Friday, November 9, 2007

But Everyone Uses It

Ah, the "everyone else has it" myth! How many times have we seen this one come up, especially when it comes to the ever-present Microsoft Office.

But wait... Does everyone really have a copy of Microsoft Office? Not so many people as you would think, and almost certainly not all the same version. Microsoft Office can be categorized in a number of different ways:
- Office 97 (a venerable but still useful version; forget about anything older than this!)
- Office 2000 (more recent, but less common)
- Office XP (the one where people start to get confused which version they actually have)
- Office 2003 (definitely more recent, but isn't it showing its age a bit?)
- Office 2007 (the latest and greatest, probably pre-installed for your convenience)

And this doesn't include the versions available for Mac, or the various combinations and add-ons you can get with Microsoft Office. The combinations are many! So, the odds of having the same version of Microsoft Office as anyone else you're interacting with are actually pretty slim. Although numbers you can find on the Internet vary, the distribution of users seems to fall into about 50% of people that have Microsoft Office use the 2000 or XP editions (or even older); 45% appear to be using the 2003 edition, and the rest are early adopters of the 2007 edition. Of course, this doesn't account for the entire market of users -- don't forget there are other office suites out there, like Corel WordPerfect, IBM Lotus Symphony, Sun's StarOffice (and the free OpenOffice it's derived from). So the percentages for individual Microsoft Office users, by edition, probably distributed just about as well as their competition. And you know what? The competition is very compatible with the mainstream editions of Microsoft Office in use.

Even the online Google Documents can read and write all the "common" Microsoft Office formats. This is a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation suite available on your PC, whatever your PC is running, wherever your PC is, and even if it isn't actually your PC! Just sign in and there you are! Amazingly, people will still pay hundreds of dollars to get Microsoft Office, or worse: they'll steal it, because it's all they've ever known.

Did you know that "casual copying accounts for a large portion of the economic losses due to piracy" -- in short, getting a copy of Microsoft Office (or Windows, or that favourite game...) from a friend, rather than buying it. I know the pressure. Schools use it, businesses use it, governments use it. And it's expensive. But there is (fortunately) a very inexpensive way to work around the problem.

Try this little experiment: download a free copy of OpenOffice and try it out for a bit. It's not that different from Microsoft Office, and if you already have Microsoft Office (whether purchased or otherwise) just try to avoid using it for a month. Save your documents in the DOC, XLS and PPT formats you're comfortable with, and just kick the tires a bit.

You may be surprised how easy it is to break your addiction. Life can actually go on without having Microsoft Office (and Clippy), and you can still be productive! Features come and go -- just look at the multitude of ways Microsoft Office has changed over the various versions -- but you have always adapted before, and you can again. And this time, you can make a choice to do things differently.

You don't have to feel guilty about taking something you didn't pay for. And you don't have to shell out a single cent. Welcome to freedom!

Feature
Comparison
Word
Processor
SpreadsheetPresentationsDatabaseEmailClipart
Microsoft
Office XP
YYYY1Y2Y
Corel
WordPerfect
YYYYNY
IBM
Lotus Symphony
YYYYNY
StarOffice/
OpenOffice
YYYYNY4
Google DocumentsYYYNY3N
1 - Only available with Professional versions of Microsoft Office
2 - Only available with Professional versions of Microsoft Office
3 - Integrated with Google Mail
4 - StarOffice comes with a complete clipart collection; OpenOffice comes with very basic clipart, but can be upgraded with the free OpenClipart collection

4 comments:

Bob Robertson said...

Have you seen the Tokyo LUG article "Windows Is Free"? It makes sense out of the seemingly irrational attachment to MS Office formats. People just don't think they're stealing.

http://tlug.jp/articles/Windows_Is_Free

Anonymous said...

>> Office 2003 (definitely more recent, but isn't it showing it's age a bit?) <<

This just shows one reason Microsoft manage to screw so much money out of people. How on earth is it showing its age? (Its, note, not it's. :) The huge majority of people who use a word processor and spreadsheet use a tiny proportion of the features. Most people in our (international) organisation still use Office 2000, as does my wife for her small business. I use Open Office and sometimes KOffice, which suits me fine for all my own needs at home.

Win2k is more than good enough for the vast majority of users (who are crazy enough to use Microsoft), but Microsoft force users into using more and more bloated software each year.

Webmaster said...

Thanks for making my point even more clear! People are so enured with the Microsoft ideology that says everything has to be Microsoft they don't even consider alternatives. Even if that means they will steal what they crave so badly!

Yes, Office 2000 is more than enough for most users; I'd say even Office 97 is quite sufficient. But then, that's why I'd suggest my little challenge: dump the Office fixation altogether and try a free alternative!

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