How long could you go without Microsoft Office?

I’ve recently got a new laptop (more on that in another post) and have to install the usual selection of software to get productive with it.

As an experiment / not having enough time I’ve decided to go without installing Microsoft Office. I do , however have the excellent (and free) OpenOffice installed, and use Google Documents and Spreadsheets on a regular basis.

Why would I do this?

  • It’s not about the money (as I have a copy of the Office disks paid for).
  • It’s not about the money (2) as I’ll also happily pay for something that gives me value over the free version (e.g. my subscription to LinkedIn).
  • It’s not really about getting locked into one supplier who can manipulate me at will (see the Microsoft Word 2007 File Format Conversion post) however annoying that may be.

No, it’s more about the features; with OpenOffice, I can save Word documents as a PDF , which (in my option) looks far more professional when sending to a (prospective) client.

Another reason is that as an (IT) consultant, I tend to ‘deploy’ on client sites on a regular basis, often with a bare machine to start with. Open software means that I have a ‘toolbox’ I can use to get up and running quickly , no fuss needed to raise purchase orders to buy software.

OS as alternative Logo

If you’re interested in this approach, the Open Source Alternative site is worth checking out. It’s not dogmatic; in fact it’s pretty even handed, listing commercial and open software for pretty much everything that you might need to do with a PC or Mac (business ,communications, graphics, security etc). That’s on top of the alternatives to Word, Excel , Powerpoint and Outlook.

It’s all about choice. Some are better , some or worse ; It’s up to you to decide which one works best for you. You’re a mug if you don’t know what the choice is.

Update 26th August: I lasted just over two weeks without installing Microsoft Office. Nothing bad with Open Office, just Microsoft playing around with Office 2007 file format. I have an important client that sent me something in Word 2007. The sort of client that I can’t (yet) ask to save in a different format and resend. Open Office does not (yet) open Office 2007 files, so I had to drop back to the Microsoft version (and install some filters) to be able to read it.

Stop reading these blogs and get on with your life

And it’s not just blogs that waste time in your life. A colleague was good enough to pass on the handbook from a ‘more effective time management’ course he was on (and swears by). It was given by Priority Management , on Getting Smart with Outlook , but it’s applicable to whatever email client that you use.

Notes from the Handbook are here on the KnowledgeBase.

Before you yawn and click elsewhere , consider the remainder of your life as 1 page per day diary – no matter how long you have left , you have a finite amount of blank pages left. It’s up to you how you use them. The headlines are:

  • Get yourself organised *before* you read your emails in the morning. This way you are working to your agenda, not somebody elses.
  • Only check your email 4 times a day – constant interuptions means that a task can take up to 4 times longer to complete (as your brain needs time to focus back on the task each time).
  • When you get an Email , do one of the 4 D’s
  • Do it now
  • Decide When to do it
  • Delegate – give it to somebody else
  • Dump (ie Delete it)
  • Schedule all you tasks into some sort of Time Planner (e.g. Diary or Outlook Calendar). If you use Microsoft Outlook / Exchange , have this page as your default view (again, you work to your own agenda, not somebody elses).