As I clicked the Install Catalina button on my Mac, up popped a warning that my Microsoft Office programs would no longer work if I continued. It seems that my versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (all part of my MS Office 2008) were too old for this dashing, young Catalina–the name of Apple's current operating system. I left the message staring at me on the screen, and I hurried to look up what my options were with using MS Office in the future. What would I use for my everyday word processing? How much would it cost me?
My quick online research revealed to me that Microsoft now very much wants us to use their online suite of programs called Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), instead of downloading the Office apps to our computers. (You can still download Office, but finding where on the site to do this is craftily obscured.) Microsoft loudly touts this Office 365, which essentially gives users Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and more in a cloud-based system, meaning it's all stored on the internet in their servers.
I can buy Microsoft 365 for about $70/year as a single user, or about $100/year for a family subscription. I also found the downloadable version of Office 2019. (It was hidden on another page.) I could make that one-time purchase for about $250.
No doubt about it, the Microsoft applications are top notch, but something about paying seventy bucks a year made me want to look at other options. It's one thing to be a cheapskate, but you have to have an alternative that works. Fortunately, there are two that I like.
1. Google Docs Suite of applications: This is free. Nearly everything from Google is free. I can use Docs for word processing, Sheets for spreadsheets, Slides for presentations, Google Drive for cloud storage, and so much more. I can also freely share my work with others and have them collaborate with me. It's great for group work, as more than one person can be on the document making edits simultaneously in realtime. Google's apps are everywhere. They are used by the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
2. Apple iWork: This suite of productivity apps is also free. I can use Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations. Personally, I find this group of applications very easy to use and full of features. Apple recently added the ability to collaborate with others in realtime, too. In addition, because I have an Apple ID that I got when I bought a Mac years ago, I can store all of my files in iCloud--Apple's cloud-based service. This works seamlessly with my MacBook.
So which did I decide to use? Well, I actually use all three–Microsoft, Google, and Apple–as I have been for years because it's my business to stay current with them all. However, if I didn't want to spend the money to upgrade my Microsoft applications, I find that I could easily work with either Google or Apple alone. I typically generate personal documents using Apple iWork, and I use Google Docs if I'm working with people who want to collaborate on something. Plus, if I need to send anything as a Word document, I can export it as such from Google Docs or Apple's Pages. I can also read Word documents that people send to me in either Apple or Google.
The bottom line is that, if you don't feel like shelling out money for Microsoft, you have two great alternatives in Google Docs and Apple iWork.