Users of modern Macs face an unfortunate dilemma when it comes to cloud-integrated office suites. Google Cloud Connect is not available for Macs; the company blames Microsoft for their lack of support for open APIs in the Mac version of Office. And the OOo2GD extension for OpenOffice (and friends) doesn’t work properly on any version of OSX after 10.4 (Tiger) due to Java issues. What this effectively means is that true Google Docs integration is simply not possible at the current time. Users are left with two equally cumbersome and unappealing options.
Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac includes native (though rudimentary) hooks into Microsoft’s own cloud infrastructure. Applications in this suite offer the ability to “Save to SkyDrive” or “Save to SharePoint.” There is not, however, support for automatic synchronization. It is still a manual process, an extra step in your workflow which means this is not true integration. And for established Google Docs devotees, it requires a separate collaborative space to be created and maintained.
NeoOffice is a Mac-specific fork of OpenOffice. I tested version 3.2 Beta Patch 1. Through a feature known as “NeoOffice Mobile,” it does provide support for saving to Google Docs; but again, true integration eludes us here. Users are inexplicably required to create a separate NeoOffice Mobile account, even if they’re only using it for the ability to save directly to Google Docs. The account creation process is tedious (you are asked to donate money), and credentials do not appear to be saved between sessions. So when you quit NeoOffice, and then start it up the next time, you have to separately login to both NeoOffice Mobile and Google Docs. And you have to do this every time. There’s no automatic synchronization, either.
The elegance and seamlessness of both Google Cloud Connect and OOo2GD are sorely missed in OSX Leopard and Snow Leopard. Hopefully someday soon, one of these options will be available, or perhaps an entirely new solution will present itself.
The following is a comparison of cloud integration options for two popular office suites. Both options allow synchronization of documents, spreadsheets and presentations to Google Docs. Both options allow for either automatic or manual syncing, depending on user preference.
LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD advantages:
- None of the costs associated with Microsoft Office
- Multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, many other Unix variants)
- Supports other cloud services besides Google Docs (Zoho and generic WebDAV)
- When used with user-controlled WebDAV, allows for total control/ownership of all data
- Translated into many other languages besides English
LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD disadvantages:
- Some problems with certain versions of Mac OSX (seems to be Java related)
- Needs Java 5+ to work, on any platform
Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect advantages:
- Allows user to disable Protected View for documents synced with Google Docs
- Allows application-level configuration of a proxy server to access Google Docs
- Does not require Java
Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect disadvantages:
- The cost of the office suite
- Limited to the Windows platform
- No option for end-to-end control and ownership of all data
- Does not support any services other than Google Docs
The most impactful factors to consider are the platforms being used by all potential collaborators, and any enterprise requirements for internalization of data.
If you’re dealing with a heterogeneous client environment, OOo2GD is the way to go. The interface looks the same across all platforms it supports, which simplifies training through consistency and uniformity; the only caveat is that you may have problems if any Mac users are running one of the versions of OSX affected by the known Java issue. If you’re an all-Windows shop, none of the above is a concern, and either option will work fine.
Some companies are hesitant to embrace cloud computing because of the inherent risks of having your data stored on someone else’s hardware, in a physical location you do not control. This would be a show-stopper for Google Cloud Connect, because all synchronized documents will live on Google’s servers. Assuming your company sets up its own internal WebDAV instance, which could be accessed by employees via VPN, OOo2GD would provide a completely self-owned and internally-controlled solution. This would allay many of the typical fears associated with cloud computing.
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