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Is SkyDrive Better Than Google Drive?

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This is not an endorsement of Microsoft’s SkyDrive in any way. On top of that the problem I am talking about is non-existent at the moment as there is no Google Drive client for Linux yet. However, the problem won’t just go away if Google does announce the drive for Linux as it has been assuring us.

The problem is Google Docs’ integration with Google Drive is messy.

What Is .gdoc Format?
The files that you create using Google Docs are saved in some .gdoc format which can’t be opened using LibreOffice or MS Word. Which means you can’t open, view or edit these files from your desktop. If you want to work on these files using LO, you will have to first convert/download these files as .odt in the folder. Which means now you have two files with same content.

The worst part is these files don’t talk to each other. Which means if you edit the .odt file it won’t sync with the Google Docs files and if you work on the Google Docs file it won’t sync the .odt file. You will have to play the download/convert game every time you make changes to either of the two files.

On the contrary if you are using SkyDrive it saves the files in the .docx format which allows you to edit these files from Microsoft Office, Libreoffice as well as from the web interface. Since you will be working on the same file so everything is synced.

This is a huge problem if you plan to move all your data to Google Docs or Google Drive. I have some 100s of stories that I created in Google Docs and I was excited that with the arrival of Google Drive my worries will be over. But it turned out to be a bigger mess.

Solution
Just the way Microsoft’s SkyDrive saves all files on the local SkyDrive folder as ‘.docx’, Google Docs must save its files in the ISO approved ODF format which is .ODT so that these files can be easily opened and edited from the desktop-installed word-processors such as LibreOffice. To be fair, Google may give users a choice to select either .docx or .odt format as the default format for saving files in the Drive so that there is no vendor lock-in.

The beauty of open source is that somewhere someone will find a workaround. There are two solutions for this problem and I will be writing about it soon. But that doesn’t solve the problem. Google does need to fix its gdoc mess. As I suggested just use .odt as the file format for Google Docs instead of some non-standard gdoc format. It will make life much easier for a user and will bring Google Drive more appealing that SkyDrive for enterprises and home users.

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Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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