Question

What software should a modern office suite include?

For over 30 years, the Office suite has meant a bundle of software including a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation tool among other apps.

But are those the most relevant tools for a modern office? If you could pick a set of any software to bundle into a new suite, which tools would your modern office include?

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maguay's avatar
2 months ago

My ideal office suite today would include:

  • A tool like iA Writer and/or Ulysses for writing—ideally with Google Docs-style collaborative editing, comments, suggested changes, and version notes. Notion’s close—I’d take that to start.
  • Airtable for databases (though could get by with what Notion has).
  • Slack for chat.
  • Google Sheets for spreadsheets.
  • Superhuman for email—ideally an expanded version with calendar and contacts tools.
  • Deckset for presentations, plus perhaps Google Data Studio to make reports from data.
  • Dropbox for file sync.
  • Zapier for automation, tying it all together.

Interesting, you could get most of that suite for free—but the base paid plans for everything listed would come to over $80/month. That makes Office 365 and G Suite look like a bargain.

Generally, seems like a modern office suite should include:

A writing tool still feels crucial—though for print documents less so than shared online text. A writing tool with simple ways to publish text online as standalone pages almost feels like a more important need than Word’s page layout tools. Or, on the opposite end, a full page layout tool that made it easy to build formatted PDFs and fancier documents would additionally be more useful than wrangling with rich text formatting tools and text boxes.

Spreadsheets are still the killer PC app—so a best-in-class real spreadsheet is still needed. Coda putting spreadsheet-style formulas inline in text is interesting; would be fun to see more ways to blur the lines between documents and the data they’re built from. And a connected spreadsheet, pulling data in from APIs, would make it more useful in the modern office. But generally, a spreadsheet tool still feels core to an office suite.

Amazes me databases were not traditionally more of a core part of Office, where on Windows, Access was only included in higher priced Office suites and on Mac, Office never came with a database. This is something newer all-in-one office-type apps like Notion and Coda got right with including a database tool. The tough thing in those apps is that a “real” spreadsheet is still equally useful, so an ideal office suite would include both.

Presentations are still needed—but so are reports, to distribute on their own and to put inside presentations. Google Data Studio is interesting here, and would be neat to see more innovation in this space. Deckset is a nice take on turning an outline into a presentation, for simpler presentations.

Then, communications. Email’s still important, as is team chat, so tools for both would be needed. Contacts honestly should get more attention; it’s incredible how little innovation there has been in that space.

Another core part of a modern office suite to me is automation—something like Zapier to tie your work together between apps. Interesting how Coda’s built automation into their documents; something like that could negate the need for a middleman service.

Files are going away to a degree, synced directly inside apps like Notion instead of needing a separate sync service. But you still need to keep track of them, so a file sync tool like Dropbox is still needed.

4 points
DCasha's avatar
@DCasha (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Your list looks great! I would add voice collaboration to be able to start a meeting within the doc (vs presenting it to a screenshare tool).

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @DCasha )
2 months ago

@Dcasha Ohh good point! Would you use Yac or something else for that?

1 point
DCasha's avatar
@DCasha (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

I am not familiar with Yac, but a Slack like tool that allows for chat and calls would work.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @DCasha )
2 months ago

Actually, thinking again, Loom would almost be a better fit—it lets you start a video call inside any app to collaborate.

1 point
pendolino's avatar
@pendolino (replying to @maguay )
5d

That's a very interesting piece! The office app suite could be coming upon a renaissance in this age of impressive competing product.

I wonder if we could see a real independent challenger to Microsoft Office/365 with the same level of loyalty but their chokehold on the enterprise is hard to break. I'm tempted to say Google tried but then again Google wasn't focused enough.

Apple won't be it until their hardware comes down to wintel price levels (hopefully never).

And on the fact that database apps were left out, I suspect in the past that it was seeng as a more techie/coder job to build and maintain a database and relegated to the IT department. This is an exciting space and we've been making more and more use of Airtable.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @pendolino )
5d

Google, in so many ways, helped jumpstart the SaaS industry by building Gmail and acquiring Writely then turning it into Google Docs. Those showed that real software could run in the browser, that you could have an advantage by building a web app since people could collaborate in it more easily than in desktop apps. Then, in many ways, they didn't advance on that advantage.

Apple, interestingly enough, has web apps for its iCloud apps, so it's actually possible to use it without an Apple device. But they, too, haven't focused much on the apps.

That's left the field open for new smaller apps—and perhaps that's great, because that's where you often see the most innovation.

1 point
optemization's avatar
@optemization (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

Why did you choose Deckset? I've used Canvas and Ludu, and briefly checked out Projector and kinda intrigued by Pitch.

Right now, my go-to for slides is Figma + Pitchdeck by Figmatic

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @optemization )
2 months ago

@optemization I’d first used Deckset years ago and just never really looked around for another option. The thing I like about it is that it’s Markdown powered. You write an outline in a Markdown writing app, separate each section with dashes, and then open the file in Deckset and it’s instantly turned into a presentation that looks reasonably good.

It’s basically a shortcut for making presentations, and since I already write everything in Markdown, it fits my workflow perfectly.

That said, I wouldn’t have thought of using Figma to make slides! That’s ingenious!

2 points
pendolino's avatar
@pendolino (replying to @maguay )
5d

Wow you guys have some great suggestions here. I don't really make many slides/presentations but for occasional use Deckset seems really cool! Surprised its been around for years. I think its useful for light users like myself who don't need much graphical flair but would still like something nicely laid out.

1 point
optemization's avatar
@optemization (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

If you wanna make em in Notion, try this

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @optemization )
2 months ago

Ohh that supports Markdown too! Will check it out. We should get a best modern presentation apps thread going!

1 point
MiguelOlivares's avatar
2 months ago

For me:

  • Miro: it is amazing how you could turn Miro into a space where you can throw anything and create complex canvases with a lot of integrations by changing the paradigm of "office suites".
  • Dropbox
  • Paper (Dropbox)
  • Google Sheets
  • Keynote
  • Gmail
  • Slack
3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @MiguelOlivares )
2 months ago

@MiguelOlivares This is a great list, love the idea of including Miro! That’d cover a lot of the hacky uses of PowerPoint to make flyers and such, and give a replacement for Publisher (which is another Windows Office app that both hasn’t been brought to the web and never was ported to the Mac).

1 point
optemization's avatar
2 months ago

I would love to use less apps!

My ideal stack:
* Notion for everything besides writing
* Obsidian for writing
* Slack for chat + video
* Figma for design/presentations
* Dropbox for file storage
* Stripe for billing/payments
* Mercury for banking
* Zapier for glue
* Toggle for time tracking

2 points
edmundamoye's avatar
@edmundamoye (replying to @optemization )
5d

I’m attracted to using obsidian cos of its local storage (speed and privacy) and format portability (markdown and visual). I think it competes well with roam’s offerings. Why do you like it?

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @optemization )
2 months ago

@optemization That’s a great suite—and great call on including finance tools. Do you have any accounting tools you’d include to manage the payments + banking?

1 point
optemization's avatar
@optemization (replying to @maguay )
2 months ago

I was considering doing it myself but then thought that paying Bench was worth it. Its like a human + SaaS platform.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @optemization )
2 months ago

That's super clever, pairing software with a real-human service—Service as Software, almost!

1 point
siddxxvii's avatar
2 months ago

Gsuite I really feel is a modern and complete suite for work. Its super clean, flexible and with certain add-ons you can really get some amazing features like third party apps (airtable, smartsheet etc)
Another tool I would add to modern suite is Zapier.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @siddxxvii )
2 months ago

@siddxxvii You’ve got a good point: Pair G Suite with Airtable for databases and Zapier for automation, and you’d have a pretty great modern office (especially with some of the smaller G Suite apps like Forms, Sites, and Data Studio in the mix).

What would you want Smartsheet for over Google Sheets?

1 point
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