Word vs Google Docs vs LibreOffice

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Ames High School is starting our 1 to 1 initiative with a major change, no more Microsoft Office products.  Instead of Word, our students will be using Google Docs or LibreOffice.  This is going to be a big change for some but for many this should not be a big difference because the tools are still very similar.  All students have a Google account and have LibreOffice installed on their computer.  Which tool you use, and how you use it, is up to the teacher and in some parts the student.


Advantages of Google Docs

  • Increased collaboration = it is much easier to have students (or teachers) work together on a document if they do not have to be in the same place at the same time to work on it.  

  • Autosaving = never have to worry about forgetting to hit the save button as it automatically saves after every edit.  You can also retrieve a previous version of your document in case something went wrong.

  • Feedback is easier to give right in the document and can even include voice memos.

  • Free to use and a good amount of initial storage.

  • Files can be downloaded into one of various formats, including Word and PDF.


Disadvantage of Google Docs

  • No columns in Docs.

  • Some formatting issues when uploading Word documents.

  • Offline work can be tricky unless you follow all of the steps correctly.


Advantages of LibreOffice

  • Free, can be installed on school computers or home computers.

  • Does not need an internet connection to work.

  • Looks and feels a lot like Word, so students (and teachers) will feel more comfortable with it.

  • Can open Word files and work with them.


Disadvantages of LibreOffice

  • No collaborative element.

  • Still need to save files regularly and saves are tied to your computer (unless you use Dropbox.com or some other cloud service).




While there are differences between Microsoft Word, Google Docs and LibreOffice; the goal should always be focused on what you want students to learn.  The tool should not decide the learning but the learning should help determine which tool to use.  I highly suggest that if any teacher is unsure of which tool to use or just do not feel comfortable with a tool, play around with it and see what it can do.  We can be afraid to try new things and learn ourselves, otherwise what can we expect from our students.



Extra Resources

5 Ways to Use Google Docs in the Classroom – website

Using Google Apps in the Classroom – resources from Midwest Google Apps Summit

Adding in Comments and Edits to a LibreOffice document – website

LibreOffice guides – website

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