Office 2007 is a Disaster

I just bought 3 new computers, and the vendor shipped them with OEM of Office 2007 Pro. I didn’t really think about this at the time, but once I booted one of the machines to configure it for a new user, it hit me. I will very likely have to buy 3 Office 2003 Pro licenses in the next few days.

My users will absolutely haet the ribbon interface! I just know it. Most of them can’t even get through the day without crying with just the regular, plain vanilla interface. When they get exposed to Office 2007 they will flip! In the end I will need to supply them with a non-retarded version of the product. Some something tells me I should stock up on Office 2003 licenses now, before they are completely out of the market.

Office 2007 will be horribly confusing to users who are less than tech savvy. Everything is in different places, familiar menus are gone from Word and Excel, buttons are cluttered up in weird places, and the whole interface is confusing. People who work with office for years develop certain familiarity with the software. Call it muscle memory, call it habits – whatever it is, they know where certain functions are located, and they know how to get to them fast. Not anymore – Office 2007 is a completely different animal, and you need to re-learn much of old skills, and change your habits to work with it.

I regret that I activated the first OEM. But I will use it as a test case. I will send it to the user and see if he can deal with it. If not, I will get him an Office 2003 copy, and then uninstall it from the other two machines without activating.

Personally – I don’t care. I use Office to type up my Resume and that’s about it. I hate it – always hated it, and always will hate it. But in the end, I don’t really mind the ribbon. Conceptually it is an interesting interface – perhaps it’s a good idea. Perhaps it is indeed the more intuitive interface. But some of the people I work have been shitting their brains out through their noses trying to grok the regular Word and Excel interface. They still don’t get it. They still call be with idiotic questions whenever they need to do something more complicated than making the text bold, or underlined. But at least they got the basics down through repetition, muscle memory, and good old LART induced conditioning. I don’t think I would ever have the heart to expose them to this ribbon monstrosity without a way out. It’s just to cruel.

I tell you, I’ve seen grown men cry like little girls because of weird Office errors. I’ve seen them reach their intellectual limits trying to fathom the way Word uses section breaks and column breaks. I’ve seen real, authentic fear in their eyes – I smelled the stench of absolute, utter horror. Most of you will never see this kind of fear, confusion and horror in a mans face. This kind of fear, can only be evoked by imminent threat of death, or by Microsoft Office.

And that’s just with regular, plain old office. Can I really subject them to the ribbon? Half of my staff will instantly have a stress induced stroke, combined with a heart attack. The other half will probably instantly shit their pants out of horror, then start crying and hand in the 2 week notice on the spot. This cannot be.

If Microsoft is wandering why corporate uptake of Office 2007 is so low, its because users “haet the ribbon”. There is this old saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it. The one and only think that was not broken in Office 2003 was the interface. It worked, it was robust and familiar. What the fuck were they thinking?

[tags]microsoft office 2007, office 2007, ribbon interface, ribbon, office 2007 ribbon, word 2007, excel 2007[/tags]

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35 Responses to Office 2007 is a Disaster

  1. Eric Lammertsma UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Although I personally think it’s pretty nifty and much more intuitive than the old menu system, I agree that it strips away any interface expertise and knocks down productivity quite a few notches until people memorize all the new locations. For years it’ll be especially confusing for those of us who work on multiple computers with all different versions of MSO. Fortunately, I don’t need to do a whole lot with it. I write papers in Word and manipulate data with Excel, so I kind of welcome the more intuitive ribbon menu, where functions are where you expect them to be (at least more so than in previous versions).

    My only big gripe is WHY did they need to take up even MORE vertical screen space?! Documents are placed vertically and computers are going wide-screen en masse so the real-estate at the top and bottom of my screen is valuable when working with documents! I know it’s possible to collapse the ribbon but that’s not a particularly practical solution unless all you do is type. It should be possible to place it vertically to the right or left, so I can see more of my own work and not Microsoft’s bulky, clumsy new attempt at improving aesthetics.

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  2. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Excellent point about the vertical space. If you work in “print layout” you will either have to zoom in really close, or you will end up having lots of dead space on each side of the screen.

    Also, some of the stuff got hidden underneath of many clicks. For example, for some of the accounting templates we need to lower the macro security. In 2003 and below this is 3 steps:

    1. Go to Tools menu and expand Macro
    2. Click on Macro Security
    3. Click on “Low”

    In 2007 it a whole procedure:

    1. Click on the “Office Button”
    2. Click on the “Word Options”
    3. Click on “Trust Settings”
    4. Click on “Macro Security”
    5. Click on “Advanced”
    6. Click on “allow all”

    Importing Add-Ins is even more confusing. Fortunately my users hardly ever do that. I usually do it once when I set a computer for them.

    I showed the new interface to few non-technical people in the office and they all hated it. Someone actually told me that they would rather be stuck with an old slow laptop and “normal” office than get a brand new, fast machine with Office 2007.

    It frightens me what will happen when they end-of-life 2003 and we won’t be able to buy it anymore.

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  3. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    I have had good success with OpenOffice/StarOffice. My users stuck their noses up at iy until I gave them their very own copy to take home. Now they love it. I can also supply them with the very same product even if they own a Mac. Of course, some nerds like myself run Solaris, so we are happy as well!

    I see how most people utilize M$ Orifice and it upsets me to spend that kind of money on something that they just could have used Notepad to type. Besides I am all about ODF :-D

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  4. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Actually, I have a strong aversion to anything “Office” like. Open Office is ok, and the ODF format is great, but meh.

    I usually type all my papers and letters up using a basic text editor with syntax highlighting. Then I use LaTex to create PDF files that look about a 100 times prettier than anything that could ever be produced in Word or equivalent product.

    Spreadsheets? Who really needs them. Give me a tab delimited file, and I can run any kind of analysis on it with a dash of awk a pinch of sed, and a tablespoon of perl. Then I can graph it in Gnuplot if that’s needed.

    Powerpoint? Psh… My thesis presentation was all done in LaTex. Yes, it can do slides too. You won’t get funky transitions, or sound effects though – which, in my opinion is a good thing. Transitions are tacky, and sound effects usually have no place in a presentation.

    The only time I use Office is when I know I need to send out the document in a doc format, or if I need to collaborate with others on it.

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  5. Jake UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I have had perfect luck with It has perfect sharing with school for any files I’ve thrown at it, which unfortunately includes presentations. My parents also have begun to like it since it resembles their familar Office 2000 more than Office 2003 or 2007, but has many new features compared to 2000.

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  6. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    To tell you the truth, I had mixed experiences with Open Office. Some powerpoint presentations made in MS Office would not display correctly on Open Office – I learned that in school when I was downloading lecture slides.

    Then again it might have been also related to the fact that I was using it on Ubuntu, and I don’t remember if I had the MS fonts installed at the time. Meh…

    Also, Open Office always seemed more sluggish to start than MS office.

    And of course, at work we are the Macro central – we heavily use all kinds of weird macros. I don’t think Open Office supports the full spec of VBA.

    But hell, if you can get away with using it, more power to ya! I’ll stick with LaTex and use either MS Office or Open Office on rare occasions that I need to. ;)

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  7. will they really absolutely haet it? ;)

    This is the whole new system where you have to login via like web interface to do everything now right?

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  8. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    No, no web interface. It’s a plain old expensive desktop application, but they redesigned the interface. See the screenshot here:

    Here is a closeup of the ribbon:

    And if you want to see Microsoft demo of the new office features, you can go here.

    People hate change. They will very likely hate this.

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  9. thats wicked crazy ass…

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  10. Jake UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    @Lucas: For slow start up, I recommend disabling Java. It really helps.

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  11. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Another familiar interface that MS just decided to scrap? WHY!

    Removing the File/Edit/View (and etc.) menus from IE7 seemed stupid enough, and is it true that Vista is also lacking these familiar menus?

    It’s neophilia pure and simple, instead of thinking in terms of “lets make it easy for people who know what they’re doing to continue doing it” its more along the lines of “ooh, shiny”

    Well, looks like its Office ’03 and Firefox on WinXP for me, until they disappear (well, 2 out of those 3, I don’t think Firefox is going away any time soon) and leaves me having to find some loveable Linux distro

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  12. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh crap. Can’t you export the Outlook emails in a format that’s accessible to earlier versions of office? I think i have done that before… I’m not sure.

    God, I hate Microsoft so much right now…

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  13. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I haven’t seen it in the flesh. Is it just dynamic/contextual toolbars, or is it something a bit more cunning?

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  14. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    vacri – I’m not even sure how dynamic or contextual they are. I haven’t really played with it enough to discover that. The point is that they removed the menu bar, and replaced it with a tabbed cluttered interface. Some options are now on the ribbon and some are deeply hidden under the Start Menu like Office Button.

    The point is that every time you are trying to do something, you have to go “oh man, where did they put that function now?”

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  15. mike CANADA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Luke, one thing to look into before buying Office 2K3 for your users is that if your using MS Open Licensing you can “downgrade” your 2k7 licenses to 2k3 and then re-upgrade them if you ever have a need for 2K7. I recently had to do this with Project and Visio because i couldn’t purchaes 2K3 Licenses from our supplier. We just purchased 2K7 licenses and downgraded them.

    maybe it can save you some $$$.

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  16. Luke UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Actually, all our Office software is OEM installations that were purchased along with the equipment. This is how they were doing it before from the begging. When I started working here we had maybe 40 employees, some of whom worked from home using their own hardware and softwar. Now we have 60-70 and we keep growing.

    So switching to volume licensing is one of my long term plans. Still have to convince the mgmt that this is the right way to go, and write up some estimates to show that we either save money or increase productivity, or whatnot. Sigh.

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  17. Office 2007 UI Hater UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Oh, I definitely agree with you it is a DISASTER. I can’t find out how to do anything anymore, I am back to being a ROOKIE from being a superuser for 12 years.

    I have been fighting on how to create a SIMPLE graphic out of a table for a couple of hours now, and can’t get the horizontal series to show correctly. This after trying to fix my simple report that worked on Access, and is broken now. Help does not help either………..

    Maybe I have a problem: all this supposedly “intuitive” interface does not work for someone in the late 30’s like me. Maybe I am just plain dumb, although I redid my IQ test and it confirmed I am still at 140 (a good one if you ask me) but I feel like I am at 80 and needing special care when dealing with the new UI.

    All that I was trying to do was trivial in Office 2003 and before. I guess I will just have to reinstall my previous Office versions.

    And BTW, I work for Microsoft. This might come as a shocker. This post is my venting, I don’t care anymore.


    And as for your question on “why fucking fix it if it aín’t broke”, there is a Pink Floyd called “Have a Cigar” that has the answer: “And did we tell you the name of the game, boy, we call it riding the Gravy Train”…..

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  18. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Oh man. You guys probably have it the worst. Talk about early adopters. :) My company is still mostly Office 2003 and I intend to keep it that way as long as I can. :)

    And very true about the reasons behind the redesign. I can just imagine this meeting:

    Some director is ecstatically explaining the UI. Suddenly, a young low ranking executive interjects by asking: “But won’t the users be upset by this change?”

    The room gets quiet and everyone stares at the young guy with a confused look on their face. “Whow gets what now?”.

    “The users… Our customers. The people we are making this software for.”

    Unblinking, confused stare continues. Steve Ballmer gets nervous and throws a chair at someone not really knowing what to make of it. Bill Gates stops counting money for a second, but then resumes.

    The director starts up his spiel about the new UI as if nothing happened.

    The meeting continues.

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  19. Phil UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla SeaMonkey Linux says:

    I tried it for 5 minutes and hated it. I am lost without the traditional menu bar in a GUI application.

    If this is such a great idea, why is Apple not rushing to copy it? I am relieved to hear the corporate world is shunning it.

    On the other hand, I know someone who I expected to dislike Office 2007. I was amazed when she said she had already tried it out and had taken it up. She was keen to learn all the new way of working. Extraordinary. So I made sure she knew how to set the Word 2007 option to always save in Word 97-2003 format by default, so as to not annoy everyone else, and left it at that.

    I think Office 2007 is an example of the danger of usability labs. The trouble with usability labs is that people try to be nice. Remember, in tests at Microsoft, everybody surveyed said Clippy the paperclip was “a nice thing to have”.

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  20. Josh Mackie UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    There is no option for running Office 2007 programs in the classic mode that people are used to, right? Why should producivity be suddenly compromised, by such a dramatic revamp, if not for the sake of software sales?

    If this is a sign of things to come, why not move to Linux?

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  21. Ken LeBrun UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I purchased Office Professional 2007 and I have to reboot every time I send an email. Other than that, it is just totally confusing. It has been a whole week disaster trying to work.

    What a mess.

    And no way to break through the beaurocracy.

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  22. Andrew UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    As the man said, if it aint fucking broke don’t fucking fix it

    MS are a bunch of jerks

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  23. Cherryl UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thank you for having the bravery to let the world know that Microsoft Office 2007 has “no clothes”. What nitwit came up with the idea of that idiotic ribbon? I am a seasoned software engineer and I never use it. NEVER. I am trying to help someone put some VBA code behind a button in Excel 2007. I have gone to the trouble of reproducing every single developer option I can find on the tiny quick access ribbon. Snort! There seems to be no way to put VBA code behind a button in an Excel 2007 spreadsheet. Microsoft is the next Ebay–going down the tubes in a flaming glory of useless greed without ever listening to a single customer before changing something that actually “worked”, once upon a time.

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  24. Ken UNITED STATES Safari Windows says:

    I reiterate what Cheryl says: Ten years programming in MS Access and VBA basically out the window. So frustrated with 2007 after purchasing that I went back to 2003 and will gradually move out of Miscrosoft as other programs become available.

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  25. Cherryl UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Not to belabor the point too much, but a client company of mine has stockpiled thousands of Windows XP and Office 2003 licences to support their current software. We are porting the server portion of the software suite to Linux. Screw Micra’soft!

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  26. USer UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Just to let you all know, people who develop this i don’t know – ship and ribbon i start sometimes mix this words, must be punished!

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  27. Chickpea UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Thank you all for assuring me I am not nuts. Thanks for the entertaining & enlightening posts. And thanks Luke for the thread.

    @Cherryl: I was an “expert” user in Excel prior to 2007, and folks now disbelieve me… thanks for making me aware that folks with a higher level of s/w knowledge agree with me.

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  28. Abdul AUSTRALIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    @ Luke“Spreadsheets? Who really needs them. Give me a tab delimited file, and I can run any kind of analysis on it with a dash of awk a pinch of sed, and a tablespoon of perl. Then I can graph it in Gnuplot if that’s needed.”:

    Luke, sorry but it has to be said; you’re a dork.

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  29. Dan UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    The reason they re-did the interface was so that people had to re-learn it. They charge to teach it. It’s a stimulus package for Microsoft and affiliates.

    You can’t blame Microsoft. They are just doing what is in their nature and, if you do not understand their nature by now, you need to find a shorter bus to ride in. The only solution is to band together and stop buying Microsoft products. You have an alternative It has its own quirks, but far less of them. It even saves in Word format: not perfectly, but close enough.

    Will you do that?

    Of course you won’t. Your company probably won’t let you or you don’t want to take the plunge. I know this because you didn’t.

    So stop bitching and accept your fate.

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  30. Chickpea UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Actually sir… I lost my old copy of Office 2003 (legally obtained thru old work license) when my hard drive died and I have no copy to re-install.

    So, I *will* be switching to

    :o) :o) :o)

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  31. Greg Pronger Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Completely disagree with you; it’s also a disaster for the tech savvy. With today’s movement to increased flexibility and customization, this product took 10 giant steps backwards. Can you edit what’s on the ribbon? Ummm, no. Can you create a custom ribbon? Ummm, no. These options were easy and straight forward in prior products.
    So, we have tha ability to minimize the (f****** stupid) ribbon, but can you adjust the size of the Quick Launch? Ummm no.
    Its handy to have a monopoly so you can thumb tour nose at your customers.

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  33. Chas AUSTRALIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Excel 07 is a bug riddled mess with a confused interface that should NEVER have seen the light of day. Cannot ever recall seening a professional product released, void of any beta testing. I’ve used excel for the past 15 years and am very proficient with it including VBA (sorry if this sounds like blowing ones trumpet but the point I want to make is I’m not a “noob”).

    The UI is a disaster too, designed to teach babies to such eggs, whereas the more sophisticated features are burried in some obscure menu. The genius that came up with the 07 design ought to be hung, drawn and quartered but I’ll settle for permanent entombment within his Ivory Tower.

    Seriously, Microsoft, what were you thinking???

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