Office 2007 – great answer, wrong question? By Simon Hurst

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Given the time spent in most organisations working with the main office software applications particularly word processing and spreadsheets it's important that such software helps users work as efficiently as possible. With the overwhelming dominance of Microsoft Office in this area, a new version of Office entails a heavy burden of responsibility.

The discussion as to whether Microsoft has got it right with Office 2007 is well underway. Whilst there are many important developments in the functionality and underlying structure of the Office suite, perhaps the most important change, and the change on which the success of Office 2007 is likely to be judged, is the new user interface. It seems to me that there are two fundamental issues with the radically revised Office 2007 interface. First...

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By Anonymous
03rd Nov 2006 12:14

We are here to serve you? (one of the three lies)
Simon Hurst and Ceri Jones are spot on - I've been using Office since it was first released - every time a new version appears I have to change my working practices to accomodate the fact that my preferred way of working is no longer available - this is time-wasting and frustrating - particularly when Microsoft's motto used to be along the lines of "we let you work the way you want to" - I used to love the (customisable) pop-up toolbar in Office 2000 making exactly the sort of task based toolbar Simon Hurst talks about.
Is a possible solution to have different approaches to a "Home" edition and the "Business" editions
Ever since larger memory has been available most of the increase is taken up by Microsoft's ever more demanding Office suite - why can't they leave the queries and knowledge of capabilities on their excellent Office Online site - not slow down and stuff my computer with little used resources. (you may have gathered I'm not a fan of Microsoft's policies - but I do use their programs - not a lot of choice!)

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03rd Nov 2006 12:50

Tool Bars etc
The key questions about the new Ribbons / Toolbars etc is not so much what they look like but is two fold:-
1) Will those of us who have been building spreadsheets since the days when 123 was a teenager not have too much difficulty in adapting both our brains to the new way of working and more important using and probably updating existing worksheets?
Preferably can we just use old workbooks without any change on the basis "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?
2) Many of the worksheets I prepare are for use by people who just have to "fill in the blanks" - I do not want them to have any but basic functionality, neither do they want it - can all this super new functionality be switched off?
Microsoft with all their new gismos seem not to realise that most of us use thier products to get a job done - not to produce works of art. Sorry no wavy lines round this reply!

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02nd Nov 2006 15:53

Right Question - good answer

The ribbon, the ease of using power features and the accessibility of them (like the greatly improved and much easier to use cross tab reporting) show a big improvement and indicates to me at least that they have asked the right questions and come up with a good answer.
The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT of course) is v. easy to use.

All in all a very good product - we'll see what the final final release is like, but full marks so far.

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By bseddon
03rd Nov 2006 15:50

Sometimes it helps to see an expert use a tool
Like other commenters my initial reaction to Office 2007 has not been positive as I struggled even to find out how to access VBA. Some cosmetic enhancements, right? However I do have to check myself because I thought the same of the change of UI from Windows to Windows 95 and from Windows 95 to Windows XP. Maybe its innate that we don't like change and presume that it is bad. On the otherhand, as soon as I got comfortable with Windows 95, old Windows looked as awful as it really was so I wonder if I'm experiencing the same cold dread of change now and that, in fact, in a year from now I'll look back at earlier Office versions with a similar disdain.

So I found a video clip in which one of the more senior members of the Excel 12 team presents some of new features including ribbon based ones. In an experts hands (me next year) they look pretty good. Here's a link to the clip. It's long, it's pace is pretty slow and I'm sure like me you will wish the guy interviewing would shut up. I watched it in Windows Media Player and in the end I found it better to watch the interview at full fast-forward speed and slow down at an interesting point (like being able to create formulas in a new way).

Bill Seddon

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By cerij
02nd Nov 2006 12:56

Steep Learning Curve
Any organisation planning to deploy Office 2007 will need to prepare for the steep learning curve. Even experienced Office users will take a while to learn the new way of accessing features. Whilst I like the look and feel of the ribbon, I don't think it's always grouped in a logical way.

I also find myself reverting back to the "old style" dialogue boxes too often. The ribbon makes it easier to achieve simple tasks - but in doing so makes it slightly more difficult to achieve more complex tasks.

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07th Nov 2006 02:41

There's more
It's fascinating that so many readers are making suggestions but don't seem to know there's a heck of a lot resource around this topic. Bill pointed to some - here are 87 others:

The maybe good news is that this will likely be the last major change for a while.

The bad news is that you still need to upgrade - probably machine AND software, fork over cash and then learn about the product

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