Tuesday I signed up for the free trial of the new Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium (wow that’s a mouthful). The newest version of the perennial office applications suite launched yesterday morning, with a new subscription option for consumers, and I figured I’d give it a try, since, since …
Since I can’t stand Microsoft Word and — when I’m not being a smug, self-satisfied Mac and Google Drive user — I feel bad about it.
I had a plan. I’d get the new suite, poke around Word, find something interesting to say to you about it, and type it up on my own copy of the new version of this darned thing.
Seventy-four megabytes in, I canceled the download.
I should’ve known I would. My 11-inch MacBook Air is stuffed with the only thing I let it get stuffed with — photos. (When you’ve just had a baby, you take a lot of those.)
The download began. 4 MB out of 965 MB, said the progress bar. Wait, what? Oh right. The whole bundle just to get Word. How quaint. Seconds later, the prompt: “Your startup disk is almost full.” Yeah, I know. I stopped the download, canceled the trial subscription ($9.99 a month now for a whole kit of goodies, isn’t that interesting?) and felt — I won’t lie — relieved.
It’s just as well. Who was I kidding? I’m in no position to write about the new Word. I’ve barely used the old one. It would be unfair. And kind of dishonest. I’d have to dig into research about what the last couple versions could do and, what? Let the implication stand that I’d known all along? Ick.
I’m not convinced Word is as ubiquitous as they imply. But I’m sure the reviewers are right. I’m sure that Word really is as good as it’s ever been. But here’s the thing. I haven’t used it — willingly — since Google Docs (now Google Drive). By comparison, it was heavy. Then unnecessary. Then — whenever courtesy demanded that I put someone else’s editing preferences ahead of my own — painful.
In other words, I’ve moved on. And it’s going to take more than a touch-up and a home in the cloud to get me back. If Microsoft even wants me.
The price tag factors into that, even with this familiar subscription model (Google Drive how I use it = free). But let’s be honest. The biggest reason I’m not coming back is the same reason Microsoft may not need me: inertia. I’m comfortable where I am, its users are comfortable where they are (or they have no choice), and it would take an earthquake to shake us out.
Is that so great?
We like to think we choose our tools every time. That we own the decision not to get something as much as the decision to stick with something else. More often, though, what we use is a question of what we’ve grown used to — and what attitudes we take to make the comfortable route look like the smart one.
Which brings me to why I feel bad about hating Word.
I have Office for Mac installed, a gift my father-in-law got on discount. Word is slow to start up. It surrounds a clean white sheet with a mess of tools I’ll never need. It shoves templates in my face. And it wants to install an update every time it opens. Every. Time.
OK, that is pretty annoying.
But Google Docs (Drive now) is a free, lightweight word processor on the cloud, and Microsoft has a free, lightweight word processor on the cloud — Microsoft Word Web App. I’m typing on it right now. It’s still got more features than I need, but apart from jerking up and down when I highlight text in the wrong way (is that a Chrome thing?), it’s not terrible. In fact, this word counter’s kind of handy.
Here’s the embarrassing part: Up until this morning, I didn’t know Microsoft Word Web App existed.
You read that right. Word’s lighter, freer cousin has been around for years, and I’ve been avoiding Word like it wasn’t. I’ve clung to Google Drive like it’s the only app that knows what it’s doing, just because it was the first one I saw do it. Years ago.
That’s not choice. It’s ignorance.
That’s why hating Word this long felt wrong. Not because it’s bad to avoid something you don’t like. We have only so much room in our lives. But because the longer you avoid something that’s changing, the more likely it is that your avoidance will be based on outdated information.
Someday, you’re going to miss something.
I’m not about to switch from Google Docs to Word’s Web app. I don’t see anything that’s going to shake me out. Again — inertia. But just like that, I have more information, and Word doesn’t seem so backward to me anymore.
If we expect our tools to stay up to date, then hey — so should we.
We just need to make the space for it.