Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on January 15th, 2022

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Word vs ScreenSteps: Which to Use to Write Policies and Procedures?

You were asked to create a procedure or a job aid. So, you go to the tool that you’re most familiar with: Word.

I get it. At this point in your life, it’s almost a reflex to type out information in Word. After all, you’ve been doing it since elementary school.

But, is that the best option for creating and managing your internal policies and procedures?

As the Director of Transformational Services at ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software company that helps companies document and share their resources — I’ve helped companies with their knowledge management strategies aimed to improve employee performance and decrease support questions.

Of course, your company might not need an advanced tool like a knowledge base to enable employees to accurately follow your policies and procedures.

In this article, I’m going to explain another option you could use for your internal policies and procedures and compare it to using Word.

This will help you decide if writing policies and procedures in Word is sufficient for your company (it might be) or if you need a different documenting system to support your employees.

What is Microsoft Word?

While you certainly know what Microsoft Word is, I think it’s a good idea to start with what Word was designed to do and NOT do.

Word is a word-processing application that allows you to create resources.

In the workplace, Word is used for a variety of purposes. Most commonly, Word is used for writing basic essays, letters, stories, business proposals, policies, procedures, etc. It can also be used to design brochures, posters, and other small design projects.

It’s the Jack of All Trades for creating documents.

Typically, companies purchase Microsoft Word as part of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. This suite of office applications includes seven applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Teams, Outlook, Exchange, OneDrive, and SharePoint.

What is ScreenSteps?

ScreenSteps is both a knowledge base software and a performance support tool that provides employees the resources they need at their fingertips.

A ScreenSteps knowledge base is used to create, store, and share policies and procedures throughout your company. That means content authors can write and share articles with end-users. Then employees can use their guides while they are on the job.

Unlike Word, ScreenSteps was not designed for creating essays, letters, business proposals, and resumes. It is designed for creating and managing procedural/how-to guides.

The knowledge base tools help reduce employee mistakes, questions, and onboarding time. It enables employees by providing a single source of truth in a centralized location where employees can turn for information.

How do Word and ScreenSteps features compare?

Should you use Word or ScreenSteps to document your company’s policies and procedures? That depends on your goals and which tools you need to achieve those goals.

In this section, I’ll compare the available features for Word and ScreenSteps. That way, you can take notes on which application fulfills your company’s documentation needs.

(Want a quicker way to compare? Jump to the comparison table here.)

Cost

Word

When bought alone, Microsoft Word is a one-time purchase of $159.99. However, that is typically used for personal use. Microsoft expects companies to sign up for the Microsft 365 for business plans, which is a cheaper option for more applications.

The Microsoft 365 for business plans start at $5/user per month. This plan includes Word. Most likely, your company already has a Microsoft 365 plan. So, it’s probably not costing you anything extra to use Word to write your policies and procedures.

ScreenSteps

You can get ​​ScreenSteps subscriptions for a monthly or annual rate. When you sign up for a year, you save up to 16% on your subscription.

There are three plans — Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise — available for ScreenSteps users. These plans are determined by the number of users. A Standard Plan includes up to 25 users. It starts at $2,500 per year or $239 per month.

Authoring

Word

Word is a straightforward authoring tool. You can type, indent, bold, highlight, insert tables, add images, insert links, create checklists, and more.

When you document policies and procedures with Microsoft Word, the world is your oyster when it comes to formatting. There is a lot of flexibility thanks to the wide variety of text sizes and font options.

Plus, there are collaboration tools that allow you to work with employees in other locations.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using Word. See the chart below for a quick rundown of the pros and cons of authoring policies and procedures in Word.

Word Pros

Word Cons

  • Familiarity with using the tool
  • A lot of formatting options and flexibility
    • Place images wherever you’d like
    • Change the text size and font to whatever you’d like
  • When working with others you can do track changes
  • Create templates
  • Flexibility can make it difficult to get consistency when a team of authors is creating content
  • Incorporating images can be time consuming
  • Interactivity options are limited (i.e. hyperlinks, jump links, etc.)
  • Autocorrect formatting can make it difficult to get the layout your want

ScreenSteps

ScreenSteps has a variety of content creation tools that allow you to quickly author and update articles in your knowledge base. These simple yet powerful tools help your team of content authors create consistent-looking articles that are easier for your end-users to follow.

ScreenSteps simplifies the authoring process by limiting formatting options. Beyond basic formatting, these tools include interactive elements. Some of these interactive authoring tools include an integrated screen capture with annotations, decision trees, foldable sections, and more.

Your team of authors can work together on writing an article and provide feedback to each other all within the platform.

For an overview of the pros and cons of using ScreenSteps to create your policies and procedures, see the chart below.

ScreenSteps Pros

ScreenSteps Cons

  • Simple authoring
  • Fewer options for formatting results in more consistent-looking articles
  • Built-in screen capture and annotation
  • Article templates
  • Interactive options:
    • Foldable sections
    • Decision trees
    • Pop-up links
    • Incorporate video and gifs
  • Limited formatting options
    • Cannot change the font size for each article
    • Cannot have images side-by-side with the text
    • Cannot change headings to be whatever style you’d like
    • Cannot change font type

Organization

Word

With Word, you save your documents in the application. You can organize documents into folders. However, unless you share these with team members, these files are not available to others. You will need a content management system.

ScreenSteps

With ScreenSteps, articles are saved to the online knowledge base, which is more like a website. That means your documents are stored on a cloud-based server. Articles are organized into categories and sub-categories.

Also, ScreenSteps has sidebar navigation to view other sections of the knowledge base, helping readers understand the organization of the content and giving it context.

Sharing

Word

In order to share Word documents, you need to send an email and attach the file. Alternatively, you can use a knowledge management system.

Often, companies that use Word will use SharePoint, which comes as part of the Microsoft 365 business package.

SharePoint is a document management system that organizes everything in a cloud drive. See how SharePoint and ScreenSteps compare in organizing documents in this article.

ScreenSteps

Once content authors document your processes in ScreenSteps, they can easily share them with specific user groups. They are automatically published and accessible for employees who are given viewing permissions.

If an employee asks a question about a policy or procedure, you can share the link to that specific help guide. The article opens on a web page.

End-user experience

Word

Simply put, Word documents require employees to open them to use them. While that sounds simple — and can be if everyone knows exactly where to find the file they need — the overall process can be slow and frustrating.

It is especially frustrating if they open the wrong one at first and have to keep trying other documents.

To compensate, some authors combine all of their policies and procedures into one Word file. The downside is that it is difficult for employees and readers to find the procedure they need. Even if your policies and procedures are separated into different documents, it can be difficult for them to find the right folder that holds the procedure they need.

Another challenge for employees is they have to click the file to open it. Often, that involves downloading the file from an email to the computer. Then, when you update the guide, the end-user has an outdated Word file on their desktop and may not have the latest and greatest file.

While links help connect your end-users to what they need, the links open up other files and applications that crowd their desktops.

ScreenSteps

ScreenSteps is similar to using a website. Your end-users click a link and view a webpage.

The interactive elements — foldable sections, pop-up links, inline videos, interactive decision trees — provide each employee just the right amount of information without overwhelming them. Plus, it provides step-by-step instructions (both written and visual) to tell and show an employee what to do.

The ScreenSteps Chrome extension allows users to have directions off to the side of the webpage they are working on. That way, they don’t need to toggle back and forth between multiple tags or need multiple monitors to handle the applications they have open.

Since it’s web-based, end-users are always viewing the most current version.

Search

Word

Articles in Word are indexed according to titles. That means, when your employees search for a document, they need to use the exact words/phrases you chose for the title in order to find the procedure they need.

Searching for resources often means opening folders and scanning over file titles until end-users can find the one they are looking for.

If you use SharePoint as your content management system, it also only indexes according to document titles.

ScreenSteps

ScreenSteps is a cloud-based knowledge base. As such, it has a robust indexing system so that your end-users can find what they need via search. Like Word, the titles of your articles are indexed. In addition, ScreenSteps also indexes all the content in an article.

That means, when your employees use keywords to search for a policy or procedure, the search system scrapes everything in your articles to provide your employees with the best matches.

Plus, you can add additional search terms to job aids to improve the likelihood of them being located by employees who need them. You can create search contexts and apply search filters to reveal the most relevant procedures and job aids.

Individual users can use the Bookmarks feature to store specific articles they need quick access to or use frequently.

Collaboration and feedback

Word

With Word, collaborating with teammates and receiving feedback means sending files back and forth.

People attach the Word document to their email. Their co-worker downloads the file, saves a new version of the document, adds comments and feedbacks, then sends it back to the article author.

Alternatively, you can chat messages to ask questions and provide feedback.

You can collaborate in real-time on a document if you have Microsoft 365 for business. To do this requires uploading the Word files to OneDrive. Then you invite team members to participate in writing, editing, and providing feedback.

ScreenSteps

For ScreenSteps, collaboration and feedback are provided within the article. Content authors are granted permission to work on specific articles. They can leave comments as they edit their fellow content author’s article.

Then, there are two primary ways for end-users to provide feedback: Comments and Revision Notes.

With Comments, it is one-way communication. End-users can send clarifying questions to article authors. Then the content authors can update articles to make them easier to follow.

Revision Notes provide a way for the end-user and article author to have a conversation on the article. End-users can leave a note on a specific section of an article. The content author is notified. When the content author fixes the issue, the author can write the end-user a message.

Viewing reports

Word

With Word, you have written guides that your employees can use, but you don’t know when or how they are using them.

You have no visibility into whether people are looking at the procedures. Nor do you have visibility into what people are searching for in the shared folders. That’s because there is no user tracking and documents can be saved in different locations (i.e. desktops, drives, etc.).

ScreenSteps

ScreenSteps offers viewing reports to provide insights on how end-users are using your policies and procedures.

Viewing Reports allow you to see which employees are viewing content and how often they view it. Then Search Reports show what employees are typing into the search field so you know what they are looking for.

Certification or updating articles

Your policies and procedures are constantly changing. Sometimes those changes are as simple as updating the date. Other times, those changes are more complex. Either way, it’s important to set up regular times to review your policies and procedures to ensure they are still accurate.

Word

Word doesn’t have a build-in content certification reminder. However, you can set a reminder in a separate calendar application to review specific procedures on certain dates.

Once you’ve updated an article, track the updates by adding the date to the top of your policies and procedures.

ScreenSteps

With ScreenSteps, you can set a time to review each procedure within the article. ScreenSteps alerts you when it is time to review a procedure or when it is past due. Your logs are automatically updated with a tie stamp after your final approval.

Plus, you can revert to old versions of your guides.

Communicating changes to policies and procedures

With article updates, you will want to let your end-users know when you make changes to your policies and procedures. Here’s how that works if you use Word or ScreenSteps.

Word

For Word, you will need to send an email or message to let employees know that something has been updated. If you don’t have a knowledge management system, then you will need to attach your updated document and instruct everyone to download the latest version.

ScreenSteps

As you finish updates in ScreenSteps, you can send an email from the system to alert everyone that an article has been updated. These are called Notifications. You can require that employees acknowledge that they have seen the change/update.

Administrators can see who has acknowledged the notification announcing the change and who has not.

Comparison table: Microsoft Word vs. ScreenSteps

Feature

Microsoft Word

ScreenSteps

Cost

  • Monthly and annual subscriptions 
  • Three plans — Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise
  • A Standard Plan starts at $2,500 per year ($239 per month) and includes up to 25 users

Authoring

  • Straightforward authoring tool (i.e. indent, bold, highlight, insert tables, add images, insert links, create checklists, and more)
  • Flexible design options
  • Collaboration tool with Microsoft365 for business
  • Basic formatting tools
  • Interactive authoring tools (i.e. integrated screen capture with annotations, decision trees, foldable sections, and more)
  • Collaboration tools

Organization

  • Save your documents in the application
  • Organize documents into folders
  • Documents are stored on a cloud-based server
  • Articles are organized into categories and sub-categories
  • Sidebar navigation

Sharing

  • Send files as an attachment in an email
  • Use knowledge management system
  • Often, companies pair Word with SharePoint
  • Share with specific user groups using viewing permissions
  • Share the link to that specific help guide to answer end-user questions

End-user experience

  • Open files separately
  • Download files to the computer desktop
  • Click a link and view guides on a webpage
  • Interactive elements — foldable sections, pop-up links, inline videos, interactive decision trees
  • Accessible articles with the ScreenSteps Chrome extension 

Search

  • Indexes according to titles
  • Indexes both article title and content in the article
  • Add additional keyword search terms to job aids
  • Create search contexts and apply search filters
  • Bookmark specific articles

Collaboration & feedback

  • Comments for end-users to ask clarifying questions
  • Revision Notes to collaborate with the content author and end-user

Viewing reports

  • No visibility into usage

Certification

  • None
  • Need to set a reminder in a separate calendar application
  • Set a reminder to review each procedure within the article

Communicating changes

  • Send an email or message or chat message
  • Send Notifications in ScreenSteps
  • Have employees acknowledge the changes by clicking “acknowledge”

Which one should you use to document procedures?

Both Microsoft Word and ScreenSteps have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to documenting your policies and procedures. Depending on your company’s needs, either of these applications could be a good fit for your company.

Here is a quick overview of the circumstances when you should use each.

When to use Word

Use Word when you don’t have a lot of policies or procedures to document. Typically, that means you only have about 10 procedures that employees use. Often, that means you are a smaller company but you want to capture your knowledge in procedures.

If employees basically know what they’re doing and there isn’t any urgency to figure out those things that they don’t know, then Word’s capabilities would be sufficient for your company.

Word may also be a good option for you if you need a lot of flexibility in formatting.

Also, if your company already uses Microsoft 365 for business, Word would be a cost-efficient option for your company. You wouldn’t need to add anything to your budget. This, of course, is only the best course if Word has all the capabilities and tools you need to write and manage your company’s policies and procedures.

When to use ScreenSteps

Use ScreenSteps if you have a robust collection of policies and procedures. If you have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of procedures, you’ll not only need a way to write your guides, but you’ll also need a way to store and share your documents. ScreenSteps can help you do that.

If there is urgency in finding the right procedure (e.g. customer-facing employees such as support or a contact center), you’ll need ScreenSteps in-depth search engine. ScreenSteps tools make it fast and easy for employees to find the guide they need in as little as two clicks.

Additionally, use ScreenSteps if you need clarity into how employees are using your materials. If you need to improve performance scores and want your employees to use your guides to help them perform better, you need insight into how they are using your guides.

If you are making changes to content regularly, you need documenting software as agile as you are. ScreenSteps helps you stay on top of your updates as well as communicate changes to your team.

Looking for an agile way to manage your policies and procedures?

There are many different software platforms available to help you write and manage your policies and procedures. From authoring tools to employee support tools and beyond, the important thing is what you want to achieve in your business with these tools.

With a ScreenSteps knowledge base, you have an all-in-one tool. You can quickly and clearly write articles that are easy for employees to pull up and follow while in the workflow. Then you can manage your usage and help your employees improve their performance.

See how the ScreenSteps authoring tools work and if they can help your company reach your documenting goals. Schedule a demo with a ScreenSteps rep today.

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About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success