Three weeks ago, I did an article comparing two very popular cloud based office suites that are cloud based: Office Online by Microsoft and Google Docs by Google. One of the issues that I discussed is that when switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Office, there are formatting issues. Due to Microsoft wanting to keep people locked into their Office suite, they have created a vendor lock, preventing other programs from creating quality documents for their program. This is an issue that has affected many open source products, and forces people to use Microsoft Office for their work.
Teamlab saw the problem here, and formed a solution in Teamlab Personal. For an example of their solution at work, Teamlab created a video comparing their office suite to Office Online and Google Docs by opening a heavily formatted file. The video can be seen below.
As can be seen from the video, Teamlab does the best job at opening heavily formatted Office files. Though they are not perfect, they are constantly working to improve. Nina Gorbunova, Teamlab Office’s marketing manager, has been discussing with me the different features of Teamlab Office. When talking about Teamlab’s ability to open files so well, she said, “[This] is what we’ve been working on very hard and that’s our main technological advantage possible due to the Canvas element (this is our developers’ point of pride!)”
The Canvas element is the HTML coding that they have been working on that allows Teamlab Office to be able to display documents so well. It allows users to use Microsoft Office formatting while having the features and setup of another office program.
Teamlab is available in the Chrome Web Store here as an app, and is definitely something that you will want to look into. For more on the Chrome Web Store, and how to use it to improve your browsing experience, click here.
My First Impression with Teamlab Office
When I saw Teamlab Office for the first time, I instantly recognized how closely it resembled Open Office. Microsoft Office is well known for the tabs and tiles setup along the top of the program, whereas Google Docs and Open Office both use a button and menu setup instead. Teamlab Office is the same, using buttons along the top of the screen to format the file.
The second thing I noticed is that Teamlab tries to make everything universally accessible. They do this by adding support for four of the major cloud storage accounts: Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Onedrive. This was another shock for me, because it was not a feature I would have expected to see. However, I was immediately excited to see what else Teamlab had to offer, because I knew that this was not going to be like other cloud based office suites.
After working through my shock of the above features, I then had to deal with my excitement at seeing the number of formatting options available for files. Every one of their editors provides plenty of features to the average user. Office Online does not come close to what Teamlab has when it comes to features.
Since I am used to using the Office suite of programs, I had some difficulty orienting myself with the program. However, within a day of use I could easily find what I needed to. Google Docs and Open Office users would have no difficulty in using the program, because it is so familiarly setup.
One of the ways Teamlab solves formatting issues is by providing users the ability to download in multiple file formats. Many office programs offer this, but neither Office Online nor Google Docs offer the ability to change a file type, other than converting it to their own proprietary file format (i.e. .docx for Word and .gdoc for Google Docs). When downloading a document for example, you have the choice of downloading it as a PDF, Text, Word Document, Open Office document, or an HTML file.
The program also comes with left and right sidebars, providing users with the ability to change settings. The left sidebar deals with changing the document settings or perform certain functions, and the right sidebar is used to change formatting settings, such as the paragraph and image settings.
One of the functions on the left sidebar is a search function, and it is very useful and simple to use. By clicking on the magnifying glass, then typing in any word or words in the box that pops up, the program highlights that word or words throughout the document. It is very useful when trying to find specific words or topics, and case sensitivity can be toggled on or off before every search.
Like Google Docs and Office Online, files can be edited on with others over the internet using the built in share function. One thing that Teamlab has that Office Online and Google Docs does not have is a chat window. This seems like an obvious feature to have when collaboratively editing a file. However, Teamlab is the first that I have seen to implement this feature into a cloud based office program.
Like other office suites, Teamlab has menus for formatting different elements of files. However, like the new Open Office, these features are placed in a sidebar on the side of the screen. Clicking on one of the icons opens up a window docked into the side of the program showing formatting options.
The options available, I believe, are more numerous than either Office Online and Google Docs. Using the program, I am constantly reminded of Open Office, though Teamlab Personal is cleaner and online oriented, since it is a cloud based office suite.
Problems I had with the program
Since I first learned how to use an office suite as a child, I have used Microsoft Office for everything I do. I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, so for that reason I prefer Office Online. However, I do realize that Office Online is very limited in what it can do, and that the paid version is expensive at $100 a year, especially when the competition offers their programs for free.
Thus, I have used both Office Online and Google Docs up to now, depending on my needs. However, I am quickly starting to resent the limitations posed on me by Microsoft through their simple cloud based office suite. Thus, Teamlab is a solution I will consider using to solve my formatting issues, since they have a full team of developers working on the software. However, I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, since it is what I am used to.
Another issue I have with Teamlab is a lack of offline support. Google Docs offers offline support, which is one reason why I have been using them more often, because Office Online does not offer offline support either. Deciding between Teamlab and Google Docs will be tough, because they both offer strong reasons to be the preferred office suite. Teamlab has many features, and works better across platforms and solves formatting issues, whereas Google Docs provides offline usage, and is built into Chromebooks.
Though I do not currently use Open Office, I have used it in the past, and Teamlab seems to be the online version of Open Office. This is something that consistent Open Office users would have to determine, but my experience with both programs has convinced me of this. Whether or not this is what Teamlab wanted, I do not know.
However, I believe that the similarities to Open Office are a good thing, because Open Office users have yet to find a online office program that is similar enough to make a switch. Google Docs was similar, but it still does not offer the experience that Open Office users are looking for like Teamlab does. For an example of how Teamlab works when using it, here is a demo video showing the different formatting options in Teamlab Office’s Document Editor.
Despite the number of features available, Microsoft Office users may find the switch more difficult, because the setup is very different from the tiles and tabs that Microsoft has taught us to enjoy. However, the features and cloud integration far outshine Office Online, and makes a convincing case to switch.
Google Docs users could switch much easier, since Teamlab is also fairly similar to Google Docs. However, the lack of offline use could hold many Google Docs users back, that is a sacrifice some could make.
In addition, if losing Open Office was holding you back from getting a Chromebook, take a look at Teamlab Personal and decide if you can make the switch with this office suite available.