Back in the good old days, when MS Office simply was Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, we all knew what Office was and why we needed it. It was similar with other market leading programs such as WordPerfect and Lotus 123, Photoshop, QuickBooks or PeachTree, etc.
By my list of software above you may be trying to figure out what I mean by "way back when". Let’s pinpoint this time period as cerca 1995.
The world was great. Well, not great, but it was less confusing. :) For the general consumer there was only a few operating systems to choose from, one or two office packages, etc.
Back then we knew we needed Microsoft Word or Word Perfect. We knew we needed Excel or Lotus 123. If we wanted to know how to use it we bought a book, took a class, or (gasp!) read the manual. Yeah, manuals were actual paper books bundled with the software back then too. This meant that companies could charge for in-depth books and training programs for their software. It was the "if you build it people will pay to learn how to use it" era.
Now come back to the present. It’s a lot more complicated. Do I use Office Home and Student, Standard, Small Business, Professional or Ultimate? What about this Open Office thing I keep hearing about? What in the world is Groove, InfoPath, OneNote and why do I care? People keep telling me that OneNote changed their entire work process. How?
Notice I’m just sticking to the MS family (except for the Open Office reference I threw in there). It seems like with every new version Microsoft throws a new product or two into the Office family. If I were to list all the non-MS alternatives this post would be a mile long.
So, what’s Microsoft’s answer? As you probably have noticed much of the Office website (and really any major Microsoft product site these days) is mostly devoted to helping you understand what each product does and how to use it. It’s still pretty confusing, but there is a wealth of how-to articles, videos, webinars, trial demos and sometimes even online interactive demos. All free.
It’s not like the world woke up and suddenly Microsoft realized they needed to convince us why to buy their product. That has always been the case. It’s just now they are freely telling us how to actually use it. That’s great.
This is definitely more of an industry trend. Most software companies offer free product demos, videos and training on their website. In fact, if a new product can’t show me in a 5 minute video why I would want to use their software I tend to move on.
It’s nice to be able to spend a half an hour in the morning beefing up on a new product. I’m trying to set this as a weekly (perhaps daily) habit. Currently I’m a OneNote training junkie. 🙂