Working for Microsoft, we’re used to having the latest tools to work with, and the productivity tools we are using change for good reasons. — The tools have come a long way over the years, helping people do new things, and more easily. Today, we’ll walk along the path Office has taken, and look at some reasons why Office 2010 customers value the product, and how Office 2010 and Office 365 enable my best work.
Office: Innovation and Evolution
Looking back at the journey from Office 2003 through Office 2007, to Office 2010, the path was evolutionary. Some of the capabilities new to Office 2003 even seem quaint eight years later. After all, back in 2003, the reading layout view in Word where you see a single page, or see two pages side by side, was a big innovation. And, after all this time, do you remember the Office Assistant with Clippy the paperclip from Office 2003?
All along the path from Office 2003 to Office 2007 to Office 2010, the Office team applied deep customer and market insights. In Office 2007, the ribbon tied everything together, better suiting customers’ needs in accessing capabilities formerly found in menus, toolbars and many dialog boxes. In fact, the Office 2007 team looked very closely into usability needs, replacing the file menu with the Microsoft Office button, and adding the Quick Access Toolbar with buttons for using Word’s most common features. Also in Office 2007, many formatting icons give users a live preview of what their document would look like before they commit changes to the document. Live Preview helps them easily see how a formal document such as a proposal is evolving, as they create it.
Innovation and evolution are what Office is about. Next, customers greeted Office 2010, with whistles and hoots! I say this because Office 2010 is the fastest-selling version of the productivity suite, adopted at one license per second, and at five times the rate of Office 2007. For a broad set of features new to Office 2010, see the Top 10 Office 2010 Features that Make It Great for Customers. Some of my favorites are Excel’s Sparklines, Office Web Apps and the ability to broadcast PowerPoint. Many people find PowerPoint to be very useful in making business presentations. So, what could be better than building the ability to broadcast PowerPoint into Office 2010? And, of course, using Sparklines in Excel 2010 sets the presentation of an analysis apart, by clearly indicating data trends. Knowing how people work, the product team recognized the need to access Office documents anywhere, edit, and share with customers, partners, and colleagues. Office Web Apps does exactly that.
Broadcast Slide Show Excel 2010 Sparklines
I’m now finding that Office 2010 blurs the boundaries of when and where I do my best work. Using the co-authoring capability in Office Word 2010, one evening I worked with two colleagues to create and deliver a Why Microsoft post to you quickly. All of us were at home, easily updating a single Word document, seeing each other’s inputs clearly. We combined our separate information and quickly delivered a time-sensitive post reflecting our collective knowledge.
Then there is OneNote, which I’ve always found to be very convenient. After 8 years evolving OneNote for the PC and seeing its potential as a mobile tool, Microsoft made OneNote accessible via mobile devices with Office 2010. Thanks to OneNote Mobile I’m no longer losing great ideas that come to me when I’m waiting for the shuttle bus, and my list of business expenses is up to date, too.
Today, my day-to-day work in business involves lots of email and real-time collaboration with core desktop applications including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Let’s look at how Exchange Online and the cloud versions of Microsoft’s core applications help me be productive and be certain that documents appearing on my desktop will be identical in the cloud. After all, those are two, key reasons why businesses are electing Microsoft over Google solutions when they choose a cloud suite.
Why Exchange is Better Than Google Apps for Business
First, if you are remotely considering Google Apps for Business for your email application, you will want to check out this white paper – Ten Ways Microsoft and Exchange Online Is Better for Business Communication than Google Apps. Next, here are a few of the reasons why Exchange Online is far more suitable and usable for business than Google Apps’ Gmail. Our customers tell us security is either the number one criteria or a key concern in every IT business application. Since the Exchange 2000 SP3 release, Exchange has been following the Security Development Lifecycle process and has obtained numerous industry certifications, including Common Criteria EAL4+. Exchange Online has proven to serve in a wide range of real-world messaging needs, from Fortune 500 companies like GSK, Energizer and Starbucks to government agencies such as State of Minnesota, City and County of San Francisco.
While Exchange Online innovations like archiving in the cloud and extending web-based management capabilities are geared toward business’ needs, Google strikes a compromise to create features that appeal to consumers. Sometimes the scale just isn’t there for Google. Microsoft offers anywhere access to email, including offline access to all of your messages, whether you have a network connection or not. Google Apps for Business provides email access to only 5000 messages within a user’s 25 GB mailbox via a network connection, and to only about 500 messages when the user is offline.
One way Office software stands apart from the Google Apps for Business approach is in file fidelity, such as for Excel and Word documents. As you may know, what you see with a desktop version of Office is what you get in the cloud with Office 365. When Office users try to move existing Office documents to Google Apps, files often loose features and formatting. When using Google Apps, both charts and pivot table filters in spreadsheets can disappear. Features such as Excel’s Sparkline trends don’t show up in Google Apps. In fact, instead of displaying results for table formulas, our demo shows that Google Spreadsheets displays errors.
If the user’s frustration doesn’t pique with Google Spreadsheets, they can go ahead and see what can happen in Google Docs through our demo. The header in the document moves and its style changes in Google Docs. Both Smart Art and a chart are missing from the original document. As a result, I can’t expect a Google Apps user working in a team to create a “clean” document.
Google Apps’ Shortcut for Collaboration
After more than four years, Google Apps are not viewed by the vast majority of people as a viable replacement for Office. In fact, 9 out of 10 Google Apps customers are still using Office. Ineffective in replacing Office, Google entices businesses using legacy versions of Office to continue using older technology along with their Google Cloud Connect plugin, to bring the Office experience into the cloud and allow co-authoring there. The issue with Google Apps’ shortcut for collaboration is the user experience. According to some, Cloud Connect is a not-even-version-1 product and while Google claims to have improved Cloud Connect, this subtext in their cloud strategy remains puzzling: since100% cloud is the future, use old versions of Office along with Google’s poorly designed plugin to take you there.
Legacy Office suite users who think that Google Cloud Connect for Office will get them to the promised land of real-time collaboration in the cloud, are in for an unpleasant surprise. The recent article in Ars Technica summarized the trouble you can get into using Google Cloud Connect with Google Apps for Business:
“In use, the experience is a little unnerving. There’s no apparent indication that someone else has the document open or which section they’re working on. New words just appear from nowhere whenever the document syncs. The lack of interface is something of a liability; it makes it very easy to step on each other’s toes and make conflicting changes.
In theory, conflicts are handled by giving you the choice of which edit to pick. In practice, we found a variety of behaviors occurred, none of which were correct. Sometimes one document would simply fail to sync, being permanently broken until a fresh copy was reopened from the server. Other times it would sync and merge the edits together. The most common result was that one set of edits would end up clobbering the other, with the winner picked apparently at random. Without careful coordination, data loss seems inevitable.”
Collaborating using Google Apps for Business and Cloud Connect seems like playing a game where the rules are missing. I don’t know what results I will get, or who might even be involved in the game, and Cloud Connect incorporates changes randomly. The Google Apps for Business solution for legacy Office users, including its Cloud Connect patch, introduces confusion and unpredictability into bringing data to the cloud.
Why I Use Office 365
I want to get to my work files, my email and team files from anywhere and want the flexible, online, offline and mobile approach to business that the cloud provides, so I enjoy using Office 365. It combines Microsoft’s latest and best productivity tools with the Office experience I’m comfortable with. When I use Office 365 together with Excel, Word and PowerPoint features in the Microsoft Office 2010 desktop suite, I know that whether I use cloud or desktop tools, and no matter how many times I revise the files, my documents will look just like I intended them to be.
Over the last week I’ve accessed documents through a browser from a conference center, from Starbucks, and from home with Office 365’s Office Web Apps. I can control who can see and edit documents, and I email links to documents instead of attaching the actual file. That saves on email storage and avoids the confusion of having multiple versions of the same document circulating. My teammates use Office 365. They just click a link and the file opens in the Web App. They can make quick edits in the browser (if I’ve allowed it), or open the file in Office 2010 on their PC or Mac to make more advanced changes. It’s really easy to work anywhere.
Why do you use Office 2010 and Office 365?