Browse courses

Microsoft Word is so out of vogue that it isn’t even called Microsoft Word anymore.

The Office suite (as we once knew it) has long-since been rebranded as Microsoft 365, with apps such as Word and Excel now accessed via the cloud. Though still used by organisations worldwide, its competitors – namely Google Docs and the rest of its Workspace applications – seem to have diminished its once mighty standing, and its central role in office life.

As Docs and other, flashier productivity software has captured people’s attention, however, Microsoft Word has quietly remained an indispensable and underutilised tool. While everyone from Apple to Adobe rushes to integrate AI into their products, Word rewards the skill of its users – and continues to be an essential asset in today’s digital landscape.

Ubiquity and compatibility

One of the greatest strengths of Microsoft Word lies in its ubiquity. Almost everyone has encountered Word documents at some point in their lives, and the .docx is a universally recognised file format. Microsoft Word’s legacy and popularity are such that every word processing app is able to open its files, from Google Docs to Mac’s Pages app.

This means Word docs can be opened and edited on just about any device or operating system, from desktop to phone to tablet – a boon for anyone reading emails on the go. This widespread use and compatibility makes Word a vital tool for sharing and collaborating on documents with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders across industries and age groups. Anyone who’s tried to share a Drive link and realised its sharing settings are limited, or had to explain how the Suggesting and Comment features work, has a welcome respite in Word.

It’s a universal language on a human level, but it’s also extremely flexible in terms of the content you can create with it. Word remains unparalleled when it comes to creating and editing documents of all kinds, from basic reports to complex research papers. Word’s tools for formatting text, adjusting layouts, incorporating tables and images, and managing references are all time-tested, and offer more customisation than most of its competitors. Yet at the same time, the fact that it’s stuck to the same familiar interface for decades means it continues to be accessible to users of all skill levels.

Collaborations and corrections

For all its user-friendliness, Word is equipped with numerous time-saving features that can go unnoticed. For instance, the Styles and Formatting options enable users to quickly apply different formatting templates to entire documents, reducing the need for manual adjustments. Additionally, the use of layout templates, auto-correction, and auto-formatting features allows for different kinds of documents to be created and customised rapidly. These time-saving features often outstrip the competition, and even rival AI-driven tools, yet a lack of training means they remain underutilised.

One of the more trumpeted features of Docs and other competitors is collaboration, and the ability to easily track edits and comments. Yet Word remains efficient and feature-rich on this front, too. The “Track Changes” feature now allows multiple users to make edits, leave comments, and suggest modifications within a document. This function is particularly useful for co-authoring, proofreading, and incorporating feedback from multiple people. With the advent of Microsoft 365, Word now offers the simultaneous collaboration of Docs with a better feature set – bringing the benefits of traditional Word to the cloud.

Advanced features and integrations

Beyond its fundamental capabilities, Microsoft Word also offers advanced features for those willing to invest in training. Mail merges remain a useful way to personalise mass communications, while generating tables of contents and indexing can make browsing large documents magnitudes more efficient. There are other functions that can streamline complex tasks, too: its integration with other Office 365 apps such as Excel and PowerPoint can bring raw data to life in engaging reports and graphics, and updating themselves as that data changes.

It’s here where the reputation of Word seems to be becoming an impediment. Looked down upon for years as a tedious and unnecessary part of secondary school IT curriculums, Word skills have gone out of vogue. Yet with fewer young people using computers at home – instead preferring their smartphones – their interactions with Word are limited to the bare essentials of writing essays. Without this training, many people are now not only missing out on the benefits of a full understanding of the software, but lack even the basic skills of older generations.

We’re seeing this transition play out in real time. Our Word for Beginners course has seen a surge in interest which initially caught us off guard. What was once a staple of school curriculums to the point of overfamiliarity seems to be being left behind, either because alternative software is being used, or because it isn’t perceived as important. Yet Word is still as vital a part of the average office as ever – and something it pays to be familiar with.

While Microsoft Word may be perceived as a basic bit of software, its ongoing importance should not be underestimated. Ubiquitous, cross-compatible, familiar and capable, Word continues to play a major role in small offices and multinationals alike. Far from being outstripped by competitors, its own move to the cloud has only enhanced its value – a subtle makeover for one of the most resilient and useful apps out there.

Are software skills part of your learning & development plans?

Working in partnership with you, we provide insight and assistance to help you achieve your development goals. Whether you are looking to gain a better understanding of your training and development gaps, build training plans across multiple teams, or need bespoke training solutions for a particular challenge, we can help identify your options and the solutions available.

Contact us

Mark Fryer

17th July 2023

Want 10% off your first scheduled course?

Sign up to our newsletter and receive 10% off any of our scheduled courses as a thank you! Our monthly newsletters are filled with features, advice and information about our forthcoming courses.