Office Tools

As an entrepreneur who is using his savings to start up his dream company, it is important to cut down on one’s expenses without compromising on productivity.  The OS (operating system) for office PCs and the business software like word processors, spreadsheets and slides that one takes for granted while working in a large corporate house, can actually burn a deep hole in one’s pocket.

Given the popularity of Mr. Bill Gates and his company’s ubiquitous presence, I’ve always been a religious user (if not a fan) of Windows and all Microsoft Office products. It was only when I started effiKC and wanted to setup my own office did I realize how expensive they were.

It cost me around Rs 20,000 to get an assembled PC with a high end configuration. However, to equip it with MS Windows and MS Office, I found out that I would need to spend around Rs 7,000 for each (including taxes). Using simple Mathematics, the cost of using a day to day software was coming out to 70% of the hardware cost.

These software which would go down my accounts books as long term assets (that too I doubt because Microsoft licenses are valid only for 3 years) were turning out to be liabilities for me.

The decision was obvious and instantaneous. I had always read about it and discussed about it with Microsoft haters. I now tried it for myself.

I decided to go ahead with the Linux OS and was pleasantly surprised with how it had progressed since my college days 5 years back. I tried out two flavors – Open Suse and Ubuntu. Both have UI based software installation and update features that I found to be a major relief given my short term memory in remembering commands. Moreover, I found out that mounting and un-mounting memory sticks, CD and DVD ROMs were as easy as that in Windows. Moreover the crisp and easy to use graphical user interface with Windows like file and directory structure further helped in easing the transition process.

The best feature was yet to be realized. The Linux machines were practically indifferent to the innumerable Viruses that have been specifically designed for their Windows counterparts.  Usually one learns about the benefits of using an anti virus only when one’s valuable data gets seriously affected.  Sooner or later every Windows user realizes that an annual purchase of anti virus software license is like getting an annual dose of flu shot.

The day when I found a file called ‘jim.carry’ that carries the seeds of the famous Jim Carry virus lying as an incapacitated creature on one of the USB memory sticks that had come in dangerous contact with several Windows machines, I could not thank my lucky stars for having saved me another Rs 3,000 a year.

Now, that the purpose of a cheap and efficient OS had been served, I needed to find out similar office processing software. The Linux distributions usually come loaded with Open Office products that resemble MS Office in look and functionality and provides a good transition. Moreover, it comes with a free (yes absolutely free) pdf maker to make any number of pdfs that your heart desires.

In spite of all the benefits of the Open Office suite, it is not Open Office that I selected. I happen to be a regular user of GMail. One day when I was checking my emails for the umpteenth time and wondering what else I could do that I had not already done, I happened to chance upon the link called ‘Documents’ on the top left hand corner of the GMail screen. Once I started exploring the link, I found that Google Docs is actually a far superior substitute. Firstly, it provides for easy sharing of documents across networks and continents. Secondly it does not consume any hard disk space as everything is stored remotely on Google’s servers. Third, it maintains history of all revisions to it along with the names of the editors and the timing of editing, making it even more effective for collaborative work.

With Google Docs now offering a folder structure that makes it easier to store and manage documents online, there is no turning back to Microsoft.

In addition to the office productivity suite from Google, it also provides a wonderful calendar facility that can be used to plan daily agenda, setup meetings and also generate reminders that would be directly deliverd to your cell phone when you are on the move. This is something that I would not even expect from Outlook.

It is not that I am a big fan of the Google founders (although they happen to be alums from the same university that I went to ), but there is no doubt that it is difficult to find an alternative to Google’s office products.  Today it is only small organizations like ours who are adopting Google as the official business software provider. The day when large organizations would take it up as another way of ‘cost-cutting’ when the economy is hit by another downward surge, is not too far to visualize.