I've been following some of the Office 2007 coverage coming out of PC World's camp... namely that of the magazine's editor in chief Harry McCracken who has been filing some noteworthy comments about his ongoing usage of the latest version of Microsoft's front office suite. McCracken likes Office 2007. But, last month, he noted that the Office 2007's most revolutionary new feature -- the user interface -- might very well be the best reason to upgrade, but that it wasn't prevalent throughout the office suite. Noted McCracken in a post entitled The Single Worst thing About Office 2007 (replete with some nice screen shots):
....one major downside merits mention: It's kind of an unfinished product.
What I mean by that is that the suite's new interface, which is by far the major reason to consider upgrading, has only been implemented in some of the applications. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access have it throughout; Outlook has it for the tools relating to composing e-mails, tasks, and contacts.
But everything else in Office 2007 has the old, traditional, menu-oriented interface--the one which Microsoft says its own research shows users think pales in comparison to the new one.
McCracken goes on to publish Microsoft's stated rationale for including the new UI in some places but not others -- "it's primarily a boon for tasks that involve document creation and editing" -- and then goes on to use that rationale against Microsoft in discussing how Publisher, OneNote and Visio (three apps missing the new UI) do exactly that: create and edit documents.
More recently (although there seems to be a problem with PC World's site, so here's the Google cached version), McCracken noted how, in Office 2007, Microsoft has left some of the older Office file formats behind:
I was idly browsing around my hard drive and found a stash of documents I'd forgotten about: Manuscripts of my PC World work dating back to 1998. I idly decided to open up one article.......Office 2007 just can't open some files created in really old versions of Office, including versions 1.x and 2.x of Word for Windows and 4.x and 5.x of Word for the Mac....
I'm wondering if this is true or not since the story seems to have disappeared from PC World's Web site. Often, if you accept the defaults when installing MS-Office, certain translators (usually for non-Microsoft file formats like Wordperfect's) are left out of the installation. It may have been something as simple as re-installing with the translators for the older file formats deliberately selected. I'm not sure, so chime in if you know.
But if it's true, then the way McCracken connected some dots next was right on the money:
Finding myself unable to use Microsoft Word to open a Microsoft Word document, my thoughts strayed a panel discussion I attended about a year ago, sponsored by Sun and dealing with the subject of the OpenDocument Format, an open-source standard that aims to supplant the proprietary Microsoft Office formats as a method of saving and sharing office documents. The ODF advocates at the panel were passionate--and much of the passion involved the notion that we can't depend on Microsoft to ensure that the people of the world have access to documents stored in various outdated versions of its file formats.
The talk seemed a tad alarmist at the time. Not so much now.
It's a fair point. Now that Microsoft is passing its newest file format -- Microsoft Office Open XML -- throught the standards process, why not just open up the kimono on the rest of the legacy formats so as to eliminate the potential of this problem. As both Novell and Corel just demonstrated with OpenOffice.org and Wordperfect Office (respectively), once certain technologies are opened up, other solutions will begin to embrace them (which is ultimately great for customers).