Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

Summary:I'm confused. Complexity of Office 365 does not make this a self evident application suite.

In my last post I left the clear impression the only way I can use Office 365 on Mac is if I have Office for Mac installed. That's not (quite) correct.

I updated the post to reflect the fact I'd found a way into the app. Some will say it is bleeding obvious - hit the 'Home' link...which is at the top of the page. But that's not where I was looking and neither did I expect to look at the top of the screen. I literally could not follow the cues as they were meaningless to me. It would have been far simpler if the admin screen contained a set of links to functions like Mail, Word, Excel etc. then it would be obvious to half blind dimwits like me. It seems I am not alone.

Paul Tate Tweeted:

@dahowlett going to the admin screen confused me at first, without any real pointers as to what the process flow is to use the apps

But more generally, I find the user interface unappealing and confusing. Each time I log in I am taken to the admin screen:

If I then hit Home, I see this:

This is where things get really confusing. When I go to 'Set up now' I am then taken through a routine that requires Office for Mac as I stated in the last piece. But - I don't have to do any of that to use Office 365 as a single user on the web. OK - I think I get that.

Further down the page I can see the 'Outlook' link with some of its options and can import some of my Gmail. But - and I have no idea what's going on here - it says I have 541 unread items, the latest of which dates to 2/22/2006. (see below)

That isn't so hot. And yes, I left it importing for a good hour or so. And yes - I can get access to Word etc provided I hit that pesky Home link again and then understand that the Word etc icons and links are to the web apps themselves. Again not clear.

In and among all this confusion I'm told I need the latest version of Silverlight in order to get the best out if it. Why not install in background instead of pestering me?

Going into Word I find that if I want to grab say a PDF version then I must have Word installed, so we're back to the licensing issue I referred to earlier. While I am a great believer in using online systems, there are occasions where I need to send secure documents to others and PDF provides a good way to do that. I don't understand why Microsoft didn't make this available. Moving on to Excel, I was surprised at how little functionality is being made available. There are for example no pre-built functions which are commonly used by business people although I can see the means to do some basic filtering. I can't see many people wanting to use this for all but the simplest tasks.

And then, as I tried to flip back to Word, it garbled the screen.

Contrary to what some might think, I am not wedded to Google Apps in particular and I had expected Microsoft to offer something that competes well. As far as I can tell on a cursory look, it's just not that good. Email, which is the bedrock of all business communications is OK but the problem I faced pulling in my GMail data was enough to concern me. Excel and Word only offer highly restricted functionality and again, I can't see why anyone would want to use these and especially not if they have been used to the full Office productivity suite.

Since I am clearly too thick to understand what Microsoft is trying to get me to do according to some commenters, I guess I'll have to continue grinding my way through until the pennies all drop into place but for now, I wonder what Microsoft was thinking when it built Office 365. Who do they think it would appeal to? Why isn't Outlook obviously tied to the other apps rather than requiring its own screens? I'm not even sure 365 is on a par with Google Apps, long criticized for being way below Microsoft functional standards.

All of which represents a wasted opportunity. I really want to like Office 365. I really want a system that beats Google Apps and upstages the coolness of the not as functionally rich Apple offerings. Microsoft has it in its power to do that. Unfortunately, Microsoft has dropped the ball big time on this because for me, it does neither.

I can see the Microsoft haters having a field day with this.

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

About

Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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