A final look at Office 365

It’s been six months since I bought Office 365. Time goes so fast. Only another six months to renewal, which was always the bad part about the whole deal, but I knew that when I started, so it’s not really the bad part, just the choice I made.

It’s a good time to look back on how I’ve found it. It’s been a busy six months, writing-wise.

Using Office

When I installed Office 365 I moved from Office 2007 to 2013. I had no problems with the transition.

I thought I would get used to the colours, but six months later I still open Outlook when I mean to open Word, and I still don’t like the all-white for everything. (I see that the iPad has gone very white as well. All I can say to both companies is, please don’t.) I would love an option to add more contrast. For users like me, who have two 24 inch screens, it is too much white.

The templates on the New Documents pages still drive me crazy. I would love to control which templates I see.

Outside of the above, I like the software.

Transferring licenses

Back in September I bought a new laptop and transferring the licenses was a breeze. A definite plus for Office 365.

Networking

Office itself is great, but when it comes to the cloud you can probably hear my screams from the other side of the world.

I know that my use of the internet is slightly unusual in that I only use it at home. While I take my laptop to work and use it throughout the day, all I use is Word and OneNote. I don’t have any need to be connected to the internet, so I don’t connect. At night, I work on the desktop PC because it has a better keyboard, not to mention larger screens.

I’m sure that some of my problems are because I am not connected to the internet all the time.

Even so, Microsoft pushes the fact that you can work offline and update when you go online, so I think it’s reasonable to assume it should work for me.

Word

Initially I started putting my work-in-progress on the Sky Drive. Sky Drive supposedly lets you save your document to a temporary file on the hard drive if you haven’t got internet connection and updates everything next time you connect to the internet.

Sure, I had to jump through a couple of extra hoops to make it all happen. Each night I had to ensure all computers were connected to the internet, open the document on the laptop and sync it to the sky drive before I could open it on the desktop PC.  But it worked.  For two months.

Then about two months in, the work-in-progress refused save to the c: drive. I had to save it under another name.   I haven’t been able to save it under the original name on my laptop since. That of course means more steps. At home I open the renamed file, do a save-as to the sky drive to put the latest updates on the sky drive, delete the sky drive copy (and the renamed copy) from my laptop and then download the updated sky drive copy back to the laptop.  It sounds complicated and messy, because it is.

This happened occasionally at first, started to happen more often and finally it was almost every day.

I got sick of it and went back to my old method of saving the master work-in-progress file on the hard drive of the laptop and editing that file on the desktop as well …

Sharing files

… which works well enough, but every once in a while my laptop stops sharing files.  This might be a Windows issue, but it’s only started happening since I installed Office 365.  To fix this I try any combination of uninstalling and reinstalling the home network, rebooting one or all computers, resetting the router until something finally works.  Sometimes none of those work and I backup the master, delete all the files and create a new master.

Not just messy, risky too.

OneNote

I use OneNote for continuity notes for novels. Add a new character, add that character’s name into OneNote. Mention an exotic plant or animal species, add it to OneNote.

Syncing OneNote between two computers was simple, pre-cloud. Microsoft had a program called Groove. I would open OneNote and work on whichever PC I was on. Next time I opened the other PC and it had an internet connection, it would synchronise the two sets of data.

I put OneNote on the cloud too, because Groove is gone and the only way I can sync between the same file on different PCs now is through the cloud. A simple one-step process has become a five-minute job every night. Log on to the internet, open OneNote on the laptop, make sure it synchronises with the cloud. Then open the desktop version, make sure it synchronises, and finally I have something I can read on the laptop.

Note I said ‘read’. Because even though I set OneNote up to share read and write, about a month ago my desktop OneNote stopped writing back to the cloud. Not only that, the one-way update overwrites any changes I make on the desktop. Sadly, it took a week to realise that. I’m still not sure if I’ve added back everything I lost.

I still haven’t worked out how to fix this yet.

Overall

Overall I’m happy with the software, and happy with the account maintenance aspects of the rent rather than buy. There are a lot of good features, most of which I haven’t mentioned here.

I think Microsoft need to fine-tune how things work with the cloud when you switch between off-line and cloud. So far my experience with this has been less-than-inspiring. It should be seamless.  It’s not, and it seems to have a lot of bugs.

Next up

That’s enough on Office 365. For my next few articles in writing tools I will be focusing on Microsoft Word and how to use it as a writer.

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