I'm working on a review of Office 2007 that will be ready toward the end of this week. [Update 8-June-2006: It's ready now. See 10 tough questions about Office 2007.] For the past few days, I've been digging deep into the Beta 2 build of Office 2007 looking at what's new, what's changed, and what's missing.
I've also been reading what some other Office veterans have to say. The opinions so far are mixed, especially from the perspective of IT professionals who have to deal with deployment issues and training users to be productive with the radically revamped new interface.
Fellow Office author John Walkenbach asks, Are the new Office 2007 features worth the effort and frustration?
Those who will have the most difficulty adapting are the great masses of office workers who have learned how to perform a dozen or so common tasks in Excel or Word, and they do them day after day. These people, for the most part, will experience serious frustration. In many cases, these workers don't even look at the "big picture." Rather, their task is broken down into a series of very specific steps that they've learned over the years. What happens when those steps no longer work?
Another potential source of frustration is the "deprecated features." Anyone who has followed the betas of Office 2007 know that quite a few features have been removed. Other features seem to be missing, but they are still available if you take some additional steps and them to your Quick Access Toolbar. The typical user won't know this.
He concludes that, for most people, the upgrade won’t be worth it and thinks it’s “unlikely that many large companies are going to perform massive upgrades to Office 2007.”
My friend and ZDNet colleague Marc Orchant disagrees:
I suspect what you will find is that the biggest pushback will come from the most knowledgeable users. They have developed habits that will require some adjustment with the new UI. Once they get over their completely understandable and instinctive loathing of change, they'll be fine. And I feel pretty confident that the users you should be most concerned about - those who would potentially be the black hole into which all of these retraining dollars and time would disappear - will really like what they see…
Michael Sippey finds a lot to like, too:
[W]hile it’s not quite heaven, over the few days that I’ve been running Beta 2 of Office 2007, I’ve grown more and more impressed with what they’ve done with the UI.
- Even though it takes up an awful lot of real estate, the ribbon works. I’ve been undoing years of Office muscle memory, and have been enjoying the relearning process along the way.
- The task grouping works, and the information hierarchy of default tasks = big buttons also works.
- The todo bar is fantastic -- my inbox, my next appointment and my task list all in one view. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, and this makes me happy.
If you've been using Office 2007 Beta 2, what do you think so far? What questions would you like to me to address in a review?