so obnoxious; it's like they're putting an ad on your documents.”
One good point that Tai made was that Google Docs doesn’t support Microsoft’s Tracking feature. If you've been editing in tracking, when you sync the document, Google accepts the changes for you and writes over the revisions you made … not just on the saved cloud copy. Your tracked changes disappear in the original document, too. Not cool.
Ultimately, I uninstalled Google Cloud Connect. If I really want that functionality now, I can use OfficeSync.