Why I Don’t Use Microsoft Products to Design and Code

Sigh. Yes, that’s right. I just let out a sigh. Why? Because I really loath Microsoft products. I don’t say that because I am trying to start a war with Microsoft and I am certainly not trying to insult or offend anyone who does like these products. This is simply based on my more than 2 decades of experience working with their software products. Rarely have I worked with one of their programs and had an easy time doing what I needed to do. And for the purpose of this post, we’ll just limit this to Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Every once in a while, I am asked if I can design something in Word. Then, I shudder. Sometimes I get a little nauseated. I do my best to hide the disgust, but it’s hard. I am pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person, so I will always be upfront with people. Professional, but upfront. So here’s the deal. I do not and will not work with Microsoft products in my business when it comes to any aspect of my designs or coding.

Here’s why:

Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint were not created or intended for design and web development purposes. I know it might be the go-to place for some people to jerry-rig a logo concept, floor plan, website layout or whatever other concept you can think of. But the bottom line is that they can not actually be used by designers to create the kind of final products you (the client) hire us to create.

Simply put, they aren’t design programs. They aren’t coding or development programs. They are limited in the ways you can move things around, working with typography, creating files ready for print and web and do not allow you to manipulate and edit images properly.

Word is not a design application; It is a word processing application.

For example: There are times when someone will approach me to design letterhead and they want to be able to create the letterhead as a digital file. This is totally understandable. And this can be done and is done. To be clear though, the actual letterhead design is not created in Word or PowerPoint. The design itself is created in another more appropriate design program, saved as a image and placed into Word.

The problem is that when the image is placed into Word, we the designers are almost always faced with the repeated challenges of the inflexibility of the application. The design we spent so much time creating often times gets downgraded to a screen resolution and looks terrible when the client prints the document. Then client becomes upset. This is hard to explain, but ultimately it is out of our hands how Word behaves. This is one of the limitations I am talking about. Graphic designers have no control over the functionalities of these Microsoft products and what it does to our images. We have no control over the limitations of the applications and the extent of what you can and can’t do within the programs in terms of laying things out.

I always try to be as upfront about these things before starting the project (or even refuse the project from the get to) in order to manage the client’s expectations. Educating my clients is an important aspect of what I do and explaining these things before I do the work is just as important as the final pieces I create. When I am asked to create a letterhead and bring the design into Word, (note the distinct difference between design the letterhead and bringing into Word to create a template) there is usually an additional fee or surcharge because I know additional troubleshooting time will be involved to get everything working properly, even after the final file is released to the client. In almost every case, the client will need some additional help once they get the file because it will require a bit of tweaking, mostly because they are on a different operating system or their version of Word might be adjusting the layout slightly. There are a whole host of unanticipated issues that can occur.

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