Dave switches to Office 2007

I switched to Office 2007 on Friday.

The reason given was that updates to Office 2003 were failing to install, so the remedy was to install 2007. The change happened Wednesday night. I was out of the office Thursday, so I had a nice surprise waiting for me when I returned on Friday.First impression: What’s that blinky thing in the upper left hand corner and how do I make it stop? I hate blinky things. I thought Microsoft understood that blinky things are bad. First order of business: Search Google for "turn off office 2007 blinky thing." No relevant results.

In desperation I clicked on the blinky thing to find out what it is. Ah, it’s a File menu replacement. Mercifully, it quit blinking after I clicked on it. If it hadn’t, that part of the screen was going to get covered, possibly by a sticky note, but just as likely with blood or a bullet hole.

Second impression: This is Office For Morons. The old Word and Excel menus, aside from the blinky thing, are gone. They’re replaced with tabs, and clicking tabs brings up a series of oversized, Barry Bonds-esque toolbars that contain a bunch of related functions. The result is that it wastes a lot of screen space, and while maybe I’ll use 50% of the functionality in there, now it takes extra mouse clicks to get to it.

Most of the ctrl-key shortcuts still work. Unfortunately after a day of using it I don’t know which ones do and don’t, and I don’t know which ctrl-key shortcut unconditionally formats the hard drive so you can make a note not to hit that one.

Out of habit, I hit alt-i in Excel to bring up the insert menu. If you can fly blind, that works.

Mercifully, the overhaul is unfinished. Outlook and Publisher still retain an old-style menu structure for the most part. I can’t speak for Access because I don’t think I’ve launched Access since July 2001.

I really don’t like Office 2007. The desktop support person says I’m being stubborn. Part of that may be true–I’ve been using Word and Excel since at least 1993, and I learned those easily because every other graphical word processor, spreadsheet, and indeed, every other graphical application I’d used since about 1989 used a very similar structure for its menus and toolbars. In effect, I’ve been doing things one way more than half my life now, and all of a sudden I have to do them differently.

The other irritating thing is that under the old system, I could live in Word and Excel for weeks at a time without taking my hands off the keyboard. I had the ctrl-key shortcuts for most of the things I do memorized, and for the things I didn’t have memorized, I could hit alt to bring up the menus and usually I could find what I needed in less time than it would take to grab the mouse–especially in Office 2000 and 2003, where the menus initially come up in abbreviated fashion, showing only the last few functions used. Office 2007 is going to force the mouse and me to get reacquainted, and that’s going to slow me down.

Arguably the new interface is easier for a beginner to learn. There are two problems with that. One, this user interface treats you like a beginner forever. And two, that dumbing-down is for no good reason because there are very few beginners out there anymore, and the few beginners who are left are teenagers, who didn’t really have any problem learning the old interface.

The nicest thing I can say about Office 2007 is that some Microsoft executive took a dump in a box and decided to shrink-wrap it. This isn’t going to compel people to upgrade. If the idea is to sell new versions of Office, this might work though. If Office 2009 includes an option to use the old menus, it’ll sell like crazy to the fools who blindly bought this. Especially if it comes out sometime this year.

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