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Why and How I Stopped Using Microsoft Office

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.

My reasoning?

      • 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

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.

For people without Windows 8 I recommend trying out these options to send and receive your email: Thunderbird andGoogle Apps.

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

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.

Microsoft Word

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.

Here are some other alternatives to Microsoft Word: Pages, Scrivener, iA Writer and WriteMonkey.

PowerPoint

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:

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.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

  • Morgyn

    Joe, what about submitting to agents and publishers. You think Google docs will fly? I love writing in Google docs, esp. now that you can plunk them on the desktop when offline. Hate not being able to instantly look something up while writing.

    Also, there was some banter going around about a year ago re ownership of anything stored on Google docs. Your thoughts on that?

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Good questions Morgyn. From what I remember Google stated that you own everything on Google Docs unless you share it publicly. SkyDrive actually is a little more clear that they do not own your information, but from the looks of it Google only uses uploaded content to improve their own user interface. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/how-far-do-google-drives-terms-go-in-owning-your-files/75228.

      I personally don’t get as concerned with huge corporations using my articles and stories since there’s really no financial reason for them to do so, but I understand some people find it sketchy so I would just recommend OpenOffice. For those that are worried about losing their information I would recommend the same thing I recommend for Office users: backup your content on an external hard drive.

      As for submitting to agents and publishers this is my experience: I’ve submitted a handful of query letters to magazines, maybe twenty pitch letters to small businesses and ten guest post submissions since I went completely to Google Docs. No one has mentioned anything about my Google Doc usage and I’ve landed a few jobs with it. I will say that I typically create the document in Google Docs then select File > Send as attachment and select the Microsoft Word document option. It converts to a Word Document for the recipient to download. I figure this is how most people view documents so might as well give them what they are used to, even if I’m creating it in a different program.

  • http://chitrader.wordpress.com Chris Norbury

    Interesting topic, Joe. I use MS Office by default and inertia keeps me from changing. I’ve tried Scrivener as a writing tool and found that it has a relatively high learning curve for this older, less tech-savvy writer.

    I rarely use Excel, and outside a few tries with Outlook and One Note, I don’t use the rest of Office. I downloaded Open Office years ago but never got into it.

    I hope your shift away from MS Office goes well and suggest you post an update, maybe six months down the road, of how smoothly or not your daily routine is running since the switch, and any changes or tweaks you made.

    Chris

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      That’s a great idea Chris. I’ll be sure to come back with an update down the road!

  • http://www.amazon.com/Writing-For-The-Web-ebook/dp/B00ELAG856 Will Moyer

    Glad to have helped Joe!

    My book has a lot more solutions for ditching the old world of Word-based workflows and presents tools that’ll help you write and collaborate, especially when your content is ending up on the web. http://www.amazon.com/Writing-For-The-Web-ebook/dp/B00ELAG856

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Thanks for the inspiration Will, and the book looks helpful. I’ll definitely check it out!

  • http://susancallhutchison.wordpress.com Susan Call Hutchison

    I switched earlier this year to OpenOffice, an open source system that gives me wordprocessing, spreadsheets, presentation, data base and other options I haven’t even used yet, all for free. I can save in any format, including .doc and html, and even easily export to PDF. It integrates will all programs I use, easy as pie to insert pictures, etc. I dont’ miss word AT ALL. Also, instead of Photoshop, I use the free Pixlr photo editing software on line. It’s lightweight and simple. I also use free movie editing and music editing software. There is so much good stuff just for the using, with lots of YouTube tutorials and other on-line support, why spend money? I am happy with Gmail, and yes, I like the Google Apps!

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      I’m glad to hear you’re finding all of these free tools helpful. It really makes little sense to pay for some stuff when there are so many free things online. The only reason I stick with Photoshop is because I still have a free version I got when I was back at school, and I tend to utilize some of the more advanced tools that don’t pop up in free options. I’ll have to give OpenOffice a chance too. I really like Google Docs and Drive, but it seems like everyone enjoys OpenOffice as well.

  • http://ajbeamish.wordpress.com/ AJ Beamish

    Welcome to the club. I left MS Office for OpenOffice 8 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I love how Writer has a post-it type note feature inside of it. I can make quick notes in the manuscript to come back to later. MS Office is designed for a huge office complex workplace environment. Funny thing is I’ve never worked at a place that effectively utilizes it’s features, if they utilize them at all! Only thing that pisses me off is I remember paying $900 for Word back in 1995. I still don’t feel like I got my moneys worth.

    Though trusting your writing to Google Docs is a bit precarious IMHO. Don’t you have to be online all the time to use it?

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Hey AJ,

      I’m glad OpenOffice is working well for you. It’s funny how expensive Office was back in the day. The monthly pricing plan they use now is much better, but the software is still too clunky (and like you said, no one at my old company used a fraction of the tools in Office.)

      As for Google Docs they have an offline mode that saves your work and syncs directly to your Drive the next time you connect to the internet. I also backup all my Google docs on an external hard drive just in case something weird happens over at Google. I do plan on diving into OpenOffice as well. Maybe I’ll do a little comparison to figure out the benefits and downsides of each.

  • http://www.buffalowrites.com Laura

    This is very timely. I’ve been thinking about buying an iPad instead of a laptop, to use as my primary writing device. My biggest hold-up was that you can’t get Microsoft products on an iPad — only apps. But with something like Google Drive, that wouldn’t be a problem.

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Very true. My buddy did this a few months ago and the only thing he said was a problem was the touchscreen keyboard, so he went out and purchased an external keyboard. Also keep in mind that iPads can’t have any local software, so if you use anything like Photoshop you have to resort to apps instead. Good luck with the transition!

  • http://mqallen.com Marc

    Thanks for the post. I think the freeware options have a lot of value and do suggest them for most friends and family, as an option.

    Myself, I still use MSOffice and prefer it. For one, from a money point of view, it costs me about $25 per year per family member for everyone to have access to it. I think that’s a pretty fair price.

    From a feature point of view, while I don’t use Access or Publisher, I do use the other packages and I’m a fairly heavy user, sometimes doing Visual Basic for writing projects (like calculating the energy falling on a disk world over the course of a year :) ). I’ve found the freeware options under-featured compared to what I like to do in MSOffice.

    My wife also makes heavy use of Publisher, which, if you are doing newsletters and other multi-frame content, can be a superior tool, although I don’t need that myself.

    For writing, though, I have moved to scrivener. There, being able to target multiple formats and platforms, plus the multiple views, outweighs the somewhat clunkier editor.

    As for storing docs on the cloud, while I do use off-site backup services, otherwise, I prefer to control my content. I don’t like the idea of someone controlling access to my files, being able to change terms of contract, muddy ownership, etc.

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      All valid points. It sounds like you use MS Office a little bit more in-depth than others. I’m still wondering how I will fair without Excel, since I like to generate charts and do some statistical analysis. I think once you start getting deep into Publisher, Access and maybe Excel it really is a fair price for Office. I like InDesign for newsletters and such, but the price is out of control (I still have a free version they gave us back in school.)

  • http://bboymskitty.wordpress.com Dawn

    I stopped using msoffice at home a very very long time ago when I found open office. Has everything in it. I will say that I miss outlook express the most as an email application! That was my favorite ever. Since then I’ve been using mozilla Thunderbird.

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Honestly I think losing Outlook is my biggest concern. I’ll have to checkout Thunderbird, because this Windows 8 Mail is pretty watered down.

  • Cliff Lewis

    I switched to Open Office and google many years ago. I concur, Joe, these lighter weight, freeware options work seamlessly. I don’t miss the bulky MS Software at all. Great post, thankyou!

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      I’m glad they are working out for you Cliff. Everyone seems to be raving about OpenOffice so I might have to compare that with the Google products.

  • http://www.1writeway.com Marie Ann Bailey

    Great suggestions, Joe. I’m a Mac user for my personal life and a PC/Windows user for my day job. Until recently I was totally happy not having Microsoft Office in my personal life. I use Pages for word processing but once I started sharing documents with another blogger, it got a little tricky. Pages let’s you save your documents to Word, but if you have review/track changes embedded in your Pages document, then you (at least I) can’t export the document Word. That can be frustrating when you want to show your collaborator the edits you are suggesting. But I haven’t yet tried Google docs so maybe that will help with this one minor but annoying problem. Also, Evernote is awesome. I’m using it more and more and really love that it works and syncs across all my Mac devices.

    • http://www.writewithwarnimont.com/ Joe Warnimont

      Hey Marie Ann,

      I’ve never actually worked in collaboration like that from Mac to PC, but let me know if Google Docs offers a better solution.

  • http://josskoostachin.wordpress.com mrschmoe

    Pretty decent blog. Sorry I was absent for a tad bit.
    I made a switch from MS Office to LibreOffice after my computer crashed on me. Due to being strapped for cash, I opted out for the close second. My main two word processors is Scrivener and LibreOffice. As for scrivener going composition mode is easier on the eyes, less distracting and slightly a learning curve.
    Google drive makes it easier to share documents with a handful of people I know. Even if my internet conks on occasion I have something to type down.

  • Debby Hanoka

    As a Windows user, I’d like to offer some suggestions:

    Corel Word Perfect Suite — The native file formats for Word Perfect, Quattro Pro, and Presentations have not changed in years, so they are more than stable. The “notes” software is called LIghtning, which uses a tree format and doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as One Note, but it gets the job done. Once the user learns the software, there is almost no learning curve in subsequent versions because Corel has kept the GUI essentially the same. Word Perfect was also the first major word processing program to allow a document to be saved as a PDF without having a separate PDF writer installed.

    Serif Page Plus — I’ve used this program for many years. It is a reasonable alternative to Publisher and to In Design, and costs much less than either of them. It allows for the compilation of eBooks, PDFs, web pages, and other formats we writers would normally use. There is a bit of a learning curve, but the program itself is quite stable.

    Please Note: This programs are Windows only, no Mac or Linux versions that I know of.

    I hope this helps other writers out there who use Windows and want even *more* alternatives.

    Debby Hanoka
    [email protected]