Office 2007 â Not worth the excitement

Joshua Gans is very happy with Office 2007. I’m much less impressed and was sufficiently worked up to respond at length in his comments which are expanded here. I generally try to stay away from Microsoft Software, but it’s not that easy. I was an early fan of Macs when they arrived on the scene and of course until Windows 95 they were so superior it wasn’t funny.

I reluctantly migrated to Microsoft after having been forced to work with the horrible Windows 3.1 in Parliament House. On being infuriated by various features of Word for Windows I assumed they’d be much better in a Mac because of its architecture.

Then I checked out on a new Mac the features that irked me in Word for Windows â like the unintuitive way wizards are used to automate things rather than build them so that you can figure out how to do them in the first place. (For instance, whenever you had to back up some facility in a Mac program you could usually find some folder where all the data was and you could copy it and replace the same folder on another computer – eg dictionaries. And it usually worked.) It turned out most things like that were no longer done intuitively but were all the same as they were on Windows.

Bill G had built the program as it’s own stand alone environment so the main advantage on the Mac was the finder etc. Not a sufficiently big advantage against the mass of software development for Windows. So off I went into the Windows world.

Office 97 was a huge step forward and I used it till nearly the end of 2006 when the compatibility problems got too bad and I found Office 2003 on sale for $200 odd. It also came with an upgrade to 2007 so here I am.

I agree – up to a point – with most of the Joshua’s reasons for liking Office 2007. (Though I don’t find the documents loading faster even on a good new machine.) But I donât find the new layout enough of an improvement to justify learning all the new stuff. Joshua says the new commands are in more âintuitiveâ places on the new âribbonâ. Well starting from scratch they might be but of course most of us are not starting from scratch.

Where I used to find the old commands is where they intuitively’ should be (in my intuition – because I learned that that’s where they were!)

Microsoft go to all that trouble to build what I agree is very pleasant new software. If I were starting again it’s enough of an improvement (not great but significant) that I’d definitely want to do it on Office 2007 rather than 97 or 2003.

But then they go and spoil it all by not building a good inter-interface as it were – that is a good system for showing me (very quickly each time I need it) where the corresponding commands in the old one are in the new one. There are elaborate programs and spreadsheets to tell you. And I guess if you have an IT department, or colleagues sitting next to you, it all goes reasonably smoothly. On your own going through tutorials is a real drag, especially since they’re not very good and teach you stuff you either know already or don’t want or need to know.

What you need is a little system – whereby you can discover these things quickly each time you find the issue.

The only way I can imagine that being done is for you to go into some ‘learning’ mode where the program ‘looks like’ 2003 (or if you want to get fancy – earlier versions too) and then as you go to a command you right click on it and get told how to do the same thing in Office 2007.

For all I know there really IS such a feature – but the program hasn’t pointed it out to me, and I’m a ‘learning by doing’ guy. I’m not going to sit and read tutorials unless it’s absolutely necessary.

There are still oodles of things I don’t know how to fix. I’ve got an elaborate ‘accelerated typing system’ on my Autocorrect file in 2003 but I can’t seem to back it up into 2007. No doubt it’s doable, but MS help is so terrible I can’t figure it out. It’s always been terrible, despite the fact that MS build quite good software.

For instance I type ‘backup autocorrect’ into Word 2007 help and it doesn’t tell me how to back up Auto-correct or load all my settings from another computer. The first entry is how to use Auto-correct and the second is saving and recovering a back up copy of a document. There should be a button on the autocorrect facility for backups and so on – but for ten years there hasn’t been.

I still can’t find out how to schedule e-mail downloads in Outlook at times of my choosing, and don’t bother typing in “e-mail download” or “mail delivery”. It will tell you about the button you push to download your e-mail. Then it will tell you how to download something in powerpoint or some damn thing.

Having just seen in my struggles to reestablish computing normality that there are over 2,000 add-on utilities to Firefox I’m thinking that this kind of thing might be more doable via open source – so I might make another of my tentative forays into Open Office (something that I’m now given added incentive to do by the fact that they will be sharing an XML standard – or so I believe – with MS Office 2007).

In the process of posting this (the Word ‘publish to blog’ command failed, but I’m not blaming Microsoft for that – yet anyway) I came upon these words on the WordPress Dashboard.

One of the greatest things about WordPress has always been the amazing number of high-quality plugins available for the platform. I believe that there aren’t any more ‘killer features’ in software, there are 10,000 killer features and everyone has a different 20.

Amen to that.

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17 years ago

I have been using which is the old writely IIRC. Their tables suck, so it is only good for relatively simple documents, but I have been doing proposals in it as it has versioning and collaboration. The openoffice charting in the spreadsheets isn’t as good as Office97’s so even when posting charts/graphs to blogs I often have to dump OOo and use office.

Since and OOo are free it isn’t that big a deal to have three different application to get the desired end result. It is probably better that way anyway.

17 years ago

And on non-open source, I first used Lotus Notes ten years ago! I still do, with mixed feelings after a long period on Outlook.

17 years ago

I prefer AbiWord over Open Office – it’s smaller, faster, and better looking, though less powerful, to be sure.

I still think Excel is a great program – and miles ahead of its open source competitors, but Word is not Excel – it’s going to be under a lot of pressure in the next few years I think.

Nicholas – Thunderbird does have a calendar plugin, I use it all the time, it’s called Lightning (or Sunbird, if you want a stand alone calendar), you get get it here:

Personally, though I find my reliance on Gmail, and its fabulous integration with Google Calendar, Desktop, and Documents, growing daily…

17 years ago

If Microsoft’s implementation of the universal XML format is like the rest of their ‘universal’ formats, it will only be fully compatible with MS software.

When I first got my current Nokia mobile, I discovered that the MS ‘universal’ Bluetooth driver is not compatible with Nokia.

Same deal with SQL and HTML. MS insist on doing it their way, no doubt under the delusion that they are ensuring consumer loyalty. Probably they are just pissing them off.

derrida derider
derrida derider
17 years ago

Slim –
That almost-but-not-quite interoperability with standards is deliberate by MS. It’s party of their “embrace, extend and destroy” strategy. They start by supporting the standard, then add “helpful” extensions which only MS products can use. Eventually, given MS’ dominance, the proprietary extensions become a de facto part of the standards, locking people back into MS. They developed ODF to harm, not help, open source rivals.

“How many Microsoft employees does it take to change a lightbulb?
None – Microsoft just declares darkness the new standard.”

Lucky Alphonse
Lucky Alphonse
17 years ago

Evolution for WinXP is available here. However I found it buggy and was unable to import address books from either Thunderbird or Outlook Express.


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