Is one really better than the other?
It also depends on where you work. Some writers have a single desktop machine that never moves. Some have a laptop and write while watching TV or on the go. Some have different machines with different operating systems (eg PC and Mac) and work between the two. Some even write on tablets or smartphones.
So, in order to find the best platform, simply playing with different word processors isn't enough. I need to nail down where I work and how I work and then find the best fit for my needs.
Where I workMainly, at home on a personal laptop and during my lunch hour on a work's laptop.
I have worked with Word and Dropbox for years, but that means syncing my documents to a specific machine at work. If that laptop isn't available, it means logging into Dropbox and copying the files, working, then saving and copying back. Google Docs works across different machine and operating systems effortlessly. I can open a document on any device and it is ready to edit without any fuss. I also found that I really like having my documents to hand on my phone, especially if I'm sitting waiting in the car or something. I tried using Word and Dropbox apps to balance this out, but they feel clunky by comparison.
Google Docs rocked this round.
How I workI like to bounce between documents and have lots of information at hand - specifically, the working document, character profiles and a working outline. Scrivener should be perfect for this, but it's just not mobile. It also feels a bit messy and quite 90s, if that makes sense. I can have multiple documents open in Word, but flipping between them isn't as fast or instinctive as Google Docs (CTRL + TAB). I can also work FULL SCREEN. This option is available in Word, LibreOffice and Scrivener, but LibreOffice leaves a button on screen, Scrivener leaves the background semi-visible and Word had the option hidden (I only found it this week, and I've had my W-2007 copy for over ten years!).
Edit: I didn't realise that Scrivener can completely black out the background. The choice is there. I've also discovered that Scrivener works very well with Dropbox or Google Drive.
Final manuscriptI have a particular look for my final manuscripts, and want my file to look that way from day one. Scrivener fell flat on its face as far as this is concerned simply because of the learning curve. I know it's possible to get a full WYSIWYG mode, but it's not clear how on day one, and right now, I don't want to lose hours of time trying to do something that should be right there. Google Docs is good, has lots of the features of Word and produces a great final draft, but Word gives me just a little more control over style guides. (Note, I also looked at LibreOffice here too, but it didn't sway me at all).
Word wins - but it's a fairly close finish.
EditingWord is the industry standard, and that's what most editors use, but I would like to really test Google Docs here. One of the best features of Docs is that two or more people can work on the same document at the same time. As one person edits, those changes appear on all open devices. That's the future, right there. Most people I know that work in Scrivener go to Word when it comes to working with Editors.
Word wins by default. However, I have heard of one writer doing a pitch by sharing a Scrivener file through Dropbox and showing off all the research and back material. How cool is that?
Overall VerdictWord: I've worked on Word for years, and together with Dropbox I thought I had a system nailed.
Scrivener: I've played with this a few times and should love it, but I'm yet to see the magic that everyone else talks about. Ideally, I'd like to give Scrivener a full soak test of using it for a month, just as I did with Google docs. Quote: Hicks in Aliens, "It's the only way to be sure."
Google Docs: This really surprised me. I'm amazed at just how easy it is to use across platforms, and love the added bonus of being able to see and edit my documents on a mobile device without any fuss. I don't need to worry about saving or the program crashing either. But more than anything, for sheer productivity, Google Docs blows everything else out of the water because I can work absolutely anywhere - I can even dictate text directly into the document while I'm walking my dog.
Conclusion.I love Google Docs. Just love it. It's simple, quite fast (not as fast as Word) and I can use it alongside Google Sheets to track my writing targets. It's perfect for writing if you want a very simple editor and your documents aren't too big. However, I can't ignore the buzz surrounding Scrivener and I want to know more, so... the only real conclusion here is to look deeper into writing software.