Even though Microsoft Office is a standard Office suite in many organizations, on occasion you may work on a project of mixed Microsoft Office and Google Apps users. While this might sound open to frustration up front especially when it comes to multiple authors on documents, there is a growing list of options to help Microsoft Word and Google Docs play nicely together without a loss in productivity.
Beyond the multiple authors or geographically dispersed project team use cases, some of the tools in this post can even be helpful to freelancers to backup or sync their project documents with a Google Apps account.
Here are some free apps you can resort to if you are a Microsoft Office and Google Apps user to help with transferring documents back and forth:
1. Google Cloud Connect
Google brings us Google Cloud Connect, an installable Microsoft Office toolbar that adds collaborative editing, tracking tools, versioning, and sharing to the Microsoft Office interface. It also helps resolve the document hijinks that can ensue when it takes a lot of the complexity out of these tasks. I use Google Cloud Connect to synchronize certain project documents to my Google Docs account even if I am not collaborating with another writer. Google Cloud Connect requires Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP with .NET Framework 2.0. It is compatible with Office 2010, Office 2007, and Office 2003. It is not available for Mac OS X, which is a bit of a disappointment to us Mac users.
2. Google Drive
As I write this post, Google Drive is going live around the web. Even before the pundit complaints die down, it is easy to see that with the Google Drive desktop client (available for Mac and Windows), that Google Drive can become a handy bridge between Microsoft Office users and Google Docs users through straight up file synchronization between Google Drive’s free 5 GB online storage and a Mac or Windows desktop.
I found this gem in the Google Apps Marketplace (always worth a visit!). SyncDocs is free up to the first 10,000 documents and lets you treat Google Docs as another drive on your PC. It creates a backup that is an exact mirror of your local files in your Google account. It is an example of the power of Google Docs for the freelancers and small to medium business users out there because it is easy to use and maintain without the need of an in-house IT department.
4. Harmon.ie for Google Docs
Originally, I wasn’t planning to mention this option because Harmon.ie for Google Docs is a Microsoft Outlook Add-in. While, I have objections over using Outlook as a document management tool I do know there are those of you out there who live and die by the email inbox with Outlook open all day. This app is for you! After installing Harmon.ie for Google Docs, you have a new sidebar in Outlook, which you can use to upload and convert Office document into Google Docs. Since it is an Outlook add-in, Harmon.ie automatically shares linked document with your email message recipient(s). This is a great option for breaking Outlook users of email attachments because it asks you if you want to replace a file attachment with a link and then automatically uploads the file attachment into the sender’s Google Docs account for sharing. It has some useful search tools and lets you open and edit Google documents in Outlook (groan!). Most importantly, it lets users save Google native format documents in Microsoft Office formats, OpenOffice, PDF, HTML, and TXT. One annoying element of this app is the Thank you pop-up that appears after you use the sidebar encouraging you to share the fun of Harmon.ie with your social network contacts.
To round out the list, I chose the free standard version of GoDocSync for this lineup. It’s a great example of how synchronization should work between Google Apps and Microsoft Office. GoDocSync supports Microsoft Office 2003/2007/2010. This Microsoft Office add-in application also includes a powerful search tool, local file history and restoring, and support for Google Docs file attributes. This app is simple and elegant in its implementation.
The apps I profiled in this post can help you get Microsoft Office and Google Apps to play nice together during a project, hopefully saving you time and frustration. Plus these apps let you and your team have the best of both Office suite worlds.