Living a Microsoft Office Free Lifestyle

As part of my Leopard switch, I set one goal for myself: run nothing but Intel native applications. That meant finding a clear alternative for Microsoft Office.

Pages

Pages Sticking with the iWork ‘08 trial, I began my migration quickly and easily. All my Word documents changed peacefully to Pages by default and all opened just fine. The only minor issue I ran into was not having Microsoft’s font book, and therefor several obscure fonts were reset to Times New Roman. If anyone has a quick fix for this, I’d be interested to hear. I imagine I could take the font book from a Mac with Office installed and simply replace my font book with it?

Opening new documents was simple. Using the Blank template I was able to manage around Page’s Inspector. However I quickly ran into problems re-saving edited documents. Pages by default saves in the Pages format. So even editing a .Doc requires you save it as Pages. That’s a bit frustrating. You can export a file into Word for convenience, especially if you’re planning on sharing those documents with others. But it would be much more convenient to be able to choose your format directly from the Save screen. So I began saving my documents in the Pages format and getting rid of the normal Word documents when done editing them. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to export documents as much as I thought I would. But again, it is frustrating after awhile. At least offer a keyboard command to quickly access the export feature so I don’t have to rely on my mouse as frequently.

The one real benefit I found with Pages and iWork was how quickly it opened. I imagine since Office is currently not Intel native, it requires more time to open. We’ll see how that remedies when Office ’08 goes on sale. But it’s nice not having to wait for a document to open. So far I’ve been happy with Pages, until it comes to creating a new flyer, not based on any of their templates. When creating a new layout or design, I can get more done and faster through Photoshop.

Keynote & Numbers

Keynote I’m lumping Keynote and Numbers together because as a writer my main focus lies solely on document editing. So for a more precise comparison, I recommend trying them out yourselves.

I think watching Steve Jobs’ Keynotes has created a bias for me. Or if you’re more familiar with An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore relies on Keynote for his presentation. Feature wise, Keynote offers very similar features as PowerPoint, just in a more clean, streamlined fashion. Since it meshes directly with iPhoto and iTunes, it’s a lot simpler to import music, photos, or even videos. One feature I truly love about Keynote is my ability to export it directly to iPod. When giving presentations I find it easier to carry around my iPod and A/V chord instead of a laptop and chords. Much less fuss, and much more streamlined. You may not retain as many features, but for someone that needs something portable, it’s a great idea. Over all I feel more satisfied with my Keynote presentations than I have with PowerPoint, so I’m going to stick with it.

Numbers Numbers was an interesting one for me. I could open my previous Excel files fine, but if they contained drop down menus, or set fields I began running into issues. Not a spreadsheet fiend, I think I’d prefer Excel only because of its familiarity and the fact it seems a business staple.

Recommendation

One thing I appreciate overall with iWork and Mac is the attention to detail. For example iWork allows you to move a document currently being editing to another folder without any errors. The document will kindly ask whether too start saving there, or save in two locations. Between Pages and Keynote I feel satisfied for most of my current office needs.

For students, something to keep in mind, is universality. Obviously Office is the preferred choice for schools and teachers, so it might be best for you to stick with it. Especially for note taking, I remember enjoying Word’s Notebook feature. Not only could I simultaneously record lecture from within Word, I could write clear outlined notes using its Notebook format. It was simple, efficient, and helped a lot.

If price is a factor for you, be sure and check out NeoOffice. It provides a classical approach and is completely free. iWork can be purchased for $79, and it looks like Office ’08 will run you up $150 for the Student/Teacher edition or $399 for Office Basic. If you’re running low on hard drive space, try testing out Google Docs and Spreadsheets, ZoHo, or Adobe’s new Buzzword. There are a variety of ways around office applications, so find what works most efficiently for you. If you have any recommendations or ideas, feel free to comment.

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