Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why Office 2007

An HP LaserJet 4200 dtns printerImage via Wikipedia
Office 2007 is the current edition of Office. It was designed by I guess, the younger generation in Microsoft and for us in the industry, it's an attempt to end the "oh, there's no need to buy new Office edition / train / learn / whatever" that we have been experiencing since Office 97. The user interface in substantially different and "Office Classic Menus" are not an option except for third party tack ons.


Design goals and approaches

  • Change from the classic menus - casual people and newbies repeatedly found them difficult to remember and navigate, they kept getting extend and new items were stuck on without consistency, major features were not in-your-face. Microsoft hired new generation Useability Experts like Jensen Harris and only a Useability Expert could have dreamt up the Office Button, The Ribbon, and the Quick Access Toolbar - for good or bad.
  • Encourage the next generation of document looks when printed out and displayed. We have been using Arial and Times New Roman now since Windows 3, which is pre 1995 when home laser printers were 300 dpi and cost AUD 1000. Now is 2008, we have home colour laser printers costing AUD 300, 22 inch LCD screens. And still we are using Arial and Times New Roman. For two reasons - looks as well are readability for the baby boomer generation, Microsoft hired Typographers and they have given us new fonts - Calibri, Cambria (my favourite) to take advantage of the quality and technology in display and print devices of 2008
  • Allow corporates and businesses to produce a consistent look to their documents, whether from Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Access. Except that as of right now, the corporates are selectively blind and obstinate. They have taken these years to establish their hop-skip and jump look using their in house IT experts and HOD (Heads of Department). They haven't seen any snowballing in the market to good looking documents, changing their look involves re-templating all their documents, in short, they're not keen on the expense of a better look and more readable documents. Microsoft in their existing documentation supplied with the product or online has not made it easy for these corporate IT staff and freelancers to gain traction on adopting Themes and updating Styles that are heavily featured in Word, Powerpoint, Excel. It looks like it is up to independents to explain and for enlightened to find the documentation.
  • An embracing of the next generation solution to putting your files on a LAN fileserver - yes, the next generation to Microsoft, is a Microsoft product, Sharepoint Server. Putting your files on a LAN fileserver is sooo 1995 - some people are still facing a challenge with it. The next generation document storage system - we have had a wishlist for a long time. It should have document versioning, check-in, check-out, it should speak to us to explain what the document is, what it is for, who put it there, when was the last time it was modified, tell the owner that we have just opened it so that he can tell us we opened the wrong file. Additionally, it should allow us to save to it even when we are not on the office premises, allow us to congregate over a virtual water cooler or tea room so that we can tell each other little things too brief to put in an email, allow us to read a discussion thread etc... etc... Whether Sharepoint is such a device, well, the corporates have to find out - right now, it's not snowballing except to the enlightened smaller corporates who have off site workers that stay offsite.
  • Significant enhancements to Microsoft Excel - ability to use more than one core of that dual core processor that is so common now, much larger spreadsheet limits, stop-look-go conditional formatting, enhanced Tables that reduce the risk of people sorting student names but not their marks...
  • Significant work on Microsoft Access - the Access team was in maintenance mode, no new work since 1997, this was the first time there is more than one person on the team (hearsay).
  • Significant wow looking visual text elements in Microsoft Powerpoint (actually the module is across all Office programs but Powerpoint is the program that showcases the wow.
  • Major extensions and re-architecture of Microsoft Word so that there is more control over Styles and Multi-Level Lists for Word gurus. Casual and first time users may feel that the program is indeed easier to drive if nothing else.
  • Adoption of the zipped, xml document file format. Open Source champions and archivists had long contended that Microsoft files of .doc, .xls were very proprietary and restrictive. Microsoft's response is to create new file formats, using XML and zipped them (because they would be larger) and publish them as Office Open XML. Indeed in the field, the Word .docx documents are a lot smaller to transmit by email than the older .doc formats.
  • Engineering the new Office documents to clearly either contain a macro or not contain a macro. This would be one additional defensive tool against malware masquerading as a Word document that would execute more easily under the .doc file format.
  • A revised and toughened ( read painful unless understood) macro security approach using Trusted Locations.
  • More emphasis on document preparation for distribution by corporates - Digital Signatures, Rights Management, purging of authoring metadata.

The crux is, do any or all these features work for you? Does even one feature make Office 2007 a viable purchase?

Once you commit, don't forget to check out:

P.S.

Forgot to mention that quiet member of Office, Outlook 2007. It is majorly improved over earlier versions. It doesn't have an Office Button and a Ribbon on the main program, but Mail Item windows do. The major innovation is Categorisation of your items and Virtual Search Folders based on those Categorisations. I purchased third party add-ons that try to do this for Outlook 2003 and when Outlook 2007 was released, I abandoned them and just went with Outlook 2007. Third party Outlook Add-Ons and my Outlook never seem to get on well together.



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2 comments:

Doug said...

Not worth the upgrade - 6 months ago I did an upgrade from '03 to '07 at home as we were planning a forced migration at work.

'07 brings very little to the table, and adds a lot of steep learning - new GUI, keyboard shortcuts generally don't exist, etc. This looks more like MS did a GUI overhaul so they can say "new & improved" and sell upgrades.

I bought the upgrade for home via a program at work - $19.95 for the enterprise version - a good deal, but a movie for 2 would have been better value for the money.

AnandaSim said...

Thanks for posting Doug. Always good to have a moment of truth with someone else. But.... Tell me, why do you say "Office 07 brings little to the table?". There is a litany of changes and rationale I quote in this blog article. I don't need to see all and every new feature. The features that matter to me are: - Outlook's Categories, Word's enhanced multi-level lists a variety of small features, Powerpoints WoW! conversion of plain text bullet points to those gee whiz glossy panels, Excel's much easy to use Tables, Access's improved Form and Report designers.

In terms keyboard shortcuts, the arrow pad work like before, the "classic" keys still work - tap the Alt key, you will see classic hints as to the next key.