For some parties and organizations, even simple office technologies like spreadsheets and word processors can be transformative. The Microsoft Office suite is standard in most companies and government offices in the industrialized world, but parties unable or unwilling to pay for the Office licenses can now take advantage of several free and/or open source options, such as the Open Office suite and Google Docs. Office applications include word processors, spreadsheets and presentation programs.
- Basic word processor programs can be used to make legal copies, as well as to write memos, reference documents and letters on letterhead.
- Spreadsheet programs can help party staff organize, analyze and store data in tabular form. They can perform basic arithmetic and mathematical functions, and can express information in various ways including text, numerals or graphical form.
- Presentation programs display information in the form of a slideshow. With these types of programs, party staff can write, edit and format text for the presentation, insert and manipulate graphic images, and view the presentation as a full screen slideshow.
Cloud applications like Google Docs may be attractive to parties as well. They have similar functions as basic office applications but also allow people in different locations to collaborate on a single document. The collaborators must have a decent internet connection, as the documents, spreadsheets and presentations are “live” online. Like other cloud applications, this makes cloud documents vulnerable to any loss of internet access; if the network goes down or the internet connection goes dark, staff cannot access the documents unless they’ve saved a local copy. And, since these are online documents that can be accessed from anywhere, they’re vulnerable to anyone who obtains the correct login credentials.
While Google Docs and many other cloud applications do not support all the advanced features that can be found in a suite such as Microsoft Office, they do tend to offer most of the basic, popular features. As these programs tend to focus more toward informal, internal use, printing quality can be compromised. Additionally, these cloud programs are sometimes slow compared to traditional computer software programs. Even where there is a strong internet signal, they can seem slow to respond and may lag behind what is being typed. That being said, many people find that the capacity to allow many people to simultaneously edit a single document, as well as having important documents available at any internet-connected computer, more useful than that of traditional non-cloud office applications.