I'm going to get a laptop for college, but I don't want to pay for Microsoft Office if I can avoid it (yes I know I can get it at a discount - I'm trying to figure out if I even need it).

Are there any important features that I, a college student, would miss if I switched over entirely to using Google Docs?

9 Answers 9



  1. Conversion : Students love to format their Documents (margins,borders,cover pages, advanced numbering, page breaks, section breaks) to their liking, it sucks if you are in group project and everyone else is using Word. It would be sad also if the professor sent you an assignment in .doc or .docx format and you lost information on the transfer.
  2. Animations/Transitions in Presentations Maybe I am wrong/outdated but I have not seen that in Google Docs
  3. Goal Seek : This is a life saver in Excel. If you are not packing Matlab or Mathematica then this is your saviour with non-linear equations

Other small features depend on what field and what courses but I assure you when you reach the upper levels even formatting stuff on Office for Mac is frowned upon. Do not even try googling for X vs Y it would not work, it is stuffed with tons of bloggers who do not even know how to make reset the line numbering by breaks :S . Also most likely your school would be in the MSDN Alliance which make Office software available in labs and classrooms.


Isn't the "must always be connected to the internet" requirement of Google Docs a bit of an issue?


As of May 3rd, 2010 we’ve temporarily removed support for offline access in Google Docs through Gears. We know offline access is important for some of you, and we're working hard to bring a new and improved offline access option to Google Docs.

If you need offline access to certain documents after May 3rd, you can always export files to your computer from the Google Docs homepage, then upload your offline files back to Google Docs after you’re finished editing offline.

Personally, I'd rather have both options and use whatever I thought worked best. Why does it have to be either / or? Usually student Office licenses are so cheap as to be basically free...


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    Upvote because I feel bad that you only have 101 measly points. And you make a good point Commented Jul 1, 2010 at 4:28
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    Depending on your school they are free or dirt cheap. The investment is worth it, people look at you with a confused face for putting MS Office on your resume. It is implied that you know how to use it. Especially in science/engineering.
    – phwd
    Commented Jul 1, 2010 at 4:58
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    $80 can be a lot to a student. Commented Jul 2, 2010 at 3:01
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    You go to a bar/club/frosh/birthday $20-$40. Late night studying with pizza $20-$40. As one purchase it looks like a lot. But span these two above across a year not so much. Thats how we are you tell us $100 we say 'woah thats a lot' but yet we spend the same $100 in a month or so on other smaller/(sometimes useless) items.
    – phwd
    Commented Jul 3, 2010 at 16:24
  • There is some gain to be had from sticking to one tool exclusively, because you get better with that one tool. Commented May 15, 2011 at 12:51

In my eyes, this really depends if you are taking any specialized classes. If you intend to just use normal word processing, spread sheets, etc, Google Docs should suffice. If, however, you intend on taking, for example, accounting classes, the professor may demonstrate specific procedures within Excel. You may be able to replicate what he/she is doing with some thought, but it probably would not be worth the effort and all the googling, especially at the cost of the ability to follow along in class.


Don't forget about http://office.live.com - free, "light" versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Plus, if you spring for the Student edition of MSO (which I would still recommend for those "offline" moments) you can migrate between the two with more ease than I've found using Google Docs. Native support for document formats goes a long way...


Mathematic equations in Word - looks like Google docs has now soved that one

Style sheets in Word work great for long report if you learn how to use them.

Print preview is a lot better in word, only a issue with long reports.

Google docs does the 10% of what word does that 90% of people use, as a college student you may be in the other 10%. Remember you can get MS-Office very cheap as a student.

The last time I tied the spell checker in Google Docs, it was not as good as the word spell checking in working out what my misspellings should be – only an issue if your spelling is as bad as mine!

(If I was at collage these days and had my own laptop I would use MS-Office, but if I was using the computers in the labs etc as well as a PC in my flat I would tend to use Google Docs.)

  • Mathematic equations are much better in Google Docs.. and much faster since you can use LaTeX.
    – Lipis
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 9:52

OneNote - Google docs doesn't offer anything that can replicate OneNote's note taking capabilities.

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    I would use pen and paper for my notes..!
    – Lipis
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 9:50

I think @Oren has covered the functional aspects of it pretty well, but you'd be missing out on the whole install/update/upgrade/relearn experience, which you really should go through at least one or twice so that you understand why people are willing to put up with some of the shortcomings of google apps.

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    I'm still not a fan of the ribbon. However, even that major change was not a factor in my seeking alternatives. I like Open Office because it is Open Source, and I like google docs because of the collaborative editing and run from the browser aspects. Commented May 15, 2011 at 11:53

Just one more: pivot tables in excel.

  • -1 Google Docs does pivot tables too Commented Jan 15, 2012 at 9:41

One feature that I's miss from google documents in college for unscrupulous reasons is font kerning. Sometimes you need to make a paper look bigger than it is.

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