Review: Google Drive leads in features, lags in ease-of-use

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides comprise the most powerful online productivity suite, but significant shortcomings remain

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The PowerPoint presentation opened in Google Slides, but it didn't display well -- fonts changed, items slid all over the slides, graphics appeared as big white spaces. Animations and transitions didn't work. When I changed a few words, downloaded the presentation, and opened it in PowerPoint, the problems persisted: mismatched fonts, misaligned slides, no transitions, and big white fields for graphics.

All in all, simple Word documents came through Google Docs pretty well, but unusual fonts can cause problems. A more complex document didn't even open. Simple spreadsheets come through fine. But even a simple presentation cratered.

Google maintains a continuously updated calendar that lists major changes in the suite. It's a big help if you're wondering if your specific feature is coming down the pike.

Is Google Drive for you?
If you're looking for the most capabilities for your buck -- even if you aren't spending any bucks at all -- the Google apps deliver the goods. While you may be able to find specific features in other suites that trump the Google offerings, Google Docs and Sheets in general provide many more features, and many more useful features. Google Slides isn't a clear winner in the features race. Keynote for iCloud will work better for many users, especially those who want to put spreadsheets or spreadsheet-derived graphs on their slides.

Google has been at this a long time, and it shows -- in terms of both capability and old growth. The apps feel like they've been hobbled together, with entire groups of features bolted onto the side, much like Office 2003. The apps cover a whole lot of ground, but in a meandering way. Expect a blissfully abbreviated learning curve for Office 2003 veterans, but more of a struggle for folks who have dealt exclusively with ribbons.

The big question about Google apps is whether Google will continue to plow money into improving them. Right now, it seems that Google is hell-bent on making the apps run on different machines -- Chromebooks, of course, but also iPads and Android tablets -- as well as locally (using the Chrome browser's HTML5 capabilities) on Windows and OS X systems. It remains to be seen whether this diversification will slow the progress of the apps themselves.

This story, "Review: Google Drive leads in features, lags in ease-of-use," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in applications and cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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