6 Months Without Microsoft Office

At the time I made the decision to try to kick the habit, I’d been using Microsoft Word for over two decades. I’ll confess to being a long time Office junkie, first using Word in college, where its features helped me through a creative writing minor. I continued to be a user at my first software company, while the office suite wars waged around me. But after two decades and more than a little frustration with the new Office 2010 look and feel, I decided it was time to try something new.

So I set out on a mission: to break myself of the Office habit, ideally giving it up for a SaaS-based solution like Google Docs. Here is the paraphrased diary of my 6 months without Office.

Month 1

Dear Diary, Things are going surprisingly well. I’m hooked by the collaborative features in Google Docs, especially simultaneous editing. When I encounter perceived limitations, such as the lack of desktop integration, I find it surprisingly easy to give up features I’d used for years. I’ve had good success with Google Document, confirming my suspicion that the feature bloat in Word is of nominal value. I mean let’s face it, does anyone out there really use Auto Summarize?

Month 2

Dear Diary, I’m still liking Google Document, but am not so sure about Google Spreadsheet and Presentation. After having expended twice the effort in making a corporate slide deck in Google Presentation, a sleek new version was returned by a marketing colleague with a .pptx extension. Layout and animation support is very limited, the user interface is clunky, and why is it select and move never does what I want it to?

Month 3

Dear Diary, Google Spreadsheet is very close to meeting my needs, but lacking in a few important features, such as pivot tables. I also miss the little things: copy, paste and cell selection that works reliably, and the automatic opening of documents from the Finder. In a moment of frustration, I cheated and installed Open Office, to hopefully fill a few gaps in Google Docs. It definitely has stronger spreadsheet and presentation tools, and am hopeful Google Docs + Open Office will give me what I need.

Month 4

Dear Diary, I am still successfully using Google Document, mostly using Google Spreadsheet, but have entirely given up on Google Presentation. I’ve been using Open Office to fill the gaps in Google Docs for a month now, and have come to this conclusion: holy sh** Open Office is terrible. It’s like Microsoft Office without the quality control and user experience. I’ve never in my life had so much animosity toward an open source product. It’s Java Engineers Gone Wild.

Month 5

Dear Diary, I continue to enjoy Google Document, and have yet to find feature I cannot either workaround or give up. It is without a doubt more productive than Microsoft Word, and I am sold on a SaaS-based solution for editing documents. But I must confess: I’m really feeling the pain of separation from Excel and PowerPoint. Four months later, it still takes more effort to produce less effective spreadsheets and presentations in Google Docs or Open Office. I’m beginning to think I won’t make it.

Month 6

Dear Diary, the disc is in the drive and I have confirmed I have the required 3GB of free disk space. In less than an hour it will all be over: Microsoft Office will be installed on my MacBook. I will then indulge myself in a cathartic moment by deleting Open Office. The experiment is over: as of 2011, I cannot live without Microsoft Office.

Google Presentation and Spreadsheet: I’m pretty sure it IS you, not me. See you next year.


My usage of word processing is likely closer to a regular user, whereas my usage of spreadsheets and presentation tools are closer to that of a power user. This confirms my impression that Google Docs in 2011 is insufficient for most power users.

Related Posts: What Google Apps Might Tell Us About Google Cloud, Breaking the Attendee Limit In Google Hangouts

Joe Kinsella

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