Tom Nolle: The Big Reason to Use Office

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
3/18/2014 | 46 comments
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jastro   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/20/2014 9:34:17 AM
Functionality and Collaboration
Microsoft Office is the best choice for those who need a wide and standard range of functions, especially for spreadsheets and PowerPoint, but also for those SMBs and others who need to exchange docs with others.  So, in a real sense, using MSFT Office promotes collaboration inside the company as well as with external partners and clients.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/20/2014 9:47:25 AM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
That's been my general experience, Jastro.  It's possible to build collaboration inside an organization using any tool that conveys your meaning properly, just as any language works within a country/culture.  When you have to cross boundaries, though, you need to be able to pick something everyone can work with.

As an SMB myself, I found that while I could use Open Office tools or Docs to build stuff, and use PDFs to make them available for view by others, my consulting role means I had to collaborate with everyone so Office became a kind of "trade language" for me.
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mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 5:26:23 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@Tom,

One aspect that I've found is that Office is also the common language not only between different types of documents, but different types of eco system.

When at a company the use of Mac OS and Windows OS is left to the preference of the user, and if it weren't for MS Office, there would be issues for sharing and collaborating on files.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 6:52:51 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
That's also been my experience Mejiac.  If you can't find a common format with Office then there's no common format to be had!

 

Tom
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mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/30/2014 11:58:00 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@Tom,

 

One trend I've found in many organizations is the use of collaboration tools like Yammer for sharing content. One of the reasons some of the users prefer it is because the collaboration is done live and instant, so the process of attaching-sending-editing-submitting/uploading is removed to a more fluid pace.

What do you think? Will this becaome the norm?

 

Office 365 offers this, but will this became the preferred method for enterprises?
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/31/2014 8:56:43 AM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@mejiac:  Good points call.  Spreadsheet has been my second-biggest problem; PowerPoint has been by far my most significant one.  Even clipart is harder to get in a hosted or open version.

On the collaboration point, I think that you've hit on an important evolution.  Right now we're trying to collaborate using "one-person-formatted" documents and introducing collaboration features.  When we do non-real-time collaboration that makes sense because you have to be able to sort out the changes and see what's happening.  For real-time collaboration I think a different model is in order.  To me, that model is more than shared whiteboard, though.  I think Google had some good ideas in Wave, for example.  If we do develop a real-time collaborative model that makes sense, it might work its way backward into non-real-time sharing of documents, and even set a stadard there that could make Office less critical.
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mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/31/2014 12:32:03 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
"If we do develop a real-time collaborative model that makes sense, it might work its way backward into non-real-time sharing of documents, and even set a stadard there that could make Office less critical."

I think this is key here... and when developers combine tablet capabilities, it even goes a step further.

Maybe this is something that Microsoft is testing the grounds with Office 365, to kinda pave the way to what would be the future state that you mention.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/31/2014 12:36:20 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
I think it would be smart for Microsoft to do something like that, and also smart for Google to set collaboration practices as their preferred path into weaning users away from using Office as the lowest-common-denominator.  I think it would be possible to create "attributability" in a shared document with the right approach, but I've not seen it yet.

Tom
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Hospice_Houngbo   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/21/2014 9:22:12 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@jastro: Microsoft Office is still one of the most used productivity tools in the enterprise, but I have come to rely lately on Open Office that can do relatively the same tasks as MS office and it is free.
The_Phil   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/22/2014 6:13:17 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
What makes you use Open Office instead?
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 5:22:47 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@Hospice_Houngbo,

Like Google Docs, Open Office is a great alternative. Currently my brother in law is using it as part of his course work, and so far it has worked out well, with the main hurdle being compability issues when when sharing files.
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 5:24:20 PM
Re: Functionality and Collaboration
@jastro,

Agreed, like in any enterprise setting, MS Office is the standard for creating deliverables and sharing accorss multiple teams/organziations in remote locations.

When combined with the rest of the MS Office Portfolio (SharePoint, Project, Visio), it provides a robust solution for content management.
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 5:29:46 PM
It comes down to the User Experience
Excellent Video Tom!

Recently I'm deliberating in getting my wife a chrome book or not. She can be considered a very casual PC user, mainly email, web browsing, and a spreedsheet for budgetting. In this  sense, a chrome book is more than enough for what she needs.

One of the aspects that I was considering is the use of Google Sheets vs Excel, since the files that she uses are pretty straightforward, so Google Sheets would be able to satisfy this need.

I think at the end it really depends on who the user is. For power users, that require data analysis capabilities and advance documenting formatting, MS Office is the preferred tool, not only because of it's level of acceptance, but because to be able to support a new tool/system is at times seen as an option that is simply not feasible for the enterprise.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/29/2014 7:46:56 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
I've tried all the Excel alternatives and while they all work for basic sheets and no charting, all also fall down on some of the things I do regularly with forumuas and also with the charting capabilities.  I'd love to find a cheaper option and most particularly one based on open source, but every single effort I've made along those lines has failed.  I guess Microsoft will always own a piece of me!
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mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/31/2014 12:03:42 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
@Tom,

Every market has it's golden standard, and I think Microsoft did with MS Office.

I think they tried a new venue with Office 365, so let's see how that goes in the respect of sharing spreadsheets.
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   3/31/2014 12:07:38 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
@Tom,

Another intesesting comment is when you combine spreadsheets with online sharing.

Products like Sharepoint offer a great deal of features, that when paired with spreadsheets, it offers robust reporting capabilities.

 
WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/30/2014 10:23:44 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Mejiac, true. Sharing mode is equally important because if you build a file with weeks of hardwork to know in the end that it can't be shared with others, the effort is wasted. With MS Office, you don't have that problem esp. on PCs.
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/3/2014 6:21:37 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
@WaqasAltaf,

Agreed,

And this is essentials for virtual teams, where collaboratin even on a current version of a document is critical for any project/effort success
WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 2:13:18 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Mejiac, agreed. This is where cloud platforms and apps like Google Docs become handy. I don't really need that but I am sure a large population would be already utilizing this in project teams' scenarios.
mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/30/2014 3:13:05 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
@WaqasAltaf,

To add to your comment, I think that for light use, products like Google Docs provide the sufficient level of functionality to get the job done... but for in depth anlysis, or very content rich documentation, that's where Office is king
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/20/2014 3:18:45 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
mejiac, 

"I think at the end it really depends on who the user is."

That's the key point at the time of deciding about everything. For what you say about your wife's needs I believe she will be happy using Google Sheets. 

I personally love the simplicity of Google Docs. I haven't used Office for years, especially being a Mac user, and I have been pretty happy since then. :) 

-Susan
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mejiac   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/21/2014 10:50:12 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
@Susan Fourtané, thanks for your feedback :)

 

My management are Mac Users, but there use of MS Word (Mac Version) is also very simple, but they do need to review documents that many times has embedded graphics and business flows, so not sure if Google Docs would be able to provide the same level of service.

Same goes for presentations. They many times do need to create very elaborate presentations (showing project timelines with detail).

What has been your experience when having to review documents received from others? Have you had any compability issues?
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/21/2014 11:40:19 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
mejiac, 

You should try Google Docs to see if they can do what you need. I am sure you would be surprised. Maybe you remember Google Docs from the beginning and it's totally different now. Google has done a great job with Docs.

I haven't had great compatibility issues that I remember. There are plenty of compatibility tools you can use, if you need. The fact is that I wouldn't use Office for anything in the world. It would be like infecting my Mac with something I know it never made me happy and only caused me problems. Google Docs works perfect for me and never gave me a problem of any kind. :)

-Susan 
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WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/30/2014 10:52:53 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Susan, I have been a user of Google Docs past it has been more than a year I guess the last time I used it and wasn't really impressed by it. Now looks like I should give it a re-try based on your recommendation. One thing I really find surprising is that you were not satisified MS Office's functionality / performance; haven't heard many people say that.
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/1/2014 4:13:04 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Waqas, 

Pivot Tables were already there last year. 

Many people don't dare to go out of their MS Office comfort zone. If they try something new, something different, they have to at least spend some time learning where the functions are, etc.

It's the same thing why many people stay with their PCs even though they crash several times a week. It's easier to just complain than to learn where things are and how things wonderfully work on a Mac. 

I would never install a virus on my Mac. In the same way I would never install MS Office on it. I am happy with products that work well for me and never crash, or make me lose my work. :)

If someone has to share something with me and there is an incompatibility problem they are very welcome to use Google Docs. :D

-Susan  

 
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WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 2:07:03 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Susan, my experience is positive in terms of MS Office. I never got problems or faced any limitation issues with Office products due to which I would have to try others till the time there weren't any mobile devices. One goes out of his comfort zone if there is a need. Never felt that.
WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/30/2014 10:27:21 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Susan, interesting. Google being now everybody's game has become a platform where sharing files is not a problem. But does Google Sheets cater to more advanced needs, not really advance but something like pivot table or a V-lookup formula ? 
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/1/2014 3:54:41 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Waqas, 

"But does Google Sheets cater to more advanced needs, not really advance but something like pivot table or a V-lookup formula ?"

You really need to have a look at Google Docs. Pivot Tables have been in Google Docs since 2011. Look. They come with tutorials and everything. And, in the beauty and simplicity of Google Docs. :D Plus, you never lose data. 

There is everything you need on Google Docs. But better. 

-Susan


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WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 2:09:40 AM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Susan, thanks for sharing. Will definitely test that hands on in Google Docs. Needed something good for mobile platforms to access or create office-like files.
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 12:52:38 PM
Re: It comes down to the User Experience
Waqas, 

I'm glad it was useful some something. :) 

-Susan
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WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   4/30/2014 10:20:36 PM
Sharing with whom
Tom, I 100% agree that your choice of products highly depends on who you will be dealing with and what do they use. That is the reason why Office is not likely to be replaced easily. And I also agree that new apps' developers do benchmarking of their office products with MS Office.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/1/2014 9:08:27 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
One of the interesting questions yet to be answered, WaqasAltaf, is whether things like Google Docs or OpenOffice, with enough socialization, would become the new baseline reference.  That is the only way I see Microsoft losing their Office franchise.
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WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 1:30:26 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
Tom, true. After over 1 decade of rule, Microsoft Office became that baseline reference and still it is the preference of most users for basic and medium level complex data management. The advantage they have is that in mobile platform MS Office is very weak and if they can capitalize on that for few may years, may be Docs and OpenOffice can make a mark. I personally don't see that happening because using Office applications on tablets and smartphones is not very convenient.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/4/2014 8:43:46 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
Good point, WaqasAltaf; people's use of office tools on phones/tablets tends to be more trivial, but that may work against Microsoft in the end too.  If people don't exercise complex formatting (which is what online Docs or open-source tools get wrong most often) then they will stay within the capabilities of simple office alternatives.  It will be interesting to see how that would play out; would people then use complex features less even on computers?

Tom
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batye   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/5/2014 11:52:44 PM
Re: Sharing with whom
I think Microsoft trying to grab the market with offering free Microsoft Office Mobile on google play store... but I trust you are right as everyone wants simple way... and only time will tell... 
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/6/2014 8:55:14 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
Maybe more to poison it for others?
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batye   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/6/2014 9:05:23 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
yes, Tom as you never know...
WaqasAltaf   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/11/2014 2:18:16 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
Tom, logically the need of complex workings should not perish even if devices change. If I need to do something, I have to do it whether it compels me to switch on my PC. What Microsoft can do is to introduce an app that is tailored to meet basic office needs on mobile devices.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/11/2014 9:58:20 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
True, but they might see that as an invitation to abandon the PC, which hurts them.
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angelfuego   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/13/2014 10:05:31 PM
Re: Sharing with whom
That was my experience with trying to exchange PowerPoint presentations.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/14/2014 8:48:09 AM
Re: Sharing with whom
I can relate; I've had zero success in using even my amateurish presos in open-source office tools or online (except Office 365).
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zerox203   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/14/2014 11:28:37 AM
Re: The Big Reason to Use Office
I've really enjoyed your vlogs over these last few years, Tom. There's a lot that fits under the umbrella of 'IT' - you can talk about anything from hardware, to software, to business strategies - and that's just for starters. No doubt it would be impossible for the editors to cover everything that's out there on the front page or turn over every stone, and a discussion like this is a great example of that - Microsoft Office might not be something that gets coverage alongisde the latest smartphone anymore, but it's still a relevant issue that affects many businesses every day. In the vlogs, we have an opportunity to go a little more in-depth on topics like that, and you've always provided a sharp, relevant insight that applies to any issue.

As for the issue at hand, I think you've hit the nail on the head once again. Even stretching back to my high school days, I remember the main issue with office software being one thing and one thing only - compatibility. I didn't want or need any of the extra bells or whistles, but what I did have to do was triple check that I used the right version of the right software, that they had the same exact version at school, and that I saved in the right format. I think that translates directly to the business world - and even though things have gotten a lot better since then, they're still not perfect. I'd love to say that the feature set of office software matters, and maybe for a few select businesses, it does - but far and away the biggest issue remains relatively needless compatibility problems.
Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/14/2014 11:45:24 AM
Re: The Big Reason to Use Office
thanks, Zerox203!  I have to admit that I can't relate much to computers in my high-school period; we were still in the mainframe era at the time!

I think you raise the most-fundamental-of-all dilemma of software.  Users know that they only need a few features and providers of it know that they have to promote MORE features to make their stuff differentiable and to encourage upgrades.  We get more bloated every day.

For open-source and cloud office tools, the problem may be that they've seen the vast feature list and given up.  They don't need them all, but they do need to do regular stuff right, if not the same way.  A PowerPoint preso with no special stuff inside--just drawn shapes, text, and inserted clipart, should open and look the same everywhere, and yet it doesn't.  Same with Word and Excel.  Are competitors to Microsoft lazy, are they dodging patents, or what?  It's hard know but I'd sure love to find out!
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Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   5/31/2014 5:07:24 PM
Thanks, Tom!
Tom, 

Thanks so much for all these years of great video blogs sharing knowledge. I have learned a lot from you and enjoyed the discussions very much. I truly hope to continue watching your video blogs either on Information Week, or elsewhere. Stay connected. :) 

-Susan 
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Tom Nolle   The Big Reason to Use Office   6/2/2014 9:15:59 AM
Re: Thanks, Tom!
Thank you, Susan! I hope to be delivering them. Tom
User Ranking: Blogger
Susan Fourtané   The Big Reason to Use Office   6/2/2014 9:22:23 AM
Re: Thanks, Tom!
That's great, Tom. :) I'll see there. 

-Susan
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