Google has a firm grip on the desktop. Their products and services are ubiquitous. Don’t get us wrong, we’re long-standing admirers of many of Google’s products and services. They are often high quality, easy to use, and ‘free’, but there can be downsides of over-reliance on a specific company. For example, there are concerns about their privacy policies, business practices, and an almost insatiable desire to control all of our data, all of the time.
What if you are looking to move away from Google and embark on a new world of online freedom, where you are not constantly tracked, monetised and attached to Google’s ecosystem.
In this series, we explore how you can migrate from Google without missing out on anything. We’ll recommend open source solutions.
Google Docs Editors is a web-based productivity office suite within Google Drive service. The suite includes Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Drawings, Google Forms, Google Sites, and Google Keep.
Each Google Account includes 15 GB of storage, which is shared across Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos.
When it comes to open source open source office suites our strongest recommendation goes to LibreOffice. It’s true that LibreOffice lacks the collaborative editing offered by Google Docs Editors although there are plans to add this functionality. And it obviously doesn’t provide online storage. But we explored open source alternatives to Google Drive in a previous article. We recommend hosting NextCloud on your own server, or you can use a cloud provider.
LibreOffice has native support for a modern and open standard, the Open Document Format (ODF). ODF 1.3’s most important new features are document digital signatures and OpenPGP-based XML document encryption. The new ODF also boasts improvements in change tracking, and elements first pages, text, numbers, and charts.
An alternative to LibreOffice is Apache OpenOffice. It’s also an open source software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.
There are collaborative online open source office suites available, but with restrictions such as limits on the number of simultaneous connections and number of users.
All articles in this series:
|Alternatives to Google's Products and Services|
|Analytics is a platform for both website and mobile app analytics. This hosted web analytics software remains the mostly widely used analytics service.|
|Calendar helps manage your busy life with a digital calendar. It offers tons of features and makes it easy to keep track of life’s important events all in one place.|
|Chat is communication software which provides direct messages and team chat rooms, together with a group messaging function.|
|Chrome is application software for accessing the World Wide Web. It's the most popular web browser but has a chequered track record from a privacy perspective.|
|Classroom is a learning platform for educational institutions that aims to simplify creating, distributing, and grading assignments. The main aim of the platform is to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students.|
|Contacts is a contact management service. It's available on the sidebar of Gmail, a web app, and for Android.|
|DNS resolves a particular domain name to its IP equivalent. There are many free DNS providers. A few stand out from the crowd.|
|Docs is a web-based productivity office suite. The suite includes Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Drawings, Google Forms, Google Sites, and Google Keep.|
|Drawings is diagramming software included as part of the web-based Google Docs Editors suite. Create and edit flowcharts, organizational charts, website wireframes, mind maps, concept maps, and more.|
|Drive is a file storage and synchronization service. Want a solution that also includes the online office components available in Google Docs?|
|Earth Pro maps Earth by superimposing satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS. Fly anywhere to see satellite imagery, 3D buildings, 3D trees, terrain, Street View, planets and much more.|
|Finance is a website focusing on business news and financial information. It provides real-time market quotes, international exchanges, financial news, and analytics.|
|Firebase is a platform for creating mobile and web applications. It's currently their flagship offering for app development providing an all-in-one cloud service.|
|Forms is a survey administration software included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite.|
|Gboard is a virtual keyboard app developed for Android and iOS devices. It features Google Search and predictive answers.|
|Gmail is a hugely popular email service. You might not like the automated scanning of email content.|
|Jamboard is a digital interactive whiteboard developed to work with Google Workspace. Sketch your ideas whiteboard-style while benefiting from the access and connectivity of an interactive canvas, on mobile or directly from your web browser.|
|Keep is a note-taking service. The app offers a variety of tools for taking notes, including text, lists, images, and audio.|
|Maps is a web mapping service offering satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, and interactive panoramic views.|
|Meet is a video-communication service. It offers enterprise-grade video conferencing built on Google’s global infrastructure.|
|Photos stores your images in the cloud for convenient access from anywhere. Lots of useful tools, but it’s difficult to shake the sinking feeling that Google is analysing your pictures.|
|Search looks at privacy-focused alternatives to Google Search. If you believe that Google invades your privacy, what alternatives do we recommend?|
|Sheets is a spreadsheet program included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite.|
|Sites is a structured wiki and web page creation tool. Build internal project hubs, team sites, public-facing websites, and more—all without designer, programmer, or IT help.|
|Slides lets you create pitch decks, project presentations, training modules, and more. It's part of the Google Docs Editors suite.|
|Translate is a multilingual neural machine translation service that translates text and websites from one language into another.|
|YouTube is an online video sharing and social media platform. It's a hugely popular service but has encountered a number of privacy issues.|
Is NextCloud easy to set up?
Actually it’s pretty easy. One of the failings of many open source project is inadequate documentation. But NextCloud has good and clear documentation. Self-hosting is definitely preferable to trusting your data to unknown companies!
We use LibreOffice with a cheap inexpensive VPS. Works well for our purposes.
I try to avoid Google’s products given the disclosure about their data harvesting. I switched away from their search engine, removed Chrome, deleted my Gmail account. There’s probably more to do before I’ve stopped Google collecting data on what I’m doing. Or is this even possible?
Google knows your name, your face, your birthday, gender, other email addresses you use, your password and phone number. They probably know your shoe size, inside leg, and even your measurements from an orchidometer. And they won’t be forgetting this information even if you stop using their products and service. Best to face facts, they own you.