It’s not secret I’m a writer. hell, I’m reading something I wrote right now.
However, to become a writer in 2020 you will need technology. This is what I want to discuss in this article. You can write on a MacBook, a PC, a Chromebook, or an iPad.
In this article, however, I won’t be comparing laptops, tablets, or keyboards. No, I don’t want to discuss software. Because while having tech to write on is a first step, finding the right program to convert your key-presses to something worthwhile to read is just as important.
It all depends on what you will be doing in your writing program. Are you able to control every aspect of the document? Are you able to share your document with others? Do you, like me, write a novel? Or a series of novels. Do you write school papers? Are you writing work documents?
There are many apps and programs available to help you write, but I’d like to highlight the top three.
Please keep in mind that I am only referring to the personal versions of these software. If there are any differences between standard programs and the personal version,
Their business counterparts, like G-Suite and Office for Business, I won’t discuss it here.
This is my starting point. It’s always a good idea, when deciding on which program to use, to calculate how much it will cost.
There are three versions of each of these programs that can be downloaded for free, but they differ in their usefulness and superiority.
Google Docs is actually completely free. You only need to pay Goole Drive storage if you use the 15GB Google Offers. This includes your Gmail, photos and any other content you have in Drive.
Apple Pages is another program that is free to use. Apple used to charge $19.99 for the software on Macs and $9.99 for iOS. This is also a bummer because I believe I paid for the iPad version at the time it was released. Similar to Google Docs, you only need additional iCloud storage if needed.
Microsoft is the only app you will have to pay. To use the desktop version or any app on any device that has a screen of 10.1 inches or greater, you must subscribe to Microsoft 365 for $6.99 a monthly (or $69.99 a calendar year). This plan has the advantage that you get 1tb OneDrive cloud storage. You are not restricted to 5gb.
Microsoft offers a free web-version for Word. It isn’t very feature-rich but it can be used in most web browsers. This model is only available to those who have internet access.
Winner: One could argue that a Microsoft subscription is more advantageous due to the additional cloud storage. But, free is always free. This category is tied by Google and Apple, with Microsoft in the background.
You need to decide when and where you can access a program, regardless of whether it is free.
It all depends on what device you are using. Pages can only be used on Apple devices, such as an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Apple offers a web-based version of Pages at iCloud.com. However, it is far from the real processor. It will be able to help you quickly, but you won’t want to use it on a daily basis.
Microsoft Word is available on macOS and Windows 10, with full-fledged programs. Although the web version of Microsoft Word is somewhat – and I mean somewhat better than Pages in iCloud – it is still not something you should use regularly. Word is also available as an app for Chromebook and iPad users. While it has improved over time, the desktop version is still not as great as the app version.
Google Docs has an advantage over all others, or should I say the Google Chrome, because it is fully functional. It is actually more functional than the downloadable apps versions.
Google Docs can be accessed from any web browser. You don’t even need to use Chrome. If you do Chrome, the offline mode allows you to access and edit your documents on the move. Just make sure you have allowed Google Drive to save files offline. You can download the Google Docs app to your Android or iPad device. However, it is not as powerful as the actual Word and Pages web versions.
Winner: Google Docs. Google Docs is easily accessible on any device: a Mac, a PC or Chromebook. The app isn’t quite as impressive (we’ll discuss that soon), but if you use a web browser, Google Docs is available to you. Microsoft Word is a close second, especially for those who prefer the desktop program to a mobile app or web app. Apple Pages… it works best when used within a walled garden.
The Cloud and Saving
It is crucial to save your work. It is crucial to save your work.
Personally, I have been burned in the past when it comes to saving my work. Windows lost 12 chapters of what I was writing and I have never forgiven it. These programs offer a lot more peace of mind than the old days of autosaving and cloud storage. However, I am a paranoid writer. I keep backup copies of all my work so I don’t depend on one cloud service or my computer’s drive.
Google Docs has been the gold standard in saving your work for years. It saves every time. Keystroke. Instantly. It saves every character you add and uploads them to Google Drive immediately after it smells Wi-Fi. This is what keeps me coming back to Google Docs. I know Docs will save my half-sentence if my laptop crashes mid-sentence. It is all stored in the cloud so if someone comes and breaks my laptop while I am working on a document, I just need to sign into Google on another device.
Microsoft Word’s saving features have improved in recent years. While it has had an auto-save feature since a while, it would only save once every two minutes. Although it is still quite frequent, this can give you enough time to lose something. Word has a redundancy function that allows you to recover documents that were not saved before a power outage or shut down. However, it is very unpredictable in my testing.
Autosave is now an option. It will save your work every time you type. Once you connect to the internet, it will also upload it to OneDrive. This is almost as reliable and reliable as Google Docs’ gold standard. Word occasionally makes an error when it cannot determine which version of a document is the current. However, this problem is only experienced when Word is being edited on one device and then switched to another device (e.g., switching from Word on an iPhone to Word on a Mac). Word will ask you to review the differences and save one copy if that happens.
Pages’s saving method is irritating, to be honest. It also autosaves, which seems to work just as well as the others. It doesn’t tell that it is saving, which is a problem. It does what it says, and it works. However, I would like Apple to explain why it doesn’t save. Worse, Pages, at least in macOS, will sometimes prompt you to save before closing. This to me indicates that the document wasn’t autosaving.
Google Docs and Word will let you know at the top of each page when it’s saving and when it’s finished saving. They will also let you know if your file is still waiting to be uploaded to their respective cloud. This is something Pages does not do, and I don’t want to rely on this when writing a long novel.
We should also talk about the cloud while we are on the subject of saving. While I won’t go into detail about cloud storage and the pros and cons of each service – that’s likely a topic for another debate – I want to discuss how each cloud service will work when you use it to store documents.
Google Docs automatically uploads your documents to Google Drive. If you use Chrome, Google Drive will store your files on your computer so that they can be used offline. It’s very easy and you don’t need to do anything. Once you sign in to Google Drive, the offline download will begin automatically. It is difficult to use Google Docs to edit or open documents that have not been saved to Drive. Google will ask you to upload the document to Drive first, and then convert it into Google Docs format. This will allow you to do all you want to with it. You can toggle documents to be downloaded to your tablet or phone via the Google Docs app. However, you’ll need to go through each document one by one. There is no mass-download option at this time.
Word allows you to create offline word documents (as long you’re using the desktop version on a Mac/PC; the app versions or the web apps will need OneDrive to save files), and you can also save files in OneDrive. This feature is great because it allows you to easily save a backup copy of your file on your computer’s hard disk in case your cloud goes down. OneDrive has a Personal Vault that allows you to store documents behind additional encryption. However, I found it difficult to access or edit documents in the vault. Word, for example, cannot search the vault to open a document. You can tell Windows to keep certain documents and folders on your computer for offline work. This will ensure that they are always available to you wherever you may be. Word apps for Android and iOS don’t allow you to choose which files you wish to keep downloaded. Word will download and store any documents that you have opened recently, but they won’t be saved for long.
Pages allows you to open and create documents on both your Mac or iPad (or iPhone or iPhone), and in iCloud. You can also instruct iCloud not to download a folder, but iOS does not seem to do this. This is because you have to either remember to redownload your documents while offline or discover that they are unavailable. Although I haven’t tested whether macOS will automatically download files to iCloud if they haven’t been used for a while, I don’t think it will be any different than iOS.
Winner: Google Docs wins the award again. This is still the best way to save documents and you don’t even have to think about it if you use Google Chrome. Word is a close second. They’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to bring their autosaving up-to-par with Google’s. While saving cloud documents offline is manual, it’s still very easy to ensure that your files stay downloaded. Apple’s claim that “it just works” is not enough for paranoid writers like me.
It is important that you talk about the possibilities of these programs. Most people only need to type something. But every once in a while, you might need some other things.
This section will focus on the desktop versions Word and Pages. I have already mentioned that the Google Docs apps are less feature-rich than the Google Docs web app. I promised to talk about the apps in another section.
All three of these programs can do basic formatting, fonts and footnotes. It’s important to note that Google Docs supports only fonts from its own catalogue, while Windows and Apple allow you to download or purchase fonts, along with fonts from services such as Adobe Creative Cloud.
Please note that Pages may have a strange formatting bug with certain fonts. Pages will sometimes “lose” pages depending on which font you use. Your writing will not be lost , but the page breaks, sentences, and paragraphs will not display. This can be fixed by copying the whole document and pasting it in a new one. However, unless you change your font, it will happen again after some time. This can be annoying especially if you prefer a particular font. Also, bold wouldn’t work with certain fonts in Pages. Although I was thinking that there might be a different bold font that I needed to install in order for this to work I found the same font in Microsoft Word in bold every time I tried to hit the command.
All three include a collaboration option, which allows you to share your document with others. Each of these options allows you to share a document with full permission to modify or only view it. However, Google adds a third option that allows you to allow others to comment on the document you share. This option is great because it allows proofreaders to take notes and not be able to modify the original document.
Google Docs lets you see the work of a collaborator in real-time. There is a separate cursor with a different color and their name beside it. You have two options: suggesting and editing. The latter allows them to make changes to the document that are in line with it. The other highlights their changes and you can accept or reject them before they are added to the document.
This collaboration is made much more robust by Word. Although real-time changes may not show up as quickly, they are still visible within a few seconds. However, changes can be tracked so you can find, approve and reject any changes made by others. Formatting and font changes are marked by a red line at the left side of the segment. Clicking on that line will bring up the notes in the comment panel to the right. Text changes will be highlighted in red, and it will highlight or cross out the changes.
Pages works almost exactly the same way. Although I had trouble seeing the real-time changes in the documents it could have been an issue with iOS vs. macOS. I apologize for not referring to the apps in this category. However, I don’t own an additional MacBook that I can use Pages on. It took approximately 10-20 seconds for a change to appear on my iPad. However, if the change was made on my MacBook, the iPad forced me to close the file and reload the file before it could reflect. It would be more similar to Word. However, it worked Mac to Mac much better. I tested collaboration using both the app versions Google Docs (and Word) on the same iPad and didn’t have to reload the document manually. The same way Word tracks changes is used. Added words are marked with red, erasures are also highlighted in red and crossed out. Changes are also indicated by a line at the bottom of the section that was modified and a note in your comments section.
Since I don’t have the time to go through all the features in these programs, I won’t be able to. Most things, such as changing headers, work the same in all versions. It’s not worth the effort. There are some other things that I want to highlight in this category.
Google Docs is the most feature-rich of the three. It’s definitely more for lighter users. This is evident by long documents – even on a fast processor, Google Docs can still lag in large documents (like a manuscript).
Although Pages seems to have almost every feature that Word has, nearly doesn’t get you invited to the Headless Hunt. Pages doesn’t do certain things as well as Word and Docs. Pages insists on adding a blank page to every document. I have to then delete it. Pages has some drabacks that Word doesn’t. I once numbered paragraphs in a section of a document and then added more at a later stage in the document. While Pages suggested that the second set of numbers should be the same as the first, Word allowed me to reset the count at 1. Pages might be able to do this, but it wasn’t possible for them to make this feature available.
Word’s search bar is available in the subject of finding thoughts… It does not allow you to search words or phrases within the document, but allows you to search for specific features in the program. It is extremely useful for those who know what feature they are looking for but don’t know how to find it.
All three processors include a grammar and spelling checker. Google Docs seems to be dependent on the internet. However, when it is offline, it will ignore any mistakes. Pages on the other hand, is prone to some bizarre drabacks. It insists that a question mark be capitalized after a quote. They asked… rather than “Where are they?” They asked. It tried to convince me to type “Your wrong” instead.
A touchscreen PC with support for a stylus is one that can be used to draw in a document. This tool is extremely useful and I use it to take notes. This feature is also available in Pages, but it only works on iPad.
If you’re looking to publish your work, Microsoft Word is the best choice. Although Pages and Docs can both export to Word documents, formatting issues sometimes occur when opening those Word files. Pages can sometimes forget to translate tabs, which I believe is related to its auto-tab feature. Pages has its own macOS app that can be used to publish into Apple Books.
Winner: Microsoft Word. It has the most features of any word processor and is the standard writing tool for most publishing companies. Word also allows for collaboration at its best. It all depends on your needs. Although I don’t use all the features offered by Microsoft Word, I do use enough to make Pages fall short. Pages can sometimes not understand grammar and that is a big problem.
I said I would talk about apps. Here we are. Each of the three word processor programs has an app version, but they are not all created equal.
Google Docs app for Android and iOS is far from full-featured web program. It lacks many of the basic features, such as footnote support. (In fact, you won’t be able to see footnotes in the document unless the Print Preview is opened. The instant saving feature that I consider to be the Google Docs trademark is missing. Instead of it saving after each keystroke, you must tap the checkmark at the top to save your changes. The app feels outdated. Google has not done much to improve it over the years. They also seem slow to release major features updates. The Google Docs app is, in a way, a completely separate program to the main web version.
Microsoft Word for iOS and Android is now closer to the desktop app. It can support third-party fonts, but still falls short of the desktop app. First, multiple documents cannot be opened simultaneously, even though Apple introduced it with iPadOS 13. (Google Docs is not capable of doing this). The app doesn’t support some keyboard shortcuts, such as inserting footnotes, even if paired with a physical keyboard. Although the top bar feels like a smaller version of the Word tool panel, most things are exactly the same if you’re familiar with the desktop version. It was difficult to see all my headers in large documents, so that is a problem for navigation.
Pages for iOS is almost identical to Pages for macOS. Although the layout of things such as the formatting menu is almost identical, some options are separated to feature at the bottom. This allows you to place your finger closer to the screen when you type. It can be difficult to find certain things, such as a footnote option. This is different from Word’s top menu. The table of contents and other stuff are not displayed as a drop-down menu, but as a permanent fixture next to the document. This is another problem for navigation in large documents.
The apps don’t just have to be downloaded; Pages and Word offer web apps as well. Google Docs is clear winner in this category because Google Docs’ primary version can be used as a web application. Pages and Word look almost exactly the same as the app you have installed on your mobile device. However, they need internet access and lack a few more features, such as font support.
Winner: No desktop or web counterparts can really be compared to . Word does, however, bear some resemblance.
The desktop program is very similar in design to the iPad. There is therefore not too much learning curve when it comes to finding what you are looking for. Although Pages is more featured on iPad than the other apps, it’s only by comparison. Although it is difficult to choose between Pages or Word, it seems fair to say that the Google Docs app is the clear loser. It has the feeling of being designed by someone completely different. It is a pain.
The last thing I want you to know about is not the programs. If you are a writer, it is more likely that you will take notes at one time or another.
These companies all offer a note-taking application that works in conjunction with their main program. You can use Evernote or another third-party program for note-taking. However, I would like to briefly consider the offerings of Google, Apple and Microsoft and how they interact with each other’s word processors.
Google Keep is similar to Google Docs. It primarily resides on Google. It does not include an offline mode, unlike the Docs web application. To use the Keep mobile app, you will need a Chromebook/iPad. You can also access your Keep notes on all devices by syncing them to the cloud.
Keep lacks organization, at least in my opinion. It has searchable labels, the ability to pin most important notes at the top of your list, and it also offers the option to create folders to organize notes better. Keep’s advantage is its speed to create a new note. You can also import a note directly from Google Docs by tapping the Keep icon to your right. Your list of notes will then appear. You can also set reminders in your notes so your note appears when you need it. Additionally, you can add photos and text to your notes.
Apple also stocks Notes on iOS and macOS. It’s not available for Android, Chromebook or PC users, but it is available to Apple ecosystem members. Notes, unlike Keep, allows you to create folders to organize your notes. You can also pin important notes to the tops of your notebooks, just like Keep. Although it is impossible to create a reminder in a note, you can send a note to Apple’s Reminders App, which will make it available as an attachment to the reminder. You can draw on iPhone or iPad using Notes. If your iPad supports the Apple Pencil you can open a new note directly from the lock screen by tapping the Pencil. You can also add photos to your notes, just like Keep. There is no way to import a note into Pages. You can only copy the text from Notes and paste it in Pages. This is not a major issue but it’s not as fast as Keep’s built-in function in Docs. Notes can sometimes open a note between notes, rather than in the order they were intended. Although it’s annoying, you can move the notes around easily if necessary.
Microsoft also offers OneNote as a free component of their Office Suite. You don’t have to subscribe to 365 in order for OneNote. OneNote is my favorite because it can support folders for organization and subfolders within them. It takes the longest time to open the app and start a note. But once you get started, there are many tools you can use. You have nearly the same tools as you have in Microsoft Word. To create handwritten notes and drawings, you can use a pen with supported devices. OneNote doesn’t seem to offer a simpler way to copy and paste notes into Word, but it does have the advantage of being able to attach almost any file to your note. OneNote’s fluid layout is worth noting. While other programs have more static interfaces, OneNote offers free formatting that allows you to place your notes and images wherever it suits you. It’s a wonderful feature for creative thinkers and non-linear thinkers.
Like the word processors, there are many other features, such as voice-dictation. I don’t use them often enough to be able to compare them.
Winner:OneNote. Although it lacks the same fast sharing option as Google Docs and Keep, it is the best note-taking app from all three companies. Although it doesn’t directly tie to Word, OneNote’s toolbar is very similar to Word’s. This means that if you’re using one, you should be able to easily slip into the other. OneNote’s free design is a win for creatives.
Google Docs has won the fight on paper. But which writing program is best for you? It all depends on what you need.
Google Docs is great for those who are not very tech-savvy but still need to be able to use a word processor.
Pages is a step up from Docs, especially as a free program. It will suit most users’ requirements. It isn’t right for everyone. In fact, you should not even consider having one.
Microsoft Word is my preferred processor, as it’s accessible on all computers and has many features. It is also the publishing standard, which you may not care about. It is expensive, but it pairs the monthly fee with unlimited cloud storage. The mobile app is not great but it’s still usable.
What about you? What writing program do YOU use? And what are your feelings about it? Let me know what you think in the comments below.