Good and bad things • 18 September 2008 • The SnowBlog
Good and bad things
About Microsoft's Office 2007 suite, that is. Today's focus: Word 2007. The bad, first. That bloody Ribbon. For those who have yet to upgrade, it's an 'innovation' which nests and reveals whatever menus are considered, by Microsoft, to be relevant depending on the context. So if you are formatting some text, for instance, the format menu is displayed.
The obvious downside to this is that a) Microsoft often get it wrong and b) the nesting is fiendishly done. I have had to use the help function almost every time I've used Word 2007, and we've had it for nearly a year now. The styles and formatting menu, for instance, used to be on Format / Styles. Now, it is a small, unlabelled curvy arrow shape at the bottom right of a box labelled (in blue, on a blue background) Styles. Change Case is a bland icon on the Font menu, under Home. I still haven't discovered where Page Setup is (I enter Preview where it is on a sub menu - but it must be somewhere else). Paste Special only exists on an unlabelled drop down arrow under Paste - on the Clipboard menu, which is in turn under Home. And much of what used to be under 'File' is now under a round, yellow, unlabelled button with the microsoft logo on it - naturally.
However, there are some good parts to it. I am enjoying using the Document Map facility to edit a book I'm working on at the moment which contains a lot of multi-tier headings. Rather than have to hold in my head which level a heading should be at, I have a live list of all headings in the document - which are hyperlinked so I can navigate quickly and simply. Naturally this requires the use of paragraph styles - another excellent reason to use them in your documents. Local formatting is evil, remember.
What else is cool? Nothing really stands out, so I come back again to the Ribbon - something that features in all the Office products from Excel to Powerpoint. I get the sense that the poor developers were yelled at to innovate at all costs so felt forced to come up with something - anything - that looked new and swishy. I've yet to talk to a Word 2007 user who feels it's an improvement. (Er, that would be Rob and Anna, then.)
Oh yes, and the icing on the cake? Office 2007 is XML based, which normally I would celebrate except there's hardly anything cool (on the Developer menu) that one can use, easily, in everyday situations. I end up using Adobe products for my XML fun. But now that the code underlying Office 2007 is so fundamentally different, the files it saves are different. Result? Dreadful backwards compatibility - which means that if I save a Word 2007 document in its correct format - .docx - the recipient has to have Office 2007 to read it. It means I end up saving most docs as .doc, which tends to entirely defeat the point of upgrading.
Have you upgraded? Any thoughts?