Life Without Microsoft

I’ve lived the last 3 or 4 months of my life without Microsoft. It’s been refreshing.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have an XBox 360. What I mean is that I’m not running any Microsoft software on my Mac.

It had seemed for a while as though this were not possible. Everybody needs Word, right? Isn’t Excel a prerequisite for computing? Sometimes it seems so.

Well, I’m proof that liberty is real and possible.

I got sick of Word’s cludgy interface. Excel was a cumbersome beast used for a few specific purposes. Neither application used Mac interface standards consistently, which started to drive me nuts.

I spent a few months trying out alternative Mac word processors. I wrote for a while with Mellel, but it’s academic bent wasn’t for me. I tried Mariner Write, but didn’t like the interface. Nisus Writer Express is a killer application that still, unfortunately, lacks some features I require (I love the fact its native file format it RTF).

I recently settled on Apple’s Pages 06. The interface is svelt and intuitive, plus it’s got all the features I need. Its compatibility with the Word format is adequate — I don’t really get fancy enough with my documents to push this capability too hard.

I’m writing my Geek Love columns with a nice piece of software called CopyWrite. I love its project-oriented nature and the fact that it has one-click document versioning. It, too, uses RTF as a standard file format which is nice (it took me a while to reconcile myself to Pages proprietary file format).

And now that Pages has built-in (very basic) spreadsheet capabilities, my last link to Excel was broken. The only other purpose I used Excel for was to store and manage my software serial numbers. This was an overkill application for such a minor purpose.

I recently purchased the SplashWallet suite for my Treo and it included a decent little application, SplashID, that I now use to store serial numbers. The nice thing is now I have my software info with me all the time, which has come in handy lately.

One would be tempted to think my escape from Microsoftville was purely political. Maybe a bit.

Really, though, I was sick with the lethargic, unstable qualities of the applications in Office 2004. Word was a very frustrating application to work with and its unintuitive nature constantly got in my way. The latest version of Excel was an abysmal attempt by the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft to make me do things a certain way and I was constantly fighting it.

Once you get past Microsoft and expand your software horizons there’s a huge array of realistic alternatives out there being developed and supported by dedicated independent companies. It’s a beautiful world.