Google Docs app vs Apple Pages for iOS

In our Apple Pages for iOS vs. Google Docs review, we look at two great word processing apps for iPhone and iPad. What is the best word processor for iOS?

Our Google Docs vs Pages review tests the following:

  • Which is the best iOS word processor for creating basic text documents
  • Editing documents with text and images using Google Docs and Apple Pages
  • Importing, exporting, and saving documents in Google Docs and Apple Pages
  • Sharing and working collaboratively with Google Docs and Apple Pages

Both the iPad and iPhone are great business tools, and a range of productivity apps can help you word directly on your iOS device. Which word processor should you use for iPad and iPhone?

See also

What is Apple Pages?

Apple Pages for iOS

Apple Pages is Apple’s word processing application. Originally designed for Mac OS X, the iOS version launched alongside the iPad. Apple Pages recreates the desktop word processor for the iPad interface; and Pages for iOS has all the features of Pages for Mac OS X.

One unique feature of Pages is that files are saved into Apple’s Documents In The Cloud space. Documents In The Cloud ensures that files can be viewed and edited in other versions of Pages across iPhone, iPad and Mac OS X.

What is Google Docs?

Google Docs for iOS

Google Docs is primarily a web-based word editing program created by Google. Files are created and stored on Google Drive, a service similar to Dropbox created by Google. A basic text editor used to be included with the Google Drive app, but it has been turned into a standalone Google Docs for iOS app (which we are including here).

Google Docs for the web is considered more basic than many other word processing programs, but it is exceptionally fast to use and because it is completely web-based you do not have to worry about crashing and losing files. Google Docs is also great for working collaboratively with other people and has incredibly accurate contextual spell checking.

Google Docs vs Apple Pages: Which is the best iOS word processor for creating basic text documents

At the heart, both apps are used for creating and editing text. Creating a new document is easy enough in both apps. To create a new document in Google Docs:

  1. Tap the New Document icon (in the top right)
  2. Enter a name for the document and tap Create

To create a new document in Pages:

  1. Tap Create Document
  2. Tap Blank to create an empty document (or tap on one of the templates).
  3. You name the document after you have finished editing it. Tap Documents and Blank under the document, now enter a name and tap Done.

What’s interesting is that in both apps you don’t choose a location for the file. In Google Docs the file is saved automatically to the root of your Google Drive, whereas in Pages it is saved into Documents In The Cloud, in Pages (and is in versions of Pages across iOS and Mac OS X that are logged in with the same account).

We find Google’s process of naming the document before you start editing a little more instinctive than Apple’s process, and like being able to access the file directly. Having said that the file is saved in Google Docs format, so it is only available inside Google Docs at any rate.

Editing documents with text and images using Google Docs and Apple Pages

Once you have created a document you can start editing it. Typing in text is simple enough in both apps (just use the on-screen keyboard). Both offer basic text editing features, although Google Docs is much more basic than Apple Pages. In Google Docs, you can adjust the Font, Size, and Color options; as well as use Bold, Italics and Underline. You can change the justification and margin indent, as well as add numbered and bulleted lists. That’s pretty much it.

That’s a woeful amount of formatting for the modern age; we’re particularly annoyed that Google Docs doesn’t enable you to access Styles (such as Title, Heading 1 and Heading 2): these are available on the web-based version of Google Docs.

Apple Pages Settings

Other options missing from Google Docs in iOS include Insert Link, Line Spacing, List Styles, Clear Formatting, Text Direction.

In this respect, Apple Pages has a clear lead over Google Docs. It has the usual Bold, Italics and Font/Size options as well as Styles, List Styles, Column layout options. We also like the way Apple has moved many of the options out of the Styles menu and into a quick access bar that floats across the top of the keyboard.

When it comes to additional features Apple Pages also leaves Google Docs smarting. You can insert images, tables, charts (3D and 2D) as well as shapes. All of this is impossible in Google Docs.

Perhaps even less forgiving is Google Docs for iOS lack of word count and spell check features.

Where Google Docs regains some ground is in commenting; it’s easy to add comments in both Google Docs and Apple Pages. But Google Docs’ integration with Google Accounts makes it easier to see who, exactly, is adding comments. Google Docs also has a Resolve and Reply function embedded into Comments, allowing those who are checking to either make a correction, or add a further enquiry.

Importing, exporting, and saving documents in Google Docs and Apple Pages

Both Google Docs and Apple Pages for Mac OS X are capable of importing and exporting Microsoft Word documents, but only Apple Pages on iOS can import and export Word Documents. To test Microsoft Word import we created a Microsoft Word 2011 for Mac test document with images, bullets, and headings sent them via email and opened them using the Open In option for Google Docs and Apple Pages.

In Pages, we received the message “The font Calibri isn’t available on iOS. The Calibri font was replaced with Trebuchet MS”. We’ve seen this before and it’s an ongoing gripe that Pages doesn’t support the Word font out of the box. (There is an App called AnyFont that can help with this issue, but we would much rather it all worked natively). The lack of Calibri support causes a few reflow problems, but it included images, links, and kept style formats (Title, Header 1 and so on).

Google Docs Word Import

We couldn't find any way on the iPad to get the Microsoft Word document using just the Google Docs app (as opposed to the website) . You can copy the word file to Google Drive using the Open In… Google Drive option, but from here you can only view, not edit, the document. The only way to convert a file on your Google Drive from Microsoft Word format to Google Docs is to use the Google Drive website (the main desktop version, not the iOS version.

Here is how to convert a file from Microsoft Word to Google Docs on the iPad:

  1. Click on the File in Mail and Choose Open In... Google Drive
  2. Open Safari and visit drive.google.com
  3. Scroll down and click on Desktop to visit the main site
  4. Place a tick in the Box to choose it
  5. Tap More > Open With > Google Docs
  6. Return to the Google Docs app and open the file

To call this something of a palaver is an understatement. We can’t imagine doing this sort of conversion process if we were handling Microsoft Word documents on a regular basis. For all that, Google Docs, kept the original fonts (Calibri this time, helpfully) and images along with style formatting. So we were pleased with the end results.

But it's indicative of a wider problem with Google Docs on iOS that the main focus for Google has been until now to create a highly useful web app first and foremost. Google’s iOS app lacks too many features compared to Google’s web service, or a dedicated app like Pages.

OUR VERDICT

The Google Docs app lacks more than a few of features, which was understandable when Google Docs was merely a part of Google Drive, but now that Google Docs is a standalone app the shortcomings have become glaringly obvious. The lack of a spell-checker and word count, for instance, is shocking. And the inability to import and export Word documents from the iOS version limits hobbles Google Docs’ functionality. It’s a shame because Google Docs in a web-based browser is a truly innovative program, and a great alternative to traditional word processing programs. The Google Docs iOS app, however, is a pale imitation of the browser app. Apple Pages remains a better word processor on the iOS; of this there is no doubt.

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