Our escape from Microsoft Office

Shew Design is by no means an anti-Microsoft company. We have used (and enjoyed) Microsoft products for years. I think Windows continues to get better and better and my Windows based design computers are, despite the occasional hiccup, wonderful, remarkable contraptions. No creative person in the history in the world prior to this point has had access to such amazing tools.

Yet, I have had my fill of some Microsoft products and practices, Office in particular. I basically use 1% of Word’s capabilities, but that 1% seems to be hidden afresh with every new software release. I’m struck by how incredibly large the programs are, the myriad options for customizing them, the constant clutter, the complexity, the cost.

Ultimately, I’m struck that there are other products out there that do the job better. Google Docs has changed the way we develop copywriting concepts. Google Docs uses a super stripped down Word interface and allows a single document to be accessible to multiple people at the same time. Also: it’s easy.

Open Office is a non-cloud based solution. In some ways, it is a “low rent” version of MS Office in terms of visual appeal, but for our purposes it holds its own. It’s free and it can reliably do things like read and write to the Microsoft Word format – a process that it does *mostly* reliably. Open Office has its own version of Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. You could, as we have, install it alongside Word and implement a gradual phase in strategy for the products that work best for you. There are no shortage of options.

In truth, Shew Design has not completely extricated ourselves from Office. Our escape from Microsoft Office would require a few more departures. The final, probably painful, departure from Outlook will be the last step in the process. However, I think our company will be the better for it. In this era of collaborative creativity and ever dwindling budgets, there are much better ways of spending your money than the endlessly spooling upgrade for software that has essentially stayed still for decades.

Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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