Opinion: Windows Vista? I think I'll stick. By Alan Wright

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There was a time, about 12 years ago, when I used to find new software exciting and would look forward to installing new operating systems or applications. I have since got a life, and a wife who expects me to provide 24/7 technical support in the mistaken belief that because I write software for a living I enjoy installing software and configuring new bits of hardware on recalcitrant operating systems. How wrong she is.

Our organisation will be steering well clear of both Office 2007 and Windows Vista because neither will add any value to our business. I am not the least interested in the fact that someone in Redmond thinks that the Ribbon is this season's must-have fashion statement for the user interface. My copy of Word has only just stopped capitalising the e in E.g. - I don't know w...

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29th Jan 2007 18:10

Reliability: "consistently good in quality or performance; able
I'm sure Office 12 is more productive. Just one fewer crash or document that just decided to die for no good reason would increase my productivity no end. It is a mystery of biblical proportions in how Microsoft Office came to dominate the marketplace with such a, quite frankly, flaky product.

The reason we're not bothered about Office 12 is that the previous 11 versions were so underwhelming. Shall we list a few things...

* Embedding objects is can be a slow and fraught process.
* Big and complex documents - often have to be chopped smaller documents
* Inconsistencies in shortcuts - VR, VL for the ruler in different applications. Small, but irritating.
* Random crashes
* Macros. Reliability in VBA is somewhat lacking.
* Truly awful templates. I'd rather stick with "less is more" - where's the decent *business* templates without pictures of cars/trains/boats/clouds? I do hope that Office 12 has some new PowerPoint templates - it looks like the last update was with Office 3 - and I'm being deadly serious here.
* Formatting; setting out a page that uses columns, styles, embedded pictures and the like is just pushing things too far. Go to the end of a paragraph and delete a character and baff! The formatting's hosed.

Anyway, all of those were mere irritants against these...

* Viruses, bugs, trojans, updates, worms.... can you see what it is yet? Are any other words missing from this list? All of these brought to us by different versions of Office.

* File formats. I hear that we're in for a period of file format differences *again*. Just like Office 95 to 97. Oh, deep joy. Still, it doesn't matter; all we have to do is install the new file converter. So 'we' get the grief of updating the end-user's machines. Ah, but the converters aren't going to be available on the Mac until later in the year. Cheers.

* Updating from one Office version to another. By far the most successful way is a format and reinstall of the entire operating system. It costs hundreds or thousands of hours to create a standard build and ensure all the mission critical applications run on it. This will be the reason Office 12 (2007) won't be installed in major companies for several years yet.

* (my personal bete noire) Werd HTML is the most vomit ridden piece of rubbish that has ever, and I mean ever, been created. If a web developer even attempted to create stuff like that I would sack them. Twice. I won't bore you with the sordid details, but lets leave it as there's a whole industry of people out there who write code to remove the rubbish. For goodness sake, DreamWeaver even sells this as a feature.

Oh, why the vitriol? I've suffered enough. I've used Windows and Office for 15 or more years and, quite frankly, I'm ready for a divorce.

With the problems and quality inherent in the previous 11 versions of Microsoft Office, why on earth should we upgrade to version 12? Oh yes, the ribbon. Hmm.

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By axw001
29th Jan 2007 14:58

Hello Microsoft...

Reminds me of the time as a child I put a stick in a wasps nest!

I am sure you are proud of what you have done at microsoft, and doubtless this version of Office is easier for a novice to pick up than earlier versions.

To be honest I am just bored of dealing with new interfaces to old functionality and seek to assure my prosperity by being innovative in ways other than playing with the knobs of Microsoft Office.

By the way - as you mentioned the importance of context, and this is a forum inhabited largely by accountants, what happened to the much vaunted MS Small Business Accounting application that was supposed to have been shipping with Office?


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By Anonymous
29th Jan 2007 16:23

Accounts package - why bother to deliver .....
When all M$ really has do is make claims they fail to deliver upon or have no intention of fulfiling.

After all it is surely all about 'spoiling' other peoples markets by blighting a sector with the promise of M$ delivery that is the critical factor.

The fact that M$ fail to deliver in the long run is really immaterial because the damage to other suppliers has already been done

This is all about inappropriate use of power & market share to drive other competition out of business; tactics M$ have been renown for adopting in the past

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By Anonymous
29th Jan 2007 11:56

And when it goes wrong ....
Word on the street is that it was named Vista because when it goes wrong .....

Hasta la Vista, baby

You can 'kiss goodby' to everything

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27th Jan 2007 11:12

Ribbon vs. productivity?
I've no doubt the 'ribbon' makes things easier for some people. Results oriented operations, good.

And I'm sure it'll be prettier.

But let's get back to basics here. None of this is going to help me write this comment. Of course I'm not using Word to write it. Actually, it wouldn't make any difference if I were using the gold-plated prada ribbon skin; it's content, content, content that counts.

We all want to be more productive. And avoiding two clicks for one is really going to change things. Ah, but the point is that people didn't know these features were there (lets trot out the old jibe about 90% of people use 10% of Word's features), and the Ribbon, et al, will make this easier.

Well no actually. You see most people don't do the wonderful formatting of documents because of a whole raft of reasons, none of which will be affected by The Ribbon(tm)...
* can't be bothered
* it's not necessary
* it looks like a dog's dinner as you need artistic training
* it takes too much time - just change the font...
* they're not interested - or have a life?
* and, oh, Word's crashed again. Once bitten, etc.

Lets put it this way; just imagine I'm writing a typical report on say, a customer visit. Just what will it add to my credibility if I produce the most wonderfully formatted document there's ever been. So everyone who reads it say "what a great looking document".

That may be true in some cultures and countries where looks matter - form over substance. Not in any companies I've worked in where I'm more likely to be accused of time wasting by playing with Word rather than actually doing the work I'm paid to do.

Sure, there's cases where a properly formatted document is essential. Maybe that's where we should be using publishing programs like Quark Express and not word processors like Word. Lets face it, the previous 11 versions of Word were pretty unreliable in this area; what's the chances of the next version working any better?

Working in the office isn't a video game. Microsoft may be "really excited", but just ask people in a non-IT office what they think of the new features. The words "toss", "give" and "couldn't" will probably be mentioned.

By the way, what's the "Easter Egg" in the latest version of Word? Is it a full function immersive networked envioroment? Or do the Office developers actually concentrate on work now?

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25th Jan 2007 17:19

a Vista user perspective
Since Christmas I have a new laptop (2GB RAM) with Vista and the new generation of Office - it is great!

I am not a developer so am purely speaking from the perspective of a keen user, who runs his business life almost entirely in a paperless form. The look and feel are really good - honestly...

In Word and Excel I like to "ribbon" concept rather than the old drop down menu, it is certainly not important as such, but it is easier and more pleasing to the eye. I am producing documents and spreadsheets that look smarter, no question.

Outlook is also better in a few ways. One is the integration with OneNote which is terrific - you have to try it to understand I think, but it does mean that I am starting to work in a different way and not use folders so much which in my paperless life has made things better. One downside of the new Outlook is that the calendar does not have the traditional weekly format of a conventional diary.

One area where the operating system is better in connecting to wi-fi. I really like the new style and user interface of connecting to a variety of wi-fi stations at different locations. It makes the process much clearer and easily understood. I was able to do it before but it certainly takes the technical bit away...

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25th Jan 2007 17:40

Someone wake me up in three years...
To be quite frank I'm bored stiff with listening to Microsoft. I've been in the IT industry writing software (Microsoft software I may add), consulting and teaching since the 70's, so I've been around the block quite a few times.

So, Vista's better. I should damn well think so. That's not news.

But, before we look forwards, lets look backwards at Microsoft's previous record.

They've come a long way since DOS in the early nineties. Just think, 17 years ago there was no internet and no Windows. But it's been a slow and evolutionary process to get where we are.

Skipping a version is good for the business. Mind you, there are some versions that are more important than others - I would never would have recommended skipping Windows 2000.

Office has never had a 'must have' version. They're all, well, lets say lacking in some way or other.

Somehow I just can't see that Vister and Office 12 are anything other than a whole load of noise from people paid to make a whole load of noise. "We're truly excited", "it's better", "it's easier" .... yarda yarda yarda, You said it all before. We fell for it then, but we're now learning to ignore you.

Now go away and let me get on with running my business. Amazingly I can do without all the grief of an upgrade. Come back in 4 years when you've the next 'great' thing to peddle. Or maybe in two or three years if I feel like an upgrade.

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26th Jan 2007 09:13

to be honest
I thought the whole point of Vista was to plug the security holes in XP. There was a lot of hot air about desktop search, but I thought they had had to scrap that? Can't get excited about Office 2007 - there does not appear to be anything new in it.

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26th Jan 2007 09:54

Another problem with Windows Vista...

...one that Bill Gates didn't remember from the last major overhaul.

I do tax returns for multi-year filers. Whatever operating system I have has to work with programmes that are up to ten years old. The last time we had a major new Windows operating system, we had to keep a number of computers running the old operating system so that we could access these older programmes. It's a pain in the neck to shuffle back-and-forth between machines.

I'll be keeping Windows XP until the tax programme upgrades are no longer compatible with it. At that point, hopefully we won't need to access the far back years any more.

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By bseddon
25th Jan 2007 17:03

Windows XP, when does it go Ex Support?
Microsoft has just announced that support for XP is being extended to 2014. See this article:


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By bseddon
25th Jan 2007 15:00

Maybe I'll twist
Until last week I couldn't see the point in Vista. To developers when you look at Vista under the skin it really doesn't look much different to Windows XP. The version number has changed from 5.1 to 6.0 but it's not clear that there is much of a functional change.

Where the change is clearly apparent is in the new user interface. It's all glassy and pretty. CPU for CPU its also a lot slower. So is Vista really just a new UI? Until last week I thought so.

Last Friday was the developer launch of Windows Vista at Microsoft's place in the research triangle. I recommend launching the following link which takes you to the keynote address given at this event.


Skip over the main presentation and find the first slide with a London Undergorund icon on it. You just scroll through the list of slides then click on the one you want.

This is a really good presentation by a bunch of guy trying to use technology to improve the way a business is run and that demonstrates what Vista is about. I don't know if they will succeed at LU but it did spark my imagination.

When you've watched the London Underground presentation *then* go back and listen to the Microsoft words it you've time. In summary it's about visualization. The whole purpose of Vista (and Office 2007 come to that) is about improving the way we visualize stuff.

The main bit of Vista, then, is the new Windows Presentation Engine (WPE) which makes it possible for developers and designers to deliver new types of application. In a nutshell what the WPE does is remove form the developer the burden of the having to animate the screen pixel-by-pixel. Instead things seen by users are described as shapes (circles, squares and other polygons) and coordinates in much the same way that web pages are written. Of course this new way of creating user interfaces is more CPU intensive which causes Vista to require better CPUs.

Its a bit of a trade secret that the WPE works just as well on Windows XP as it does on Vista. But of course the WPE running on XP has the same overhead so in the future whether you want great graphics on Vista or great graphics on XP you will need a bigger CPU.

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24th Jan 2007 16:56

Forrester Research predicts slow Office 2007 uptake
Business migration to Office 2007 is likely to be a slow process, with most enterprises waiting three to five years to make the switch. Part of the reason is the new UI. Paul Thurrott, writing in WindowsIT Pro quotes a prediction from Forrester Research that because Office 2007 is such a radical shift, it will need 2-3 hours of training for individual users, followed by a two to four week period of decreased efficiency while they get used to using the new UI for work.

While inexperienced users may benefit from the more intuitive ribbon interface, very experienced Office users will need to relearn some skills, the writer concluded.

Coincidentally, Microsoft is due to release a quarterly earnings statement on Thursday 25 Jan, which analysts are predicting will show a downturn in Windows revenues due to the delays in shipping Vista by the end of 2006. Conversations with Microsoft executives indicate that the company is serious about the usual claim that this is "the most important Windows launch ever".

I think there is some truth in that... by raising the stakes in training and implementing the new Office apps and Vista, Microsoft may be encouraging users to ponder the alternatives. Of course, I'm not the first one to suggest that idea on AccountingWEB, but it's proving to be a fascinating spectator sport.

In the meantime, Dennis, I'll continue to tend to my flock in ExcelZone. Excel is still the most popular application used in accountancy and the demand for information and spreadsheet education is unrelenting. We'll continue to provide it, but that won't stop us looking at alternatives - and we're very interested to see what you're cooking up.

John Stokdyk
Technology editor

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24th Jan 2007 03:45

And so....
I'm with Alan but then I'm a Mac fanboy and saas lush.

This opens up other interesting avenues of discussion. For instance, what John's suggesting [see comments to Alan's post about Excel Services] can now be done within a content management system that's offered as a low cost SaaS proposition because it includes integration to online spreadsheets that are highly capable for most professional scenarios. In those scenarios where the spreadsheet is being (mistakenly) used for complex reporting, then why would you necessarily share that with hordes of people? If you are then surely you'd want to be directly integrated to your internal network. More cost when run using M$ technology.

Very soon, the system I'm thinking about will be free for up to 10 users. It uses the .NET framework so SQL integration should be snap. What John doesn't mention is that much of what M$ is trying to get users to buy is both Excel $ervices and $harepoint $erver.

In my scenario, neither are required. I hate to say it but I'd suggest ExcelZone spends less time worrying about Office 2007 and instead thinks more about how value is going to be found by hard pressed practitioners in 2007. It ain't going to be in Office 2007 or for that matter in existing spreadsheets.

I'll leave you folks to work out the rest while I continue to see whether the system I'm thinking about continues to scale up without hitch. i'll let you know how we do. Sometime around 15th February.

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22nd Jan 2007 15:58

CEO Diary commentators going that way too
While Alan was setting down his thoughts, the writer of AccountingWEB's CEO's Diary was also pondering whether, with new PC purchases in the offing, he should go the Windows Vista route.

Five out of six of those who commented are with Alan, and recommended not going for the change just yet. The other person suggested taking a look at OpenOffice instead. Peter Ibbotson, who has already been running the beta version Windows Vista, warned of "backwards compatibility hell" while developers got their heads around some of the new user security features.

It's difficult to argue against the tide, but towards the end of last week, the CEO and Newc were beginning to think in terms of publishing customer performance data on the web for them to check on the status of their systems. Some of my recent work in ExcelZone has highlighted the potential for tools in Excel 2007 to connect to SQL Server databases and the SharePoint Server web portal tool. If this stuff is interesting to you, going for a PC bundled with Vista and Office 2007 will broaden the tools available for a very low initial cost.

The development, roll out, training and maintenance of these groovy new systems is a completely differnent kettle of fish, which the CEO and his team will need to consider in more depth.

For more coverage of the Excel 2007 debate, see: Excel 2007 Preview: Is the upgrade worth it?.

We look forward to hearing more about this debate.

John Stokdyk
Technology editor

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02nd Feb 2007 18:07

Old / legacy systems on VM - fao Liz Zitzow
Liz, have a look at VMWare - you can create images of a system running an old OS (and old Office(s)) and then save them away on disk, to load up under your current system and access all that historical data when the need comes.

So, no need to keep those old systems humming away, just set them up once and then save them to DVD. You can clone them as required and make tweaks for custom requirements, then save those away too.

A year-old article here http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=2060

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05th Feb 2007 14:57

Standard builds - you twist and turn if you want to...
The only way you can make a standard build in a few minutes - or even a few hours - is if you have the demo version which runs is Demo World. With this, everything works perfectly.

In the world that IT people populate, we have to work with lots of different software. Microsoft is actually a small part of most companies budgets; the vast majority going to people like Sage, SAP, Peoplesoft, Oracle, assorted management information systems, etc.

And one mustn't forget the hundreds of bespoke and other applications that companies run on. All of these would have been built over many years. It is these applications that need to work in the standard build.

So, in Demo World - where Microsoft salesmen and many managers live - they just wave their magic wands and everything works. In ten minutes.

In the nasty real world , where IT people fight their daily battles, you have to create a standard build platform which has to work with a variety of different software - not all of it installed at the same time. This platform has to be able to withstand software being installed and de-installed. All without breaking and requiring a re-install.

This means that robust installation scripts have to be created, everything tested, then it needs to be tested again. So, along comes Vista. Wow, just look how shiny it is and all that wonderful security protection. But, will all the installation scripts work? Will all the permissions be set correctly? How many application scripts will need to be built? Ten minutes to test that lot? I think a budget of three months for a skilled contractor would be a good starting point. Just ask an IT person what's involved - how about asking the internal Microsoft people for a start; I'll wager they've been planning and building Microsoft's internal Vista rollout for months.

Why Tonto, just click your heels three times and you'll be back in Kansas.

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05th Feb 2007 15:43

Mixedup dog
"Tonto" ?

Aren't you confusing your Lone Ranger with your Wizard of Oz ?

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05th Feb 2007 16:51

I said sit Toto...

Little wonder the cowboys and Indians were always fighting each other!

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06th Feb 2007 00:47

Word and Haich Tee Em Hell...
To finish off the point about Word's so called "html"...

Someone sent me a Word document which needed to be published on website. So I opened the document and chose the "save as 'filtered' web page" option. I struggled to get the document to format according to the site's in-house style.

So, in I went. Opened the document with DreamWeaver (the Web design platform of professionals - no serious people use FrontPage). First things first, run the "Clean Up Word HTML" option (i.e. Macromedia have developed code just for this). That made things a little better, but nowhere near right.

OK, get a strong cup of coffee and do it by hand and what do I find....

* Invalid stylesheet code (CSS). Lots of invalid code - I'll save you from the details, but just imagine Dell Boy's annual accounts and you'll get the drift.

* Bloated HTML. Struth, the developers must have had a real wild party the night before they scribbled this code! For example a simple bullet (that's <li>bang</li>) which is replaced with over 100 characters of nonsense - and the bullet's removed, so the document's both large and not accessible.

It's total pants. And has been ever since Word 97 (that's 4 or 5 versions ago) - incredibly the Word 95 add-in was the only one to create half decent HTML.

Removing this guff requires a lot of effort. How do I know this? Because I've *had* to write a program to strip out this bloat to make websites both conform to the corporate style and be accessible.

As the old adage goes: how many Microsoft people does it take to change a light bulb?

None, they just re-define darkness as the standard.

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