CUTTING OFFICE TIES

A few readers have asked us what would happen if they stopped paying Microsoft $70 to $100 a year for Microsoft Office 365. Would there be a knock on the door late at night? Men in black suits? These are questions we have asked ourselves many times, usually just before breakfast.

We ask no more. That’s because we switched back to Microsoft Word 2007, which is free, more manageable, and of course out of date. So the next question to be answered is this: Does it matter? In short, what do you use Microsoft Office for? Most people get Office 365, the $100 a year version, just to use Word. That’s their word processor. The other popular feature is Power Point, for presentations.

So the next question  to ask – my god, there are a lot of them –are you a business or a home user? Because if you’re not a business, one with many demands from the computer, it’s hard to justify paying an annual fee.

The next, next question is: so where do we get the earlier version? Do a web search and you get prices ranging from around $60 to $150. You can go to WPS.com and get a program very similar to Office for free; it’s gotten good reviews. Walmart has a $29 program similar to Office called LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org has a free program very similar to Microsoft Office and it’s been available for decades. These are not made by Microsoft, of course, but they work and you only have to answer the last question of … just what do you really use it for?

How it all began:

Our rejection of Office 365 was triggered when Joy couldn’t get her computer started, and we had no idea why. At the boot-up screen, she couldn’t type more than a few letters of her Microsoft password before the computer stopped accepting keystrokes. So she used the Windows recovery option to reformat her computer. This is a drastic solution, and recommended only in dire circumstances The recovery held on to her files  but wiped out all of her programs. This turned her computer into a speed demon. The central processing unit used to run at close to 100 percent, and so did the disk. Now, when we check “Task Manager,” both are usually running at less than five percent.

Windows put a list of the removed programs on our desktop as a reminder to re-install them. It’s a long list. We are pack rats and tend to keep all the programs we’ve ever used. We have stuff that’s still on floppy disks and even old hard drives that have been removed from our computers when we replaced them. We have a tape drive printer that went out of production forty years ago. (There were only six of them.)

Chief among those programs she decided not to reinstall was Office 365. We have a perfectly good copy of Office 2007, and there are many things we like about it. For one, although Office 365 claims to keep whatever files you save to “One Drive,” available right there on your desktop, synchronized with your private One Drive storage space online, it never did. Every week we save a rough draft of our column to One Drive but when we went to look for them, the most recent one they saved online was from last June. It turns out you have to be signed in to OneDrive, by clicking on the icon in your taskbar. But it’s flawed. You can right-click a file to “keep it on this device,” meaning it’s on your computer and in the cloud. But if it’s accidentally erased on your computer, it disappears from your online account too.

We love the old Office 2007 file-listing feature, which is also present in previous versions of Office. By clicking the “orb” in the upper left corner of Word (or clicking the word “File” in previous versions), you can see a list of whatever files you most recently worked on and then click on the one you want. Office 365 removed that ever so convenient orb and now the files list opens up in a separate app. The programmers probably probably laughed all the way through that meeting.

So why did we sign up to renew our subscription to Office 365 last year? There was a dire warning about losing our files. But it turns out this only happens after thirty days, which gives you plenty of time to move the files to a new folder on your computer, or to an external drive. Thumb drives are real cheap these days.

To cancel a subscription to Office 365, search on “cancel Office 365.” We went round and round a couple of times till we found the billing page. To save time, go straight to account.microsoft.com/services/office/billing. (There should be no hyphens in that address.)

App Happy

  • Drops” is a free app for learning a language in five minute sessions each day. (We’re trying German, since a couple friends of ours recently moved there to open a barbecue place, of all things.) It’s called “Drops” because the German word drops into place, with a picture of the thing that fits the word. The founder says you only need a couple hundred words to get by in most situations, and learning food words first builds confidence. (Do they understand “hamburger?”)
  • “Sleep and Relaxation Sounds” is one of the top Alexa “skills” of the year. To turn on any skill, go to the Alexa app on your phone and tap the three lines in the upper left, then “skills.” Search on “sleep sounds” and then click “enable” next to whatever you fancy. Bob likes thunderstorms.

That Gosh-Darn Dash

A reader wrote to Joy, saying his note to Bob came back to him. That’s because he had a hyphen in the address, between the “Bob” and the “Schwab.” It should read bobschwab@gmail.com (no hyphen). If you see a hyphen printed in a web or email address, take it out.

 

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