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Wednesday
Feb222012

Microsoft Office? Good Riddance!

There was speculation the other day about leaked information that an iPad version of Microsoft Office is in the works and due to be released soon (along with an intriguing thought that Microsoft might share the stage with Apple at its upcoming iPad event to announce it).

My thought? Pshaw... I hope it never comes to the iPad. It really is about time for Office to lose its stranglehold on our work.

[Begin Rant] I really do find Microsoft Word to be the most anti-productive "productivity" software I've ever used. Especially for an ADD pseudo-perfectionist like myself. I can barely write two word without stressing about styles and formatting. And then I try to paste something in from a website or another doc and my styling goes all haywire. Drives. Me. Bonkers! Always has. [End Rant]

Unfortunately in the corporate world today it is darn near impossible to avoid Word. But I'm attempting to minimize my Word usage until it's absolutely necessary. I've been inspired quite a bit in this endeavor by people like Merlin Mann and David Sparks (want to go down the geek rabbit hole for several hours? - check out Merlin's two Mac Power Users episodes) . The answer for now, though far from perfect, for me is plain text and Markdown (and some custom hacked together CSS and cool apps like Marked).

The reason I like this approach is that I can have all my styles mapped out in a CSS file, and when I need to write I can just pick a text editor, any text editor, and write. To be honest I end up using MultiMarkdown more than pure Markdown since it also lets me easily make tables, and add footnotes, and other cool stuff. When I'm done, I can use Marked to export the styled text into a PDF or HTML and have something that is all nice and formatted that required minimal fiddling while actually writing it.

This "text only" approach is made even easier these days by the proliferation of Markdown and Dropbox enabled text editors for iPhone, iPad, and Mac (much harder to find on Windows however - I'm biased here, but I really do feel like the best software these days is on the Mac) - apps like PlainText, Nebulous Notes, nvAlt, Byword, and Sublime Text.

There is one area where this all falls apart pretty quickly, and unfortunately I still need a good solution for, and that's getting all this writing back into Microsoft Word (it's just not possible to avoid in corporate America). There are ways to get Markdown formatted text exported to HTML and RTF, but then I still end up having to fiddle with styles and formats to get it all to look right again, but at least I can save the fiddling until I'm done with 99% of the content.

Of course when there's a problem and a geek all it takes is a weekend or so and we'll come up with a solution... (now if I only had a free weekend).

- Klaus

PS. This post was written using Markdown in Byword.

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