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The Best Google Docs Alternatives for Browser-Based Editing

When Google first began offering real-time collaboration for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, it essentially changed the way millions of people work together online. That was then, however, and Google is no longer the only company that offers a web-based suite of office applications. If you’re dissatisfied with Google Docs, there’s a wide range of alternatives out there for you, and we’ve rounded up the best of them.

Microsoft Office Online: In many ways, better than Google

Microsoft Office online screenshot
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If you’re used to Microsoft’s desktop suite — and hundreds of millions of users are — then Microsoft Office Online is the first alternative you should check out. The service offers web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote, along with a number of other tools. The service is free for home users, and a license for the desktop version of Microsoft Office is not required. The big advantage here is file compatibility, though. Office Online provides full document fidelity, allowing you to view Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents on the Web as you would on your desktop. Your files should look exactly the way you remember them, and Excel formulas or PowerPoint slides should transfer as expected.

Another potential pro for longtime Microsoft users is the interface, which is built on the same familiar ribbon Microsoft has used since the release of Office 2007 over a decade ago.

The current version of Office Online does allow you to upload documents directly from your computer. Files can also be downloaded as Office files, PDFs, and even in the open document format if you’re a Libre Office user outside the browser. All this makes Microsoft Office Online the most complete alternative to Google Docs, particularly for longtime Microsoft Office users.

Zoho Docs: An often-overlooked alternative

Zoho docs screenshot
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Zoho Docs isn’t as well known as Microsoft Office Online or Google Docs and it doesn’t really resemble either service either. Recently, it’s become its own sort of productivity app. You can still create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Just don’t expect the user interface to look like Google Docs or Microsoft Office. This interface itself is clean and simple to use, but Microsoft and Google enthusiasts may not like its unfamiliar layout and that it has a number of hidden menus. But Zoho does offer more options when it comes to importing documents from other cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

The free version of Zoho Docs includes 5GB of storage per user, a file upload limit of 1GB, two-factor authentication, the mobile app, and use of the Zoho office suite.

OnlyOffice: Solid open-source suite that’s also offered as a service

OnlyOffice screenshot
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OnlyOffice is a relative newcomer to the world of online office suites, but the company offers a free version of its software for personal use. The software allows users to easily upload documents, spreadsheets, and presentations created using Microsoft Office or Libre Office. Android and iOS apps also provide mobile access.

A key strength of OnlyOffice is its cloud-based storage options, which let you connect your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Yandex.Disk accounts. If you’re using a major cloud service, OnlyOffice can probably connect to it. The package is built on a lot of open-source software, too, meaning true geeks can check out the source code on GitHub. It’s even possible to deploy OnlyOffice on your own server, which further increases its potential for power users or network administrators.

Etherpad: Open-source, self-hosted document editor with real-time editing

Etherpad isn’t a complete alternative to Google Docs given it focuses entirely on text editing. There’s no spreadsheet app, presentation app, or compatibility with Word and Libre Office documents. If you want those things, Etherpad is not a viable Google Docs alternative. Etherpad is a solid choice if you just want to use your browser and collaborate on formatted text in real time, though.

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The Etherpad software is open-source, so you can download it, put it on your server, and tweak it however you’d like. You can customize the program (and your full system-wide use of it) precisely to your organization’s needs. Mozilla also hosts an online version of Etherpad if you need another option. While this is a simple alternative that’s not as feature-filled as the Google suite, it can work great if all you need is a text editor. 

Google isn’t the only game in town

While Google Docs is the go-to office suite for many businesses, professionals, and organizations, that doesn’t mean it’s your only choice. It offers an impressive range of features, and it’s challenging to compete with them since they provide the vast majority of their features for free. 

However, Google Docs alternatives are still worth considering if you prefer open-source software. It’s also interesting to watch how other developers adapt to Google Docs’ monopoly on office suites, and they may eventually release something that can complement or replace Google Docs Entirely.

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