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A desperate plea to MS Office lovers everywhere

Dear MS Office lover

Although I don’t see the appeal*, I understand that you love using Microsoft Office for your daily tasks. It seems like pretty good software, and if it helps you become more efficient, then that’s terrific.

Anyhoo, I’ve noticed that many of you have a tendency to do some interesting things with MS Office in order to share things with the rest of us. For example, to –

  • share images by adding them to your Word documents;
  • paste bits of text into other Word documents, and then emailing them;
  • create PowerPoint slides for newsletters; and
  • take notes in Excel spreadsheets*.

Another Pro tip is not to send Word documents by email, unless you want to collaborate with someone, and intend for them to edit the document and send it back. If you’d like to share a letter by email (consider just sending the text as the email), save the Word document as a PDF instead. It will look the same on every device that can read it. Unlike Word documents*.

I’m a big fan of using your tools to do cool, interesting things. I’m also a fan of using a tool appropriately. Striking a balance between these two isn’t always easy, and erring on the side of innovation is a good thing, too.

That said, it’s also important to think outside the box here. MS Office isn’t the sum total of what’s available to you.

If you need to share a snippet of text in an email, paste it into the email. If you need to share an image, please don’t add it to a Word document first. Just attach the image, like you were planning to do with the Word document containing the image to your email.

Email is cool like that, it can handle so many types of content.

Oh, if you prefer writing your blog posts in Word, remember that copying and pasting into your blog editor of choice can carry across Word’s silly formatting too. If you happen to be using the Classic editor in WordPress, read this guide to stripping out that formatting cruft so your posts look the way they’re meant to.

If you’re using the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), you should be able to just paste your text, and the editor will remove that extra stuff automatically.

So please, please, rethink how you use use your MS Office tools for the sake of our continued sanity. It’s the productivity equivalent of “Be kind, rewind”.

*On the few occasions I use conventional office productivity software, I prefer using LibreOffice or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, but that’s just my choice.

*Why not just use Word for this?

*But, seriously, just add the text to an email and send it directly. It works far better.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Bethany Legg
Applications Business and work Creative expression

Those who can’t, PowerPoint

PowerPoint is to agencies and marketers what MS Word is to lawyers – seemingly critical and effective but really a tool that receives far more attention that it deserves. It rapidly becomes a crutch because you can throw some design elements at it and call it “brainstorming”, “prototyping” or, worse, “design”. When I see people preparing notes or something other than a genuine presentation (and perhaps even then), my first thought is a lack of imagination and creativity.

You can imagine my amusement when I read this article by Digiday titled “‘They’re the worst’: Why agencies are trying to kick the PowerPoint habit”:

That’s what they say at 100-person agency Work & Co., anyway. The agency recently banned PowerPoints (and Keynotes, and Prezis), or as every agency staffer inevitably calls them “decks.” Said founder Gene Liebel: “They’re the worst.”

For Work & Co., banning Powerpoint presentations was necessary because the person holding the remote or controlling the presentation dominated the room. “It’s like a lawyer at trial that wants to control everything,” said Liebel. Powerpoint just isn’t collaborative.

Although I still have a fundamental resistance to Microsoft products, there is probably still a legitimate place for PowerPoint (and, grudgingly, Word). That doesn’t mean PowerPoint has to be your go-to tool for everything. Use something more appropriate for what you are trying to communicate. Evernote came up with “Presentation Mode” a couple years ago. It isn’t necessarily the ideal solution but it is a creative alternative that turns Evernote notes into something closer to a presentation deck while preserving a more dynamic form factor. I used it in a workshop once and it worked fairly well.

I say all this as someone who has given a number of presentations at conferences and my weapon of choice has been Keynote. It worked well enough but there are ways to use it effectively and ways to make a complete mess of it all. I’m not entirely sure where my decks wound up on that continuum but I like to think I did more things correctly than not. At the same time, with all the tools we have available to us, there are so many other ways to present ideas and concepts as well as more effective ways to collaborate.

To be sure, agencies are a bit late to the game. Almost three years ago, physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider in the U.S. banned the use of the presentation software. Jeff Bezos famously banned it at Amazon two years ago; and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, eliminated presentations at the company in 2013 and asked people to send meeting materials 24 hours in advance instead.

At Work & Co., Liebel said clients are thankful for the change since it enabled them to work with the agency on an ongoing basis without presentations stemming the flow of content, marketing or even ideas. The agency is leaning more heavily on showing proof of concept, whether through prototypes or simply more discussions.

It all comes down to sharing ideas, doesn’t it? Find better way to do that. Friends don’t let friends PowerPoint (if they can help it).

Image credit: Earth Day Presentation by NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, licensed CC BY 2.0

Entertainment Events and Life

Sex by PowerPoint

I had a “Squirrel!” moment this morning and came across this hilarious PowerPoint proposition on Tumblr (thanks to Sam for posting it). It is the first proposition for “sex things” I’ve ever seen in a presentation and worth spending a few minutes reading.