Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Microsoft Office 365 From A Writer’s Perspective


I have always prided myself on being a Linux girl. It took me years to get comfortable with it, but I stayed at it. Why? Because I hated Microsoft with a passion. Their exorbitant licensing fees and shady business practices made them nearly predatory in the market, and I still blame them for singlehandedly killing innovation in software for decades. So I worked at learning Linux out of spite, and Ubuntu finally gave me a platform on which I could build my work. Or so I thought.

Going back to school forced me to have Windows compatibility, there was just no other way around it. Many teachers are nearly computer illiterate, which boggles the imagination. They were unable or unwilling to accept PDF files or other generic forms. My employer uses Windows, and Office 2010. While taking the state required Computer Information Systems 101 (degrading though it may be) I was forced to use Office 2010 and of course I still knew my way around from work exposure. But I resented every moment of it.
But here's the deal: OpenOffice gave way to LibreOffice and they aren't the same. The compatibility is technically there, but flawed. You could not guarantee a smooth transition in .doc format between Open/Libre Office and Microsoft Office. My homework was just one example of that. Editors are famous for being dinosaurs and resisting technology. It's 2014 and many still like paper submissions. There is zero wiggle room with email submissions and attachments. An editor is not going to look twice, if the first glance reveals formatting issues they are going to throw your manuscript out and move on to the next one. Your brilliant writing will never get a chance to offset this liability. I have gotten this straight from the mouths of editors, and I believe them. 

The competition is just not up to snuff.  Google Docs is free, but has a few glitches. I had devastating data loss on some writing projects, and when I would move a manuscript to Microsoft Office to format it for submission, it was a nightmare. I love Google and still swear by my Chromebook, but Google Docs will leave me with trust issues for a long time. Plus, it also had compatibility issues, and tricks I learned at work did not easily move over to their flavor of Excel. Google Docs is great for throwing open a doc and doing that mental download that all writers know, when it's coming through fast and hot and it's all you can do to type it before you lose it. But once that moment has passed, you are ten times better served by having it in actual Microsoft Word, or you are looking at hours of reformatting and triple checking on top of your regular editing.

Office 365 is a monthly (or yearly if you want the savings) subscription that gives you access to all of the Microsoft products. Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point, Excel, Access, One Note and Outlook. The whole kit can caboodle for seven dollars per month. I never have to upgrade. I have a terabyte of storage, more than I could fill in a lifetime of writing. I can use the cloud version on any laptop (including the Chromebook) and organize myself in a way that is familiar and compatible with other devices. The cloud version comes with a basic but handy version of Power Point, Word, Excel and Outlook. This is more than sufficient for traveling needs. You can download the full version of Microsoft Office 2013 and use it on multiple machines with your one subscription (instead of having to purchase Office for every machine in the house). That right there undoes a lot of the evil Microsoft has levied on the American people. By forcing a standard and charging individually, they made their products to where regular people couldn't afford to have them all. To buy the CD and license for Office 2013 is currently around $150. Publisher and Access are extras, costing about $120 each. I would have had to pay for this for each machine in my house, a total of four, if I wanted full compatibility. For my measly seven bucks, I get all of them on all of my machines and don't have to worry about storage or compatibility ever again. Deal.

Because the rest of my world is set up on Google, it was a relief to move my writing world into Office on the cloud. Through a single webpage, I could manage my writing (documents), my calendar, email, and even my business tracking through Excel. It is literally logging into your online office where everything is a click away. My personal and professional lives are now comfortably separated and I can click save and email seamlessly. I can make business cards, even format for self-publishing projects, anything I will need for my writing or consulting work is covered. I fought the good fight for over ten years, but I have come full circle. With reasonable prices on this, I am now far more willing to purchase a license for Windows 7 (you will never catch me using the monstrosity that is Windows 8) and I will eventually say goodbye to Linux. We had a good run, but in the end I am a writer and I have to use the tools of my trade. That is going to require Microsoft Office, and now that I have an affordable option I am going to use it.

I will write a follow up at some point, just an update letting writers know how I have fared and if I have come across any significant glitches that may affect others. But for right now, I could not be more impressed and I have written countless blog articles (including this one) that publish with a click, over 40 pages of manuscript and an unbelievable number of projects for homework. I've yet to encounter a single negative, even when working on the "diet" version that is on the cloud.

Microsoft, I refuse to apologize for my previous hatred because you deserved it. However, you have redeemed yourself with this new business model and you have a truly superior product. I will gladly pay seven dollars per month to enjoy the benefits of your impeccable upkeep. Microsoft Word sets the bar for writing software, and One Note lets me organize to my heart's content. I love this so much that I am moving my Operating System back to Windows full-time. My productivity is through the roof, and almost all of it is being able to log in and leave the world behind, and get down to business. I can now run my entire life through a series of apps that I can carry in my purse as well as run on my desktop computer at home. That's all this girl ever wanted.