There was a good, brief discussion on Twitter tonight about Microsoft Office. Specifically, the fact that it’s 2014, so why the hell is anyone still using it?
To be clear, I know that a lot of people have to use it in their work environment. But that’s more because their office buys it for them and forces them to. It’s a strong method of lock-in that is seemingly still going strong after all these years.
The reality is that there are now more than enough solid-to-better alternatives for much of what Office offers. And some, like Google Docs and now even the Apple iWork suite, are free.1 And so it seems to me that increasingly, Office persists more out of habit (“I don’t know how to do this without Office”) and misguided fear (“what if I need Office for some reason?”) than necessity.
Except when it comes to Excel. People fucking love Excel.
I should clarify: people either love Excel, or love to hate Excel. But they don’t seem to believe they can live without it. Google Docs has “Spreadsheet” and iWork has “Numbers”, but Excel persists and thrives. I believe it is the last great stronghold for Microsoft Office.2
So it’s beyond time for someone to go directly after and destroy Excel. Clearly, Google and Apple are not doing a good enough job at this. The issue, I believe, is that Excel is perhaps the quintessential power user tool. People take classes on it to memorize macros. It’s basically another computer language cloaked in a shitty, rudimentary user-facing UI.
But the guys going after it all seem to want to simplify the service. For most things, that’s the right call. But again, Excel is a power user tool. I think the way to attack it is to go over the top with functionality so ridiculous, it makes Excel look like a toy.
When Excel does fall — and it may end up happening by default because of Microsoft’s silly stance against offering real functionality on other devices — I believe we will finally be ready for a world without Office. Until that happens, read up.