These days, people all over the world are familiar with the products of Microsoft Office. Letters are typed in Word, emails sent in Outlook and worksheets created in Excel with such frequency that it is all taken for granted. But the arrival of Office revolutionised the way in which we work to the extent that people employed in the more traditional business supply and service industries had cause to fear for their futures, while those who care about ecological issues gave it the thumbs-up.

When the word-processor arrived, banishing the mechanical typewriter to the condemned cell on the way, its impact was enormous. The advantages of this new-fangled electronic typing were so great that panic broke out among manufacturers of typing ribbon and correction fluid. The Green lobby was pleased with the advent of e-typing, as on-screen editing and corrections meant that tons of paper would be saved each year. Switching from a manual typewriter to a word-processor wasn't too difficult either, as many of the basic functions are pretty much the same (although not everyone got the hang of it easily, there is the oft-told tale of an employee being fired for painting correction fluid onto the computer screen). The word-processor brought us powerful new functions such as Find & Replace, where, for example, if you realise that you have misspelled a word throughout a document, you can correct every instance of it with only one action. If you wanted to make such changes on an old manual typewriter Find & Replace meant that you had to find a new sheet of paper, replace the one in the machine, and start again.

The arrival of email and Microsoft Outlook also revolutionised the way in which business functions. Instead of relying on hand delivered communications, messages could be sent with all manner of attachments in the blinking of an eye. The back and forth of documents via email meant that, where in the past such communication would have taken days and cost money in postage, it was now possible to conduct the entire communication in a single day and at no expense. The biggest loser here was the Royal Mail, who saw their daily workload slashed as workers across the land stepped up to Outlook, and email became king. When you consider that there are some 2.8 million emails sent per second worldwide (although a great number of these are spam and viruses), it is possible to see the extent to which email now dominates business communications. And Outlook, with its abundance of useful functions and user-friendly interface has played a big part in making email as popular as it is. And again the green lobby was happy as electronic communications saved tons of paper that would have been used for traditional mail.

On a lesser scale, Excel may have had an impact on manufacturers of ledgers, and the advent of PowerPoint probably led to a reduction in orders for overhead projectors. The march of progress cannot be stemmed and just as blacksmiths and wheelwrights have all but disappeared from the working landscape, other professions will follow as the need for their services diminishes with the advent of new forms of technology. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that Microsoft Office will be here for some time to come and so it is worth becoming acquainted with all it has to offer.