It was the new Microsoft Office for Mac Suite that pushed me over the edge. I’ve used Office since Windows ’95. Nearly every major corporation did and at the time, I was working for some big ones.
This was an era of cross over: where businesses were finally getting rid of their typewriters and were sick of health insurance claims for stress borne from WordStar and WordPrefect and their gazillion keyboard shortcuts. It was tough out there.
As a result, for many of us me included, Microsoft Word became the litmus for word processing. In fact, the litmus for word production. We used it in the coal mine and when we got home, it was there for us too. If you didn’t use a pen, you used Word.
So when I saw, the other day, that Microsoft had finally updated Word for Mac from 2011, I thought it time to make a change too. A writer may as well work with the latest and greatest hey?
That’s when the first shock hit me. Microsoft now offered its Office Suite called “365” as a subscription. They wanted AUD $119 per annum for coverage for up to five computers. You did have the option of buying a disc (unlike Adobe’s Creative Suite for example) but wait for it—each disc cost AUD $179 and only covered one.
Say again? When I bought my last Mac I could get that disc for AUD $128 and it came with three licences. This was now a major rip off.
But to that subscription I went.
Shock number two. There was now a yawning gap in functionality between Mac Word and Windows Word (both are now called “Word 2016” by the way). Worse, Mac Word’s screen background now came in a white-grey, not the toned-down charcoal grey offered with Word 2011. On a 27-inch screen this was retina-searing. How much more so, when I realized that Windows users could actually change their background all the way to black if desired. Mac customers were more than ever, the overt poor cousins now.
So I cancelled my subscription same day. What a marathon that was. It took 90 minutes on the phone to an offshore call center (not in the USA) that barely knew who Microsoft was. Aside: What Microsoft don’t tell you is that you have a 30-day return guarantee, no questions asked. The USA told me that on a subsequent call.
But—and here’s the crux—I’m a user of Adobe InDesign too and if you’re not using Word, then you’re left with few choices for its workflow interface.
There’s Open Office, Google Docs, Libre and not much else. Things is, Google Docs aside, you’ll still mainly need to convert your writing whatever platform used, to DOCX format for import into InDesign. And Word of course offers Styles that can easily be mapped to InDesign as a great time saver.
Well, I tried Google Docs for an hour and couldn’t fathom it. I also don’t like working in the Cloud. So back to a fresh Office 365 subscription I went.
The end result? New Word takes 60 seconds to load. I’m reluctantly getting used to its white-grey screen background. But I’m also banking on Microsoft adding new features for us Mac users hopefully in the not too distant future.
There may, however, be another option in all this for writers. And many right now have chosen its path—maybe you too: Plain Text software. Let’s look at that next time.