Foiled by storage space! My, how appropriate.

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.

More familiar geeks from AllThingsD to Gizmodo are praising Microsoft for a job well done on a suite of products that is — how did Sam Biddle put it? — a “taken-for-granted workplace screwdriver.”

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.

Monica Guzman

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.

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  • SilverSee

    That’s great Monica.
    Next you should try Bing. ;-)

    • guest

      I’ll save you the suspense:

      “I hate Bing, I love Google. So I decided to give Bing a try, only I really didn’t. In conclusion, Bing offers nothing of value to me and I’m going to stick with Google because it’s better. The End.”

      • Guest

        Billions of people seem to agree with that perception. Probably all brainwashed by Google, couldn’t possibly be that Bing sucks in comparison.

        • Guest

          I use both every day … and you clearly don’t, or you wouldn’t make such a ridiculous and prejudiced comment. Grow up.

  • guest

    “If we expect our tools to stay up to date, then hey — so should we.”
    Particularly if we’re writing for a site devoted to technology.

    • Todd Bishop

      One of the most important things a tech site can do is help people who are immersed in specific products or areas of technology understand the perspective of people who aren’t, and why they aren’t. I love this column for that. It’s the reality for many, many people.

      • guest

        Where those perspectives are informed and point out legitimate or at least perceived advantages, I’d agree. When they’re just based on personal bias and lack of knowledge about competitive alternatives, those are sadly prevalent throughout mainstream media. So not sure what incremental educational value they serve here.

        • Monica Guzman

          A lot of people make purchasing decisions based on personal bias and lack of knowledge about competitive alternatives. Not everyone is honest about it ;)

          • Christopher Budd

            The tech industry is driven top to bottom by emotion, bias and non-rational factors. There’s a reason we refer to “religious wars” when talking about Mac vs. Windows vs. UNIX/Linux.

        • Christopher Budd

          I’ll add a plus one to Monica’s posting and what Todd has said. It’s why I find Todd’s Surface review the single most credible and valuable review out there for example.

          That sort of posting can be particular valuable in forums like this when people helpfully and respectfully point out alternatives, new information, etc. I’ve seen it happen here and that makes those kinds of postings even more valuable.

      • orcmid

        +1 on that. I think it is very important to appreciate the different experiences others have. This particular case has me wonder what tips there are to having Office Web Apps (especially Word) made easy for simple cases. On my WindowsPhone, they are certainly simple.

        I’m not reading Monica’s account as a technical analysis, but as a nearly-stream-of-consciousness articulation of a set of experiences. It is good to know that people have those. It is a blessing that Monica, as a writer, is able to express it. Other’s just walk away, perhaps taking a position along with it.

  • Allen

    I have a hard time understanding how a writer, someone that makes their living off of what the write, chooses to use Google Drive and per their ToS, allows Google to use your content for their benefit without compensation.
    I’m also a little concerned that your hard disk that full of photos- you should make sure those are backed up so you don’t lose them.

    • Monica Guzman

      Trust me – I’m trying! We got a huge external hard drive to store them and it’s a matter of my finding the time to plug it in and move the files. It takes a while, and it’s tedious. We could be doing online backup. We should be doing online backup. Always more to do …

      As for Google and their ToS, they’re not as vicious as you might think:

      • Jason Farris

        All photos are backed up to the cloud in realtime in the MS ecosystem. Every picture I ever took is on SkyDrive ten seconds after I take it.

        • Monica Guzman

          Nice. I know I can set that up with Apple, but haven’t.

          I’d love to meet the person whose digital life is always clean, organized, up to date. Does she exist?

          • Harkonnen

            He does.

          • Monica Guzman

            Connect us. Please ;)

      • Allen

        Thanks for the link, but I’m still suspicious. Google has made huge splashes lately in the courts, their explanation that “it’s just standard legalese” is an easy way out- they should be explicit about what they will and will not do with our data. Because they are not, they have claimed the right to be nefarious.
        This is probably part of the reason why they fell off of the Ponemon Institute’s “most trusted companies” list.

  • Dan

    I used Microsoft Word for years, then switched to a start up that relied on Macs and Google Docs. It was a hard transition and I never quite felt that Google Docs was 100% as robust as Word. It felt unprofessional to use GMail and Google Calendar when I was communicating with with clients. The one big advantage with Google Docs is collaboration. We frequently would have multiple people updating a spreadsheet at the same time (or making live updates in a conference call) rather than worrying about version control with a file stored on a server. But I’m now at a company where Microsoft Office is the norm and I feel much more productive.

    I prefer to use DropBox to store my files online. It is easy to use and I pay the company for the extra storage, which I feel is well worth the cost. I can use it to sync files across a variety of computers and it works great.

    • Monica Guzman

      “It felt unprofessional to use GMail and Google Calendar when I was communicating with with clients.”

      I hear you, and I think this is so interesting. What makes it feel so professional? Its familiarity in business environments? Its robust feature set — even when all the features are not always needed? This perception of professionalism with Office — this is where Microsoft has really won.

      • Christopher Budd

        There’s certainly an argument to be made that what’s professional is what we’re used to. Time was when the green screen was professional and PCs/Office were more consumer and less professional.

        In that vein, one thing that’s interesting is that Outlook versus gmail familiarity and comfort at least are taking on generational lines. When UC Berkely opted for Google over Microsoft, they gave a detailed explanation why which was very balanced. In that report they noted that professors and staff were more comfortable with Microsoft’s Outlook interface while students were more comfortable with Google’s Gmail interface.

  • orcmid

    I was wondering how the simplified approach to Word in the Office Web App via SkyDrive was a problem. I started a simple Word document there and did not see anything that seemed like a problem — but I have use Word for about 20 years. I use Internet Explorer, so I switched to Chrome just to see if there was any issue that way. I saw no difference (running both from my Windows 8 desktop). Clearly, there is something that is natural about this for me that would not be natural by someone for whom Word is unfamiliar.
    Since I rarely use Google Docs, I decided to try the same experiment there. Ah. Well, creating a document in Google Drive didn’t work in Internet Explorer 10, so I had to do it in Chrome. And when I set up to create a simple document, I had trouble immediately. There’s a different conceptual and interactive model although some features look similar. No Save or Save As … was a problem at once. I figured out that the document is always being saved as I work. And then I wasn’t sure how to name my document, until I realized I can click on the name that is there by default and edit it to be the name I want.
    There are different idioms and also different ways to select features and operations. Once one has the tacit knowledge of one, attempting to operate the other is going to be a problem because what you know to do is not available the way you know to do it.
    These are just different. For a beginner or casual user, they may be equally challenging, depending on what they already know. For a practiced user, the other will seem alien, strange, and frustrating. (Sigh.)

    • Monica Guzman

      It is interesting, those little things that make for little frustrations. I was surprised, on Word Web App, to see the little Save button up there. I hadn’t seen one in so long. I’d gotten used to Google’s autosave, and loved that it saved me the step. But I remember, when I was still getting used to it, that my trigger finger, looking for the Save button that wasn’t there, got antsy without it. Good observations. Thanks.

  • Joe McGrath

    Why not sign up for an Outlook account and try the cloud based version of Word? There is no download and it works quite well, comparable to Google Docs (I prefer it because I am used to Word). Seems like a more reasonable comparison. Skydrive works well across all platforms too.

    Also, I wouldn’t classify you as an Office user. Speaking as a representative from the Accounting/Finance field, Google Docs isn’t functional. Like, at all. Their spreadsheet app lacks too much functionality (I give it a try every few months to see, but no, it isn’t). It frustrates me when journalists declare Office is dead, when there is nothing comparable to Access and Excel out there, which is the core of Accounting and Finance function, which can make or break any company.

  • guest

    Why on earth does Geekwire have the “Word hater” review Office. What did you think the result would be? It would be way more useful to get a review from someone familiar with the product rather than a “smug G Drive” user.

    • Guest

      Because its not an objective view. It’s a personal take. And it’s important to be honest. Some people don’t use Office and if Microsoft is going to succeed they need to win them over (just as Google needs to win over Office die hards).

  • Joshua Maher

    Seriously? An article about the trials and tribulations of switching from Google to Microsoft when the journalist has no real intention of switching is far from journalism. Why even write articles like this? I have the same problem with articles by Coca-Cola lovers talking about their pained attempts at switching to Pepsi or the Ford lovers fake attempt to try a Chevy.

    I get that advertising keeps the site afloat, but lowering the content bar is a trick that should be saved for daytime television.

    • Monica Guzman

      This is not a tech review. As I say in the column, and you acknowledge, I’m in no position to write a one here fairly. This is a reflection on how bias, emotion, and clingy loyalty can have an outsized effect on our relationship with tech tools. We can pretend all our decisions in this space are rational, but it’s more interesting to be honest and dig in. PS – People have a tendency to read one person’s disapproval of a tool as a judgment on others’ approval of it. I know plenty of people for whom Word works wonders. My preferences evolved another way.

      • Joshua Maher

        My point is that if you (not anything against you personally, I think you are great) honestly were interested in switching and couldn’t the analysis would hold more weight. Avoiding the MSFT/GOOG debate here… If you were a Ford driver and were writing a similar article about switching to Chevy and couldn’t because the Chevy didn’t have the auto-parallel parking feature or the Ford Sync feature, the article wouldn’t be an analysis of switching at all. It is just a way to say that you prefer those features to anything the Chevy may have.
        Similarly comparing a software product you install locally vs. one that is web based will provide all sorts of opportunity for being disgruntled about feature sets.
        I am a fan of the deeper anecdotes as a way to understand a situation, but when those anecdotes are forced onto paper by unwilling participants they don’t add value to understanding for the reader. They do add to the fodder and sucker people into commenting (myself included) but I don’t see how they add more to the understanding of the products or real desires to switch.

        • Monica Guzman

          I hear you. This is a fun discussion :) My aim is not to add to an understanding of the products or their comparisons, though, as much as an understanding of how we think about the tools we use, and the tools we don’t. Also hear you on the apples to oranges comparison of downloadable and cloud based word processors. Near the end of the column I mention that I discovered that Word had a free, simple Web version — something I never noticed due in part to, I think, my old, old decision to just avoid Word entirely. I wrote the column on Word Web App on SkyDrive, a couple hours after having created a Microsoft account for the first time. It wasn’t too bad.

  • pdiddy

    Hey, this is a persons opinion that uses software different than you have used it for the last 15 to 20 years. I kind of agree, she wants to install Word and 1gig of stuff has to download?

    Computing should be getting easier, not more complex.

    The BIG platforms are just trying to lock us into their platforms. I would do the same thing, so if you are switching platforms, it is hard and feels weird.

  • lou_g

    You know why you should “feel bad” about “hating Word” and “not knowing a web app existed” – because you are a Seattleite. I bet that you have a dozen neighbors that work at Microsoft, maybe even some that work on Office. Do you sport that self proclaimed smugness when interacting with them?

    For a tech journalist from Seattle, I find your lack of curiosity about Microsoft products to be downright un-neighborly. It’s like me telling a Seattle Times writer that I happen bump into in town that I don’t care about, in fact hate, their product, I only read the NYTimes.

    There are plenty of blogs that focus on The Valley perspective, I don’t need geekwire to deliver that.

    Sent from my Microsoft Surface!

    • Guest

      The same pathetic argument was made in the 80s/90s to support the American working families by continuing to buy inferior cars from Michigan. I bet you bought a foreign car anyway (here in Seattle probably a Volvo or Toyota), but now you demand that people must tolerate inferior products just because they come from Microsoft. How about simply building a far superior product? I know, crazy right.

      Replied from my Linux machine!

      • lou_g

        No one said that she has to buy or write positvely about Microsoft products, but for a Seattle based tech reporter to be completely unaware of their products is not cool. I’m sure that your 70s era, Volvo drivng, auto reporter based in Detroit still knew the product that was being produced locally.

        Countered from my Windows Phone!

  • Juliene Gschwend

    you either buy a product, or if it’s “free” ie: google, you are the one being sold. something to think about in addition to your dislike of Word. maybe google is not the best alternative product, at least it’s not for me.

    • Monica Guzman

      There is an element of that to consider, yes. Somehow I am being sold. The issue with that maxim is that it’s difficult to point out a concrete disadvantage that comes from it. I’m being sold using a free product. That makes sense. But is it actually hurting me? How?

  • chris livermore

    Monica, absolutely fantastic job of capturing the essence of what is killing Microsoft. Most computer users do not need 90% of MS Word to write a few paragraphs or build a simple budget in Excel. A good portion of computer users also are quickly realizing they do not need the bloated and expensive Windows OS to browse the web. This is why Google and Apple are pushing Microsoft out of the picture. The provide a cheap (or free) way to use the web to get your job done and surf the web when you get home.

    The comments from all the blue badgers is entertaining. It highlights the fact that when you work at MS you cannot escape the Kool-Aid powder that is being pumped into the air ducts. Instead of belittling Monica for telling you how every iPad owner and Google Docs user feels why not embrace the feedback and build a better product that people are excited about using.

    • Guest

      Or you could read a more balanced review, by someone who uses and writes about both Mac and Windows products…,2817,2383732,00.asp

      And how do you know people are “blue badgers”, whatever that means? They could just be people with different ideas to yours…

      And as for Kool-Aid, you mention that about MS rather than Apple? Ha ha ha…

  • guest

    Is there a message in this article? If yes then it’s lost on me.

  • Clauidius II

    found this site after googling why people hate MS Word. Im an engineer have a bunch of advanced degrees and have been using word for 10 or 15 years. I’m convinced that MS makes it incredibly difficult to use as they have 95% of the market share and they kill any competition.

    Oh well maybe I should give up all free time and take a 200 hr on-line course just so I can learn how to format a page with the latest features in MS Word?

  • PickledBeatnik

    Could you learn how to use commas, please?

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