Google vs Microsoft

Oct 01, 2018
Which of these tech titans will win the battle for your office?


In my last article, I wrote about Google’s G Suite and the benefits of having a cloud-based office application for a digital-first finance function. However, having recently attended a Microsoft event entitled Modern Finance – Cultural Transformation in a Digital Age, I was forced to have another look at Office. There’s a battle brewing between the two tech giants to become your primary office-based application. Microsoft dominated this space for decades with Office until Google entered the race in 2006 with a suite of cloud-based office applications. In recent years, there has been an increased uptake in cloud technology and this has allowed Google to take a chunk of Microsoft’s market share. I decided to put the two head-to-head and examine the ‘trinity’ of applications used in businesses every day (email, spreadsheets and word processing) to find out who comes out on top.

Round 1: email

Anyone who has worked in an office over the last two decades will be familiar with Microsoft Outlook. Love it or hate it, Outlook isn’t going anywhere and is still regarded by many businesses as the primary application for emails. In recent years, an upsurge in businesses using webmail, which coupled with an increase in mobile device usage, has allowed Gmail to take a few swings at Outlook.

Outlook: the traditionally desktop-based email application is now available in a web-based format. For those of us who want a slicker layout and style to their emails, there are more formatting options available than in Gmail.

Gmail: finding an email is incredibly easy (as one would expect from a search engine) and keyboard shortcuts make life easier for navigating the dozens of emails received each day. Google recently introduced ‘confidential mode’, which enables further encryption of sensitive emails. Users can set an expiration date and/or an SMS passcode on their sent emails.

Round 1: Google.

Round 2: spreadsheets

I’ve always been a fan of Microsoft Excel. The first accounting use I ever had for Excel was as a teenager helping my Dad with VAT analysis. Since then, I was hooked. When I joined Google in 2015, I was eventually converted to Google Sheets. I found Sheets to be a useful collaborative tool with most of the functionality of Excel. This is going to be a tough round to decide.

Microsoft Excel: desktop-based and is sometimes prone to crashing. We have all seen the dreaded white screen with errors. On the upside, there is a lot of additional functionality not yet available in Google Sheets, such as Power Pivot and Power BI for data visualisation. To catch up and get ahead of Google Sheets, Excel has introduced co-authoring via OneDrive. This enables multiple users to work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. This is going to create a lot of efficiency for accountants currently addicted to saving multiple versions of Excel spreadsheets.

Google Sheets: Sheets was collaborative in nature long before Excel introduced co-authoring. If an Excel function is not available in Sheets (such as ‘remove duplicates’), you can use a free add-on to give you this functionality. There are also some very useful Google-specific formulae not yet available in Excel, such as Filter and Query. Finally, Sheets also syncs seamlessly with other G-Suite applications such as Docs and Slides.

Round 2: Microsoft.

Round 3: word processing

The last of the office ‘trinity’ but by no means least, the beloved word processor.

Microsoft Word
: as accountants, this is our default application for preparing reports, financial statements, engagement letters and even Accountancy Ireland articles! Microsoft Word is very easy to use, with Mail Merge and formatting a document much simpler.

Google Docs: Docs gives you the ability to insert a table from a Google Sheet, which syncs the data from the source rather than embedding a spreadsheet. If you’re preparing a set of financial statements, the latest numbers are auto-updated in the document. Google Docs is easier for tracking changes from multiple users. Changes are clearly marked for the document owner to accept or reject. This is a game changer for preparing and reviewing legal agreements, which is currently quite tedious in Microsoft Word.

Round 3: draw.

Overall winner

It’s hard to say which offering is better. Both Microsoft and Google have come a long way since the initial release of their respective offerings.

Choosing one over the other comes down to the business owner and what is needed from the application. If you’re looking for something collaborative, Google G Suite might be the answer. If you want something with added functionality, Microsoft Office could be the solution.

My advice would be to trial both and see which one suits you best.
Michael J. Walls ACA is the Founder & CEO of Dappr and Chartered Accountants Ireland’s 2018 Young Chartered Star.