MS Office Should Only Be Used By Specialists

Writers (maybe), secretaries that need to print out letters, technical analysts that use complex reference heavy spreadsheets, Small custom database programmers. These are the only people who should use and have installed MS Office.

Do you own it? Have you paid for it? If it came on your computer then you did pay for it. Costs are hidden for Microsoft products and have been pre-installed on your computer. For decades we have paid large for MS Windows and Office. Their hegemony is now being threatened by the change in usage to mobile. Ten years ago it was very possible that almost half the cost of your computer was going to Microsoft. I kind of get why Windows was on every computer. The alternatives were too technical and not sufficiently widespread. The problem I always had was paying $100 or $150 or more for MS Office.

Most Rarely Use It

What we have come to is that we rarely need most functions that MS Office provides. It’s not even that there is a competitor it’s just that how we do business has changed. So having every person that owns a Windows computer also own and pay a high bundling fee for rarely used Office applications seems wasteful and unnecessary.

I observed 15 years ago that I would not use Office except for routine simple activities that could have been done simply by some other application. I observed everyone else around me behaved the same way and the only people making good use of Office functions were those that typed formal printed letters and those that did heavy analysis using spreadsheets.

I have worked in large corporations and small and I have been (I still am) a small business owner. And the pressure from people and workers to use MS Office was very high because of the historical usage and people’s comfort with using it.  In 1993 I was working for a large company that had a name using only 3 letters. At that time if someone wanted to write an email with any kind of formatting like a bold or an italic or nice margins they would attach a Word Doc.

gdocsAlternatives Have Had Ten Years to Refine Their Functions

Ten years later around 2003 there was no longer a need to do this. How often does any particular person need a word processor, the main purpose is to slightly format some text. Even today I occasionally receive emails from some people with an attached word file and when I open it there is little to no formatting(Really?) So you want to give me extra work to dig into the content of your email because I can’t now see in my email’s preview screen.

excel_globalIt took a lot longer to deal with spreadsheets. I’m a spreadsheet whiz. I can make spreadsheets dance and have often used database, lookup, formatting and multi-sheet referencing to come up with very useful and enlightening information. However, the frequency that I need to do this is measured in months. And here is where Google Docs has filled a large gap. Their online spreadsheets are basic and simple and collaborative. Which accounts for anywhere from 95-100% of most people’s needs.

OutlookPresentations using Powerpoint are now fully realizable with Google Docs. While the last application that was difficult to replace was Outlook. I had a hard time arguing against some employees using it because they were skilled at using it and it had rich function. But today the paradigm shift has passed it by. Because we read email mostly on mobile and web-based email with GMail and others it has now become the standard. In fact Outlook has also gone the way of a free online service.

All other MS Office applications are either specialized, not used or easily replaced with often better alternatives. Finally, for die-hard desktop application users there is the excellent LibreOffice that has been around for about 15 years. It duplicates all applications except Outlook and is a nice backup.


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