Microsoft Office has become the industry standard for creating documents. Writers use Office for their work without thinking twice about the other, more efficient and cheaper alternatives.
The primary benefit of using Microsoft Office is to sync up multiple computers on a business network. It also helps to keep your calendar and contacts managed and synced up to other devices with Outlook.
I recently cancelled my Microsoft Office subscription and transferred all my writing, contacts, calendars, spreadsheets and entire work environment to other software.
- All the alternative tools are free, as opposed to Microsoft Office.
- The tools I use now are less bloated than software like Word and Outlook, allowing me to focus on creativity and doing work as opposed to formatting.
- Everything syncs up to all my devices. This helps while traveling and writing.
- All my content is automatically backed up on the cloud.
- The new tools have sleek, simple user interfaces, and they don’t try to cater to every industry with loads of buttons like Microsoft Office does.
Let’s take a look at how you can eliminate Microsoft Office from your everyday work cycle, and employ other tools to make your writing more efficient.
Cloud Storage and Transfer
One benefit of Microsoft Office is that it links directly to Skydrive, making it easier to access documents and files from multiple devices.
Reasons I stopped using Office for storage and how I replaced it:
Google Drive is virtually the same as SkyDrive. There’s no reason to manage multiple cloud storage systems. Google Drive has been around much longer than SkyDrive and it lets you backup your files in the cloud and access all your writings, photos, and other files from every device. All Mac users can use iCloud.
Microsoft Outlook was my biggest personal dilemma. I enjoy Outlook’s contact and email management system. I also like that you can create email templates and make an awesome personal signature.
Reasons I stopped using Outlook and how I replaced it:
What’s the problem with Outlook? It’s too bloated. The only reason Outlook is the standard in most industries is because it’s easy for companies to sync up an entire network and transfer files to other Microsoft products such as Word and OneNote. It just complicates things for writers.
I think the smartest choice for me is to eventually send my emails to Google Apps. This lets me have all my emails, contacts and documents on the Google platform. Right now I’m using Windows 8 Mail which is included in my Windows 8 operating system. It sends my domain’s emails to my computer for free and it’s clean and simple, unlike Outlook. The only thing I don’t like about Windows 8 Mail is that you can’t seem to add an image or links in the signature.
If you do not have a hosted email account then there is no need to worry. Stick with your Gmail, Yahoo, Windows or Hotmail account.
The majority of these tools also integrate contacts and calendar features.
Microsoft Excel is the easiest Microsoft tool to part ways with.
Reasons I stopped using Excel and how I replaced it:
I parted ways with Excel simply because it was included with the entire Office package and I planned on getting rid of the entire package. Fortunately there are several great tools to replace it.
Do I use Excel on a weekly basis? Yes, but does Google Spreadsheets do everything I need in Microsoft Excel? Absolutely. Other options for replacing Excel include the spreadsheet portion of OpenOffice and Excel Web Apps.
Now here’s the big one: Microsoft Word. I don’t think I’ve used any word processor besides Word since grade school. As a writer it seems difficult to not have Microsoft Word to create documents and receive Word attachments from other people through email.
Reasons I stopped using Word and how I replaced it:
I stumbled upon this article from The Write Life. The author Will Moyer explains that Microsoft Word is a cluttered word processor that has no business being in a writer’s life – and he’s right. Creativity does not stem from nifty formatting tools. It comes from a simple word editor that allows you to write. Not to mention, it’s a pain to transfer Word text into HTML forms – which is pretty much the standard for blogging. Think about when you copy a Word document into your WordPress post page. It forces you to click the Paste From Word button and the result always requires additional formatting.
I enjoy the idea of using a simple text editor to write my blog posts and freelance projects. The only problem I have is when receiving emails with Word documents attached. It works, but the formatting is often skewed and jumbled. So I opted to go with Google Docs once again, since it provides a watered down version of Microsoft Word without all the clunky, unnecessary bells and whistles. It also lets me directly download a Word attachment into Google Docs.
I hardly use PowerPoint since graduating from college and leaving my old job, but Google Docs Presentations has everything I need and more. If Google Docs Presentations doesn’t include all the options you need try Prezi, OpenOffice or Slideshare. Keynote works wonders for Mac users. These tools all offer online, interactive presentation features that look sleek and are less complicated than PowerPoint – not to mention a few of them are free.
OneNote, Access and Publisher
I personally don’t use OneNote, Access or Publisher, because my freelance job doesn’t require them. I never saw the point of using Publisher when Word offers similar functionality, and design software like Photoshop and InDesign blows Publisher out of the water.
As for OneNote. Stop using it and create an Evernote account. This is one of the top tools that every writer needs.
I haven’t used Access since my Freshman year business technology class, and I can’t see myself using it again. Unless you run a business that manages large databases you don’t need Access. If you do use Access there are cleaner, cheaper options.
If you do use OneNote, Access or Publisher consider trying the following alternative options for each:
- OneNote – Evernote or Google Keep
- Access – OpenOffice, Filemaker Pro, Kexi or Grubba
- Publisher – Scribus, OpenOffice, Adobe InDesign orPagePlus
What do you think about getting rid of your Microsoft Office software? Let me know in the comments about any other alternatives or concerns you have with the transition.