What do you think of Office 2007?

What do you think of Office 2007?

Summary: Office 2007 Beta 2 has been out for nearly two weeks now, and the radically revised new interface is getting mixed reviews. Are you using Office Beta 2? What do you think so far?

TOPICS: Microsoft

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?

Topic: Microsoft

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  • What is there not to like?

    I agree there will be some retraining with the menu system, but I found that after a couple hours of use it was not a big issue and the new menu system is far better than the old one. MUCH easier to locate the feature/function desired.

    Graphics have taken a HUGE leap, especially in PowerPoint.

    Security also took a huge leap forward.

    And finally, saving to various formats that work with other apps is fantastic.

    All in all, I thing the entire suite offers a good deal more productivity.
    • The whole package stinks.

      Sorry Microsoft, but this version of Office is so confusing, it will prevent most users from ever doing any thing productive with this package.

      I found this to be the most useless thing I have ever tried. I have used and supported all versions of Office, and this version is a nightmare.

      I'll stay with OpenOffice at home, and do whatever I can as a consultant, to prevent any attempt, by any client, to install this mess.
      • Really???

        So be specific on what you couldn't do.
        • Yeah, Really!

          My post said NOTHING about what I couldn't do. I stated that the package was a mess. Users are not going to find the items they need and used because the whole interface has been modified, and very poorly implemented.

          Please learn how to read and post appropriately....PLEASE!!!!.
          • Yeah, Really, redux

            Oh dear Lord.. he asked a simple question about specific challenges you were facing, rather than a catch-all demonization of the entire program.

            If that is a problem, then; "Physician, heal thyself!"

            And... lighten up!
      • RE: What do you think of Office 2007?

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    • A couple hours of "getting used to" by you or me

      translates to about six months worth of increased help desk issues in a normal company, with the majority of headaches and longer hours probably in the first two months. I do agree it will increase productivity in the long run, but companies will still need to diligently prepare for the short term headaches.

      But yes, the Office team has something to really be proud of for the first since Office 97, maybe longer. This is an upgrade worth the short term headaches.
      Michael Kelly
    • I see

      "MUCH easier to locate the feature/function desired."

      Cool. How long did it take for Microsoft to realize their features were hard to find?

      "Graphics have taken a HUGE leap, especially in PowerPoint."

      As if PowerPoint presentations weren't cheesy and flashy enough, lol.

      "Security also took a huge leap forward."

      Only time will tell if that is really true. Microsoft says that [i]every[/i] time a new product comes out. The boy who cried "wolf," anybody? I'll believe it when I see it.

      "And finally, saving to various formats that work with other apps is fantastic."

      Ah, yes, now I can finally save in PDF and XML formats, right? Wait, the supposely "inferior" OpenOffice.org already did that.

      "All in all, I thing the entire suite offers a good deal more productivity."

      I hope so. The true test will be in the hands of the average office worker, though, and not in the hands of a techie like you or myself.
      • and more

        "Ah, yes, now I can finally save in PDF and XML formats, right? Wait, the supposely "inferior" OpenOffice.org already did that."

        not to mention it will save powerpoint in flash format let's see microsoft do that.
        oh and 3D graphics it will take microsoft 5 years to figgure out how to do that.
  • What I think of Office 2007

    The problem with the ribbon is that it is essentially uncustomizable out of the box. Even with customizing, you can either add items to the Quick Access Toolbar, a poor substitute for a custom commandbar, or delve into the RibbonX XML system and make changes there (no place for the faint of heart). There are no floating toolbars, so you can't put any custom UI elements near where you are working. The tear-away menus are also gone. Custom menus added by add-ins and other VBA procedures are relegated to the depths of the Add-Ins ribbon tab, if in fact they work at all.

    The concept of the ribbon is probably good, but the ribbon you want is never the one that's active, so previously simple tasks take five or more mouse clicks instead of two. The old Office tenet of putting commonly used UI elements (e.g., Format Font) in several places is replaced by a philosophy that there's only one single place for everything, which further guarantees it's on a different tab.

    There are a slew of useful new features added to Excel, if the ribbon doesn't interfere. The graphics is nice, I guess, but it still detracts from thoughtful data presentation.

    - Jon
    Jon Peltier, Microsoft Excel MVP
    Peltier Technical Services
    Jon Peltier
    • A few exceptions...

      <p>Thanks, Jon.

      <p><em>The old Office tenet of putting commonly used UI elements (e.g., Format Font) in several places is replaced by a philosophy that there's only one single place for everything, which further guarantees it's on a different tab.</em>

      <p>There are some exceptions. For instance, the Sort and Filter options are on both the Home and Data ribbons in Excel. But by and large you're right.
      Ed Bott
    • Actually, I think having one entry point is

      a good thing.

      Go to any Office and you will see what I mean. A user asks how to do XYZ and there will be half a dozen different but legitimate answers. That really messes the user up. Having a single way of doing a task is better IMHO.
      • one entry point is a good thing?

        I could not disagree with this more, unless you are tech support.

        It actually dumbs down tools and limits potential.

        Also, there may be three ways to perform a task but from my experience, fairly techincal, I may choose the method one most effective at the time its needed. I can't give you an example off the top of my head but I'll try an analogy...

        It's like driving to the market. There are several efficient and effective routes to take. The route I choose may vary based on what my other needs are at the time.
    • Agree about Word

      I've looked closely only at Word and I have to strongly agree with Jon. The change to the ribbon motif would have worked better for installed users of Word if MS had maintained a user configurable UI. In previous versions of Office I could configure the icon bar to meet my needs and have everything I want 95% of the time right in front of me. Now I'm searching through ribbons to find some of the simplest things. For example, where is the spell checker - under Reference or Review? Under Word 2003 and earlier it was one click away because I could put it there.

      I realize that some of my frustration is due to the years of habits I've acquired and which would have to change if I adopt this UI. Even after that, I see that I will be required to make many more mouse clicks to accomplish the same tasks as it would take to me in older versions of this product.

      What would have helped this if they re-name the Home Ribbon back to Format and give the User a user-defined Home Ribbon where they can add all the functionality they may need most of the time. The Quick Access bar is too small.

      What is with the style part of the ribbon. It seems those big buttons are there to fill out the ribbon. They certainly have no useful function as far as I can see! With each iteration of this product MS seems to be making using styles more and more cumbersome.

  • It does take some getting used to.

    Even after finding things it still seems like a lot of clicking around to get things done--I agree that it seems you're never in the tab you need. And one of the first things I wanted to do was verify my macros and try some things; got upset until I found out you needed to add the developer tab to work with macros.
    • Re: It does take some getting used to.

      Adding the developer tab isn't a big deal, it's a one-time change. Having the wrong tab active is a big deal, because it's always going to be the wrong one, and I can't easily customize the ribbon as I could the commandbars, to put my own most used buttons top center. This necessitates extraneous clicks to do anything.

      Many dialogs have been designed differently, with extra tabs. In chart formatting, there is a Line tab and a Line Style tab, rather than a single tab for each, requiring much tab-to-tab switching. Also, options which used to have otpion buttons showing all possibilities now have combos, which require a click just to remind one what the choices are.

      - Jon Peltier
      This extra clicking in my mind does not translate into increased productivity.
      Jon Peltier
    • Re: It does take some getting used to.

      Well yes, but I was able to figure it out without too much trouble, and am actually getting used to it. However, my user base is comprised of Office 97 users. We are currently working out the details of an Office 2003 upgrade. Imagine users going from Office 97 to Office 2007 in one big leap. Now that is scary!
  • Training??? Sounds like PERFECT time to switch to OpenOffice

    With the differences being so great, I can't imagine what MSFT was thinking.

    I mean the #1 excuse(and thats what it is) people have for not bothering to move the majority of their users to OpenOffice and saving their company millions of dollars a year is that it will "require training because the GUI is a little different".

    Well, that just became a moot-point.

    So, get cracking now is the time to start to move your non-mega-power-office-users to OpenOffice.

    Since, training will be required anyway why not take this one time pain and turn it into a way to free yourself from the long term high cost of Microsoft Office for people that don't use any features that are not in OpenOffice already.
    • You mean switch FROM Open Office

      The few people who did switch - and were unable to persuade management to rescind the order - will be able to act on their accumulated resentment.

      The new features and easier access to older features will provide an impressive case. As well as an excuse for managers who would otherwise resist admitting they were wrong ever to consider reducing efficiency and causing continuous anger among the staff.

      Those who will benefit most are the people who were told that their jobs were so rudimentary that they did not need all the functions of such a universally used product as Office. The satisfaction of being valued as someone who can make good use of greater flexibility will be almost as good as a raise.

      In fact, the need not to compensate people with money for all the aggravations and insults of Open Office means that raises can be very slightly smaller. Office will more than pay for itself from this factor alone.

      Not banging one's head against the wall any longer does produce satisfaction. Though the question of why one was banging one's head against the wall in the first place remains.
      Anton Philidor
      • You can return to Planet Earth now.

        This version of Office is by far, the most bloated, the most confusing, and one of the most useless piece of software Microsoft has written yet. I guess that is to be expected since it will launch alongside Vista.

        The burden for IT in supporting and retraining users, is going to be a costly nightmare. Since I will have to support this junk, I will do my best to insure that my clients never upgrade to this version of Office, and will convince them to either keep what they already have, or use OpenOffice.