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Free Productivity Tools For Your School Showdown: Google vs. Microsoft?


For those of you who have been using productivity tools as early as a computer was placed in your classroom, you probably started using Microsoft (MS) Office tools. I was also one of these people.

If you saw my blog aboutGoogle Apps for Education (GAFE) a few weeks ago, you saw how much I love GAFE. However, in the vein of being unbiased, I thought that it is only appropriate to explore, discuss, and compare MS online tools called, 365 Online (OL) to GAFE.

First off, Microsoft Office offers free desktop versions of all their tools for those who are in education. You simply sign up with your educational email address and you can download all the desktop versions for free.

Take a look at this link to get you started. If you are looking for cloud-based, collaborative tools like GAFE, you should consider 365 OL.

Microsoft Office offers free desktop versions of all their tools for those who are in education. You simply sign up with your educational email address and you can download all the desktop versions for free.

Like GAFE, 365 OL has several cloud-based productivity tools. Such tools include, Newsfeed (like G+), OneDrive (like Google Drive), Sites, Delve (shows you the most recent projects you’ve been working on), Video (like YouTube), Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, OneNote Online (organizes all your notebooks/projects), Sway (advanced multimedia presentation tool), and Class & Staff Notebook (digital notebook with checklists and tabs for organization).

Everything that GAFE offers has a similar counterpart in 365 OL. Some of 365 OL’s best tools GAFE does not offer are Sway and Notebooks.

You can get an overview of Sway and see samples here. Sway is a more advanced, beautiful presentation tool similar to PowerPoint, but moves and transitions in a way that brings the presentation to life.

As far as I have seen, GAFE does not have anything like this. Additionally, Class and Staff Notebooks are very robust, allowing you to upload and store documents within your notes, add drawings, checklists, and/or images.

You can see a tutorial and overview here. All of these tools can be collaborated with others just like GAFE; which is the biggest draw of these tools.

Like Facebook being the first on the scene in social media (I realize MySpace was first, but Facebook was sleeker, cleaner, and more intuitive; hence, cornering the market.), Google was the first on the scene in cloud-based, collaborative documents.

Google launched Google Docs to the open public in 2007 (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, n.d.) and MS was a little late to the game when they launched 365 OL with collaborative tools in 2013 (Office 365, n.d.).

Six years later is a long time in the tech world, which explains why 365 OL has had a slower start. But slow start or not, it is what you are most comfortable using.

If you are used to using MS tools and have little experience with Google, it makes sense that you may be apprehensive to trying something new. But it really isn’t about learning something new; rather, it is about transferring your current knowledge about what you know to the use of something new (Argote & Ingram, 2000).

The tool you use really depends on what your school or company is using. If you are a Google School, you would use GAFE. If your school is using MS, 365 tools are the way to go. However, if you aren’t dictated by your school or company, I recommend GAFE for simplistic reasons.

I feel GAFE is simpler and more intuitive. However, if you are used to using MS tools, 365 OL is a great option.




  • Argote, L. and Ingram, P. (2000). Knowledge transfer: A basis for competitive advantage in firms. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 82(1): 150–169.doi: 10.1006/obhd.2000.2893
  • Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 5, 2015,_Sheets,_and_Slides
  • Office 365. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved December 5, 2015,
  • Reagle, J. (2010). Good faith collaboration: The culture of Wwikipedia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
*If you are concerned with Wikipedia as a reference, Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia by Joseph Michael Reagle Jr. (2010) states that Wikipedia is reviewed and edited more than any other encyclopedia in the world. It has the most up- to- date information because it does not need to wait to go through publication. It is written, reviewed, and edited by experts around the world constantly (Reagle, 2010).



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