Today Google launched Google Cloud Connect, a plugin that allows users to directly share and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents through the Google Cloud. Once you connect your Google Account to Office, you can sync any of your documents to Google Docs*, and share and collaborate with anyone with an email address.
(Thanks to @EfrenR for exploring Google Cloud Connect with me.)
- Automatically back up your document revisions to Google Docs.
- Share documents with colleagues, modify shared course documents with revision history
- Maintain formatting, symbols, and equations for print-friendly documents
- Opening the same document on multiple machines is no longer an issue!
- *Don’t be fooled by the “Edit Online” option you see in Google Docs. You cannot sync revisions that you make online.
- PC only. Does not work with Macs or Linux.
- If you value screen real estate, this plugin is pretty in-your-face.
- Simultaneous editing is a mess. Unlike the friendly conflict warnings demonstrated on the video, Word completely flipped out when two contributers attempted to sync edits in the same part of the document (Program would freeze, or sync abilities were lost temporarily).
Beating Microsoft to the punch?
Microsoft has been sticking its toe into the cloud for a couple of years now. Current options include Skydrive (free online storage up to 25GB for documents and photos), Sharepoint (intranet filesharing and syncing), and most recently Office Web Apps (online editing of documents). In many ways, Google Cloud Connect is a step above all of these Office cloud solutions.
GCC vs. Skydrive/Web Apps
I’ve used Skydrive/WebApps primarily for storage; I haven’t shared anything using it, mainly because I don’t know anyone who uses it. My primary use for Office Web Apps is to sync my OneNote notebooks to my iPod (App here). For quick notes that don’t require much formatting beyond bullets, it works well.
Using WebApps online, however, has always been frustrating. Though Web Apps is Office-based, I find many of the same compatibility/formatting issues between Word and WebApps that I see between Word and Google Docs. Arrows don’t translate (kind of important for chemical equations), and symbols can often get lost in the shuffle. While documents can usually be opened online for editing, I haven’t consistently been able to open the document in word from SkyDrive to edit, even from the same machine.
Note: While you can view documents synced with GCC on Office WebApps, you cannot edit them online with Office Web Apps. Web Apps can’t open any document with tracked changes.
GCC vs. Sharepoint
Sharepoint has a monthly fee. ‘Nuf said.
The Bottom Line
Google Cloud Connect is a great new tool for sharing Office documents. It will save me a bit of time preparing quizzes and other materials for print. Since it is limited in its potential for synchronized editing, I don’t see a major opportunity for its use in my classroom. It could, I suppose, offer a clunky solution to the “Trendlines in Google Docs” problem.
If you have a PC, and you want to try out Google Cloud Connect plugin for Office and collaborate on a collection of stoichiometry problems, contact me with your email address.
And of course, I would love your thoughts on Google Cloud Connect in the comments!