Have Just About Ditched MS Office

Had two situations recently that pretty much cemented in my mind that I’ve just about ditched MS Office as the means that I would go about relating to data (whether writing or presenting). Both moments were pretty interesting, and to a large extent, had a decent amount of foreshadowing.

The first moment came with a client. I was asked if I could produce a PowerPoint deck for a class that I’m teaching. This deck would be modified from a previous deck that I did. I looked at the client when the request was made and asked them simply, “how?” Due to my living on an iPad and N97, I don’t have nor do I use PowerPoint (or any MS Office product for that matter). They looked at me with a puzzled look (because the deck was actually for another MS not-Office product), and wondered how that could be. How could anyone get along in the “professional world” without using MS Office?

The second situation came with an email from a friend. I was asked to fill out a questionnaire which was sent in an MS Word document. These days, all of my interaction with email occurs on my iPad, and while I do have the ability to read MS Office files, I don’t have any app on my iPad that can edit them. It was a conscious and definitive decision to not have such an application on this device as most of the files that I edit/create need to be cross-platform and independent of anything more than a web browser. As I responded to the person’s email that I’ll be a bit in getting back the questionnaire because I’d need to get in front of an application/device that can edit that Word document (or open it in GMail via the web browser and edit it via Google Docs), I started to laugh at myself – I’ve just about ditched MS Office.

Depending on the document, I don’t even crack open Google Documents. Personal creations just about always get made in some kind of HTML, hacked from lessons from the past decade plus of coding for myself and others. Collaborative documents don’t get seen as collaborative unless it lives that way (I’m not a fan of having to save originals, edit, save as modified, then email the modified). I’ve seen that in many respects, there’s just a better way for certain documents to live, and a lot of times, its not even as a document.

I’ve got to relent on this for the first client. I don’t like using PowerPoint. I’m a fan of Eric Meyer’s S5 SlideShow System (have used it for years for MMM’s presentations) not just because it doesn’t require PowerPoint on the side of the reader, but it forces the presenter to make sure they are accounting for those who are just viewing slides, and those who will print slide sheets. But for them, I’ve got to find PowerPoint and rock out.

For the second, I’m sure that I could figure that one solved with Google Docs. I at least got the email through GMail, and so its there for importing into Google Docs to fill out as soon as I get out of a email client and into the browser, choose the desktop interface, and then to open the attachment in Google Docs (see how easy that was).

Sure, the point of MS Office was that we didn’t have to go through all of this in order to read or edit a document. Its weird though. When I learned HTML, I realized a sense of control over documents that I didn’t have before. Lessons on microformats, semantic HTML, CSS, and JavaScript have only helped that. When I saw that an MS Word document is basically a HTML/XML document with some Microsoft-specific aspects to it, I wondered why we didn’t just teach people how to write HTML, and skip to the pats where MS’s enhancements actually made some sense. Instead, we don’t even skip, we assume that this is the way it is and most have pretty much accepted life as such – if you need a document of any kind, expect the person to have MS Office to read/edit it.

Its like we never think about what happens when a person doesn’t have or chooses not to have “MS Office-compatible” software. We assume they will, where its actually more of a choice to the other person. What’s happened to me in this (near-)ditching of MS Office is that I’m finding that we’ve assumed a lot when it comes to computing and how we want to communicate. Not all of it is all that freeing – in fact, much of it limits us from going further.