From TextEdit to Google Docs: 5 Reasons Why Google Docs Is Better

by Bakari Chavanu Sep 19, 2008

I don't know about other Mac users, but I've mainly used Apple's TextEdit for all my basic word processing needs. I have Pages installed and use it for more advanced layout requirements, but for the most part I dread opening the larger of the two applications. And though I don't have Word installed on my computer, my past history with the program would not make me inclined to use it. 

So far TextEdit has served my word processing needs pretty well. It opens fast and it's not cluttered with unwanted features. But in the last few weeks, I've started to take a second look at Google's Docs. I've had Google docs attached to my Google account for a long while, but the thought opening up yet another web page to do word processing felt like an hassle. I thought it might be too slow and  cumbersome to use. But I have discovered otherwise. (For those of you who don't know, Google Docs are a set of online applications similar to Microsoft's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint programs. You can access them with a Google account at 

So here's a list of other reasons I'm using TextEdit less and Google Docs more. 

1. Accessibility: With Google Docs, you have access to all your files nearly anywhere you go. You can download your files to your computer and take them with you, or you can use Google Gear, which literally as I was writing this article became available for Safari users. Google Gear synchronizes your files to your computer for offline use. Up until a few days ago, Google Gear was only available to Mac users, using FireFox. This type of accessibility is great, because before I started using Google Docs, I would save all my word processing files to my .mac/MobileMe account so that I could access them from both my desktop and laptop. MobileMe synchronization is okay for this, but it's not as efficient as the Google online method. 

2. More features but still little clutter: The more I've used Google Docs, I've realized that it's not as cluttered as I thought it would be. All the tools you need are right within its toolbar. Unlike TextEdit, you don't have open up additional dialogue boxes to format text or add a URL. Other tools include word counting, spelling checking in a various languages, and various forms of text formatting.  

3. HTML Editor: Additional features also include an HTML editor. Occasionally I need to convert what I'm writing into hypertext markup and it's nice to be able to click Edit>Edit HTML and do my editing right within Google Docs. I've learned that you can also do some CSS stylin' the same way in Google Docs. You can write and save HTML in TextEdit, but there's no way to switch back and forth between plane text and HTML.  

4. Save and Share: One of the reasons I started taking a second look at Google Docs is that a friend of mine sent me notes using Google Docs on an important discussion we had. I hadn't realized until then that you could share documents this way on the internet. No email exchanges. No synchronization. Just open the browser and it's there. This is something that can't be done as easily with any Apple application.  

Not only that, I like how Google Docs automatically saves documents you're working almost every time you rewrite or add content to your document. So if say you delete some text from you document and later you want to get back and retrieve it, you can do so by clicking Tools>Revision history, and you get a list of each snapshot that Google Docs has made of your document document changes. Also, though your documents are automatically saved as you work on them, you can actually use the same Command+S keystroke you use for all Apple applications to save your Google document. When a document is saved in Google Docs, it takes your heading in your document and uses it to name your file. Unlike TextEdit, you don't have to click open a dialogue box, give your document a name and then click save. Google Docs saves you a few clicks. 

Note, however, in the area of printing a Google Docs document, using the print button in the program's tool bar converts the document into a PDF for printing. However, Adobe-formatted PDFs can't be printed from Safari. Instead, you need print from the Safari file menu as you would with any web page. 

4. Insert a bookmark: If you're working a long document such as a term paper, the insert a bookmark(s) comes in handy. You can bookmark particular places within a document and link to those bookmarks when you need them. 

5. File Formatting: The last main reason I'm switching Google Docs is that you can save and export documents in different formats, including PDFs, HTML, Word, and RTF.  

Now of course, Google Docs is not pristine. Just like desktop applications, I've received a few error messages that my document was not saved. When I get those messages, I might select and copy all the current text in the document and refresh the browser if need be. I also have some issues with desktop clutter, which is a common problem when you have too many web pages open at a time. It's easy for the Google Docs page to get lost in the shuffle of other web pages.  

One more problem is that if I wanted to make Google Docs my primary word processing application, I don't think I would be able to open up documents from say my email straight into the Google Docs; that is, unless I received all my email in my Gmail account.  

The Road to Web Apps 

Having worked in Google Docs for a short while has started me thinking more about the concept of web applications. It could be argued that Google Docs and other web applications are more likely geared toward the thin-line crowd that Chris Seibold refers to in his recent article. Google Docs can't do more advanced desktop publishing, for instance. There also may well be security risks with having documents stored online. And there are issues of inconsistent internet access that keeps users from having confidence in web application for their primary computer use. 

Some critics say that Google Gear and its web apps are just a "proprietary way for Google to secure it's place on the desktop." That indeed makes sense, but does the average consumer really care what web apps do for Google's market share if in the long run it will save them money over time by not having to pay for traditional application upgrades? 

On the other hand, I wonder just how intimidated many people are about using the web beyond reading email, doing rudimentary web searches, and maybe participating in an online forum or two. To use web applications well takes advance computing skills. It's not always as intuitive and as well built as  some computer applications. 

Also, what do web apps mean for the OS system itself? In having nearly unlimited access to web apps and online storage, is there a need for an expensive computer or OS system when things can be done using a web browser? As thin as the MacBook Air is, is it too big for online computing needs? If the iPhone or iPod touch were about three inches bigger, could they be all the computer hardware most people need? With online applications and better Internet access, could $100 computers be had for every man, woman, and child? 

These type of questions came to my mind as I listened to recent Google presentation about improving web browsers using Gears, titled, What is Gears API?  It makes some valid arguments for the potential of online applications. Though I could never imagine doing professional desktop publishing or advanced Photoshop image processing using web applications, I may still be limited in my vision as a computer user.  

We're basically experiencing the early stages of web applications. As web apps mature, they may change again the face of desktop computing as we know it. 


  • I use Google docs fairly frequently to share docs with colleagues.  We can all edit and update the doc right on line.

    I use Word/Excel for my more advanced word processing, like treatments and budgets.

    I use Pages for pre-formatted docs like invoices and newsletters.

    And finally I use Textedit for basic notes.

    They all have their use and each seems more or less geared to a specific segment of the market.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 20, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • I was wondering if you could answer me one question: does Google docs have the option to setup pipeline alignment sheets? I would really appreciate an answer or a reference link to a tutorial.

    IBMdude had this to say on Nov 07, 2011 Posts: 50
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