After a drastic change in my career and personal life, I found myself staring at a Windows 2000 powered system and Office 2000 preloaded on it. It was a bit of a rough transition, coming from a mainly terminal based approach to computers. But is was also convenient once I started to get used to it.
The operating system wasn’t that difficult to get used to and after all the horror stories about how Windows would be according to my tech peers, I was impressed by its stability and reliability. Yep, started to get along pretty well. And to be honest, I started to enjoy not having to fix all kinds of issues with my favorite flavor of Linux distros.
There was an office tool on my system about which I had only heard bad things. And when I say bad, I mean really bad. This was the devil among all evils. Outlook! I decided to give it a go, nevertheless. You know, kind of like watching a crash site. Setting up an email account was simple, and I could make the security settings I considered important. So, Outlook up and running. Let’s wait for the accidents to happen…
No accidents. Because I have a common sense-based set of cyber hygiene rules? Or was Outlook not the cyber security nightmare my peers were all preaching about? It didn’t matter much because something entirely different happened. Something I did not expect at all. I started to enjoy Outlook as center of my working days. Appointments. Tasks. Contacts. Notes. Emails. All there, integrated. And with a plugin fully synched with my Palm V. What was there not to like?
It didn’t take long until Outlook became my time management tool, and my personal CRM, and of course my preferred communication tool. Yes, there was the occasional malware mail, but I don’t click on those and to be very honest, those had nothing to do with using ‘evil’ Outlook or not. And spam filters got better and better.
With Outlook becoming the default tool to organize my work, I learned to appreciate something else which I have (still not) found as strong in any other office suite. Integration! Over time, the full and transparent integration of office modules with each other started to have a very positive impact on my workflow and efficiency. And that led to me using Office more and more, and while doing so, discovering more functions and applications.
And that all started with Outlook! Outlook still is my workload organizing tool, first thing I start at my desk, last thing I shutdown when the workday is done. Are there better alternatives available for specific tasks? I have no doubt there will be. Are there better alternatives which cover all tasks and provide full and seamless integration with a matching office suite? Definitely not! Is there an Office suite that offers the same functionality and integration? Nope!
PowerPoint is my workhorse. Presentations for clients are of course a default routine for all consultants. But I do much more with it. I create for example videos for social media with it. And a lot of infographics and quote posters. There is no end to what I can do with PowerPoint and the cool thing for me is that I keep discovering new functions and features.
Excel is a beast and I just love that beast. Fast, reliable and packed with functions. I jokingly say that I can make a factory come to a full stop by simply taking away Excel, and sometimes I ‘threaten’ controllers to delete their Excel files when they don’t give me the budget I need. Excel is at the core of a lot of companies, and I fully understand why. There isn’t a number crunching tool that integrates graphical presentation tools the way that Excel does. My favorite part about Excel? The ability to use SQL to extract data and create reports and graphs on the fly.
Word is boring when you just write and that is the way a word processor needs to be. No distracting stuff, just you and your text. As soon as you want more, Word is there with whatever you need. I write a lot and will be doing even more of that in the future. Being able to focus on the text, decide myself if I want to format or not, or even if I want to see the formatting is very helpful and supports focusing on the content. At first, I was always concerned about working with large documents and there was a time when this didn’t always go ‘that well’. Those issue belong to the past and there is no problem working with or editing a 2,000 pages document.
Access, no comment, no pictures. I never got into using it. I know a lot of people do but this is not my cup of tea. I’m a SQL server kid, the big stuff. I am sure it got a lot better since I successfully do my best to avoid using it.
Cloud or Native? I might never be fully cloud when it comes to Office365. There are simply too many situations where I have no internet connection at all, or a connection which is so slow that I can cook dinner and eat it before a file is loaded. So, a native installation of Office is my place to go. But I do enjoy cloud work when possible. Traveling by train, my iPad with Office365 apps. Working on the go. It does have its charm and allows me to travel light and still be productive.
During my first flirts with cloud-based Office back in 2013 there were a lot of differences between the native and cloud editions and that annoyed me so much that I basically avoided working browser based. Nowadays that has improved significantly. The look-and-feel is the same, functions are doing what they need to do and in the same way. Of course there are some differences under the hood and not all features of the native edition are available in the browser version, but overall it works pretty nice.
2 decades and more to come
Is Microsoft Office perfect? Of course not, there is always something to improve. For example, I can set the output resolution for a video, but I can’t set the output resolution for a picture file (I can with a registry trick but that can hardly be called the right way). But in all honesty, the pace in which Microsoft adds features to its Office 365 suite is simply amazing, so the improvements keep coming.
Hey Microsoft Office and Office365, it have been 2 wonderful decades working with you, and I hope there will be a couple more. Nowadays I am getting more into Word since I have some book writing to do. A childhood dream is coming true and I want everyone at the Office team to know that Word will be the tool with which I will work on realizing my dream!