Agilewords Blog

Agilewords v Google Docs FAQs

  • By Ivan Walsh
  • May 20, 2011
  • No comments

‘What’s the difference between Agilewords and Google Docs?’ I get asked this a lot! And it makes sense as we both offer online tools that let you upload, share, and edit documents. But there are major differences. For example, Agilewords is specifically designed for online document reviews. This means that it comes with tools that help you streamline the review process in ways that Google Docs doesn’t.

Let’s take a look at what we have in common and where we differ.

1. How Agilewords is different from Google Docs?

Agilewords is a web-based document review application.
It is specifically designed for reviewing Microsoft Word files over the internet, especially business documents. You can upload documents (in .docs and .docx format), invite others, schedule reviews, approve or reject reviews, engage in threaded comments, maintain an audit trail, track changes, and receive email updates. It does not have any Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint type functions.

Google Docs is web-based word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application.
In many respects, it’s an online alternative for Microsoft Office. It lets you create, edit and share documents while collaborating with others online. It’s ideal for sharing documents such as notes, essays, and other documentation that is not client confidential. However, due to its proprietary nature it struggles with different versions of Microsoft Word documents, for example, it doesn’t offer an export option for .docx, the default file format for recent versions of Microsoft Word.

2. What are their similarities?

Instead of emailing business documents files, managing different file versions, and manually aggregating input from others, both applications let authorized individuals share, view, and comment through web browsers. They have the following features in common:

  • Web-based
  • Upload Microsoft Word .doc files
  • Share document with others via email
  • Add comments to documents
  • Change the document’s contents

3. What are the key strengths of Agilewords and Google Docs?

Agilewords is developed for business professionals who want to review document securely online.

When we developed Agilewords we looked at how business professionals review documents, the type of issues they encountered, and how the process could be improved. When you log into Agilewords, you'll notice how easy it to:

  1. Start the review process by inviting others
  2. Setup due dates so you can monitor each document’s progress
  3. View recent comments on the text itself and also in the right page
  4. Track comments from other team members and drill-down to the exact comment you want to reply to
  5. Visual track changes which help you see where the document has been updated

One major difference between Agilewords and Google Docs is that – as a Document Owner – when you access Agilewords it displays a project management screen where you can setup folders for projects, see the status of documents with a single click, use the Activity feed to filter/find any comment/edit/task on a document.

This means that, in addition to reviewing documents, you have much better visibility on the overall review lifecycle so you can chase up late documents, query comments, and locate information faster.

This also leads to the question of Return On Investment (ROI). It is really worth your while moving from email and/or Google Docs based document reviews to Agilewords. Here are some ways to measure the ROI of Agilewords:

  • Increased Productivity – Measure how long it takes to email a document to different people, track all of their comments, merge the comments in a final document, send this out for review again, and then sign off on the final version. Wouldn’t it be faster to have a master copy on the web, which everyone can work on at the same time? Enormous costs savings can be made by shifting to internet-based reviews and removing time-consuming manual reviews. While you can do most of these in Google Docs, it’s hard to scale if you have more than a few documents. In addition, as Google Docs was not built for Document Collaboration, you'll need to engage in ‘hand-holding’ with less skilled team members who are unfamiliar with its user interface.
  • Credibility – Business clients are unlikely to be impressed if you share their legal documents and contracts on Google Docs. It sends all the wrong signals. With Agilewords, you can get a personalized website URL, for example, using your business name or the project name.
  • Security – Memories of high-profile security breaches in Google Docs will make most clients nervous. Agilewords protects your documents in multiple ways and provides world class security with RackSpace.
  • Finances – How much does it cost for senior members of your team to find documents, download attachments, send reminders, check progress, reformat documents and so on? Instead, their time should be spent on other high value tasks, which make better use of their abilities.

Its online dashboard lets you see all the documents under review, so you can manage the progress of documents are they move through the review cycle. Agilewords also allows you to invite others, schedule due date for completion, monitor every change made to the document, send daily report/digest, receive personalized notifications, create folders for different projects, quickly see the most recent comments made to the document (new comments are color coded and highlighted in the comments pane) and download the document for offline reviewing.

Google Docs lets you create web-based documents, presentations and spreadsheets that anyone in the group can update from their own computer, even at the same time. It reduces license costs associated with Microsoft Office and anti-virus software as your documents are stored safely in Google's servers, so you don't have to worry about losing data or getting virus.

4. What are the limitations of Agilewords and Google Docs?

Agilewords is designed for online document reviews.

It does not have the Microsoft Office functionality, such as spreadsheets or presentations. Likewise, it is not an online word processor, for example, you can't create table, add headings, insert images, or add footnotes… even though it lets you update documents offline. It’s designed specifically for reviewing business documents. In Agilewords, the focus is on editing the actual text in the document, not the format, layout, or design.

Google Docs is an alternative to Microsoft Office.

It offers most of the features found in an Office suite and does a very good job at this. One limitation of Google Docs is that, as it uses a propriety format, you are likely to encounter issues when saving the document back to Microsoft Word. While the changes can be minor with small documents, once you start working on larger, more complex Microsoft Word documents, you’ll encounter issues with styles, format, layouts, and macros. This creates significant issues when dealing with business documents and scenarios where sensitive data must be delivered on time.

It also lacks industrial strength security measures, audit trails, and instant email notifications. In other words, you can open the document, find the changes in the Revision History pane and respond but Google Docs doesn’t flag which comments were made since your last visit. This means if you're reviewing a large document, say 100 pages, you have to re-check every comment to make sure you haven’t missed any.

Google Docs wasn’t intended for document review, it’s just a natural extension of collaboration document reviews, especially for confidential business documents. While you can use it for document reviews, it comes with a ‘price’. For example, the user interface isn’t designed to show you comments, changes to the documents, and which changes has occurred since the last login. The 'add comments' option is there but is ‘hidden’ inside a drop-down menu. For many novice users, this will be a bridge too far and result in them looking for assistance and resorting to making changes on the original document and then emailing it to you – which defeats the purpose of online document reviews.

5. Why would I choose Agilewords vs Google Docs and vice versa?

  • Use Agilewords to review documents online.
  • Use Google Docs to write documents online.
  • Use Agilewords to invite, schedule, track changes, get approval, and review documents securely online.
  • Use Google Docs to write, edit, and share Office files, including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations over the web.

6. My company uses Google Docs. Should we switch to Agilewords?

Use Agilewords if you want to review confidential business documents online. This will save you time (as there is only one file involved), simplify the review process (no more emailing attachments), reduce costs (no license fees associated with Microsoft Office), and quicker set (no installation is required.). You can use the Free plan to test run Agilewords and then upgrade if you need to.

Use Google Docs if most of your documents are neither time-sensitive nor client confidential.

If you're not sure, take Agilewords for a test drive. You can sign up for the Free trial – you don’t even need a credit card – upload documents, invite others and see if this makes the review process easier.

7. What are the key features available in Agilewords and not in Google Docs?

Agilewords has several features related to the document review process, which are not available in Google Docs.

These include:

  1. Advanced Security – Includes Secure Socket Layers (SSL) and encryption on all files
  2. Web Hosting - Provided by Rackspace, award-winning web hosting provider
  3. Offline Updates – You can download the file, update it offline, and then re-upload a modified version.
  4. Schedule Reviews – You can set a due date so the reviewer knows when the document is due to be completed. This date is displayed at the top of every web page when reviewing documents as a reminder.
  5. Export – In theory, you can export documents from Google Docs. However, during our testing it changed the layout and styles of the source (i.e. original) Microsoft Word file, requiring the document owner to reformat the document.
  6. Audit Trail - When one of your team updates a document in Agilewords, you can configure the system to automatically send a notification email to the Document Owner highlighting what has been changed and by whom. This gives you an audit trail of all changes made to the document, with details of the date, reviewer and text changes.
  7. Security Console – Access to Agilewords is based on roles, for example, Manager, Author and Reviewer. When you log into Agilewords as a Manager, you can create shared folders for each project and then assign access rights to different users. This disallows others from intentionally or accidentally accessing documents. While Google Docs also has shared folders, these are essentially individual folders that are shared across a team.
  8. Document Review workflow – Agilewords coordinates the different stages of the review process, by sending out automatic reminders to authors and reviewers, assigning tasks, setting up deadlines, and using a role-based system to control access to documents.
  9. Progress Tracking – Document Owners can use the online dashboard to monitor all document review activities, review the Daily Digest (email containing all document edits for each day) and check the progress of each document. Google Docs allows you to share documents with colleagues but lacks the project management features that allow you to ‘manage’ the review cycle. As a Document Owner, you can also setup an Activity Feed and filter your documents by Documents in Review, Shared Documents, and Private Documents.
  10. Versioning – Google Docs offers a Revision History tool that shows you all the changes you made to the document by date. Changes are color coded in green. My bet is that most people don’t know it’s there as it’s slightly hidden away and you have to dig it out. Whereas in Agilewords, you get notified when changes are made (and you can keep the email to double-check later) and it’s also highlighted on document and in right-pane. This makes it impossible to miss and faster to drill-down into the content and complete the review.

8. What are the key features available in Google Docs and not in Agilewords?

Google Docs has several features which are not available in Agilewords, such as:

  1. Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office – Free plugin that improves Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 on Windows PCs. It adds simultaneous collaboration, revision history, cloud sync, unique URLs and simple sharing to the Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications.
  2. File formats - You can now view the following file types using Google Docs: .XLS, .XLSX, .PPTX, .PAGES, .AI, .PSD, .DXF, .SVG, .EPS, .PS, .TTF, and .XPS.
  3. Spreadsheets - You can now analyze and view your data more easily with the addition of filtering in spreadsheets.
  4. Mobile editing in 45 languages - Edit your documents on the go in 45 languages on Android with Froyo (version 2.2) and on iOS devices (version 3.0+) including the iPad.
  5. OCR in 34 languages - Upload and convert PDF or image files to text in 34 new languages.

You can read the Google Docs Feature List here.

9. How does pricing compare?

You can get both Agilewords and Google Docs for free.

Google Docs Pricing

If you want to move from Microsoft Office and save money on its license fees, then Google Docs is an excellent alternative. There is no cost for using the application and you can share it across your teams.

Agilewords Pricing

You can get Agilewords in three different versions: Free, Individual, and SMB.

  1. Free Plan: 1 Author, unlimited documents, but only 3 in review at a time
  2. Individual Plan: $19 per month, 1 Author, Unlimited documents, Custom domain
  3. SMB Plan: $49 per month, 3 Authors, Unlimited documents, Custom domain

Note that when you when you signup for the Free plan, you can:

  1. Upload documents
  2. Invite others to review documents
  3. Add comments, respond to comments, and get documents approved
  4. Track document’s progress, get email notifications, and request sign-offs


While Google Docs and Agilewords do overlap in some areas, for example, you can use both for sharing documents online, they are intended for different purposes. Google Docs is an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office and comes with a sleuth of Office type features, including a very powerful text editor.

‘But, I’m still not convinced? Where’s the real benefit?’

Is Agilewords worth the investment? While Google Docs and Agilewords are both free, one is freer than the other. Agilewords makes document reviews easier to manage. It’s ‘raison d'être’ is to help you manage all aspects of the document review lifecycle, from initial setup, to inviting reviewers, tracking progress, and signing off on the final draft. Sign up for Free here.

  • Agilewords 101: Review a document and post feedback

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