If you’re still using Microsoft Office for most of your documents and spreadsheets it might be worthwhile to take a step back and consider other alternatives. In her Forrester research report, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Microsoft Word Love Story,” analyst Shirley McLeish writes that companies continue to use Microsoft products not out of necessity, but rather out of habit. “Microsoft Office has been a cash cow for them for years,” she says in an interview with IDG, “But what people are finding is they are questioning that investment. It is relatively high next to some other options on the market.” As a result, online office applications are starting to gain traction, especially among small- to medium-sized businesses.
Case in point, here at Floor64, we extensively use Google’s online suite of office applications for many of our business documents. In looking at our business processes, we realized that many of our documents were, in fact, shared living documents, meaning that they were constantly being revised and emailed back and forth between people. So, instead of dealing with the constant annoyance of attachments and versions, we find the sharing feature of online office applications to be incredibly convenient. Sure, for more complicated spreadsheets that need fancy features like pivot tables or macros, Excel is still the first choice, but for the majority of documents that we are working on, the convenience and sharing simplicity of the online office trumps Microsoft most of the time. Also, for documents that ultimately need to be printed, Microsoft Word and the Adobe Creative Suite are much better for formatting. However, even in those cases we still use Google Docs to share and edit content and then transfer the content to the offline applications for formatting.
To keep our company running all on the same schedule, we use Google Calendar. Again, we had considered a Microsoft solution, but when comparing the cost of installing and maintaining our own system to the Google cost (free), it was a pretty easy decision. Google calendar allows us to easily share calendars across our company, and for the few holdouts that prefer to use Microsoft Outlook, Google offers a calendar sync’ing feature.
If you’re looking to create diagrams or flowcharts, Microsoft Visio is not even included in most of the Office Suites. So, what I have been using is an online alternative, Gliffy. Again, with Gliffy, sharing is second-nature, and the price is right: free for most users, and a premium (pay) option with additional features.
Other online office solutions to consider are ThinkFree and Zoho, both of which offer an even richer feature set over Google.
Microsoft Word just passed its silver anniversary last year, which is ancient in terms of software time. While it is certainly a momentous achievement, it’s important to remember that it’s not a marriage, so it’s perfectly fine to take a look around for better alternatives.