Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

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

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Stop back when it's only a quarter dead to you.

    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

      @Will Pharaoh - good idea - 2013?
  • One question:

    "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?"

    Would you prefer that it install Silverlight without asking? I think the consensus here is that notifying you first is the right thing to do.
    • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

      it sure is. I know if it had installed silverlight in the background he would then have a change of tune along the lines, "Microsoft office online installs things in the background, death to office online". but it's good thing that Microsoft ask first. I too think its the best approach they took.
  • Micro$ux has to understand something

    We Apple lovers absolutely refuse to engage our brains while using M$ products. If something requires more than 1 step, we will complain that it is too complicated. I actually stopped reading after your first sentence since it already sounded way too complicated for me to understand.
    • Except for Howlett has nothing specifically to do with 'Apple lovers', ...

      @woulddie4apple: .... he is SAP mentor and other all-around corporate/enterprise/IT man. Having a Macintosh in use is nothing religious for long time any more -- so your troll attempt is lame again. <img border="0" src="" alt="wink">
    • I don't think &quot;stupid, lazy, fanboy&quot; is the market...

      @woulddie4apple Microsoft is actually aiming for...

      You can go use MobileMe or iClod or whatever the fruit company is shilling today, thanks.

      Have a joyjoy day!
  • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

    Office Web Apps is a lightweight implementation of perhaps the richest of all rich-client apps, built in javascript and running in your browser.

    If your expectation is that these Office WebApps will offer a significant subset of the full product, then I suggest that your expectations are wildly out of sync with reality.

    Office Web Apps offer a small subset of the features available through their rich-client bretheren. Microsoft has to juggle many masters. Too many features and performance would suffer. Too few and the apps would be non-functional. I expect them to improve over time as Microsoft learns more about what customers want and how they want to use the online-only versions of the apps, but for now I think this is a good first step.

    Oh ... and FWIW, if you choose to rely upon a fixed-page-layout document creation tool like Acrobat, then you'll have to use Acrobat to work on them. Even the full Word client doesn't allow you to open and edit PDF's.

    If you want a rich document creation/editing tool which allows you to apply DRM to secure your docs against prying eyes, then I think it safe to assume a javascript-based word processor is not going to do the job.

    If you just want to attach PDF's to emails and send them, you can do that from Outlook Online or Outlook itself.

    Not quite sure why you feel you have to continue to push the view that you dislike something based largely on your prior headline. The resulting feedback illustrated that the problem existed between your seat and keyboard - suck it up and move on.
  • Whining

    OS X prompts you to install all kinds of things. This notion that everything works invisibly in the background in OS X is a huge myth.
  • Stay away from my network

    If someone can't understand the user interface, I don't want them touching my network. The UI ain't rocket science.
  • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

    There are many arguments in this article that scream "I am reaching for something to complain about"...

    really? 541 unread messages... complaining about notifing you before something installs... pretty weak arguments.
    • But it is very confusing to see how many unread messages you have

      Me and other Apple fans like DeRSSS are very confused by what, exactly, an "unread" message means. We also get scared when we see we have 541 of them. YIKES!!! SCARY!!

      I'll skip Office 365 because it is a Micro$ux product and therefore is complicated and scary. I store all my stuff on the server grade hard drive in my Apple Time Capsule so I have no need for this silly M$ service.
      • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

        Oh my god you are so original a hilarious, did you come up with the Micro$ux and M$ all by yourself? How cunningly smart. No wonder you are an apple fan. It took me a while to understand you were referring to Microsoft, your humor is so subtle, and I suppose the $ means that they are a company that works to get money, isn't it, ha ha ha lol lol lol. Oh my, probably SJ will invite you to his house to smell his underwear one of these days.
      • I hope so!!!

        Me and DeRSSS and the person who posts as msalzberg / James Quinn would LOVE to smell Steve Jobs underwear! YEAH!!!
      • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

        @woulddie4apple Your username outs you as a pathetic idiot whose mother should be slapped for giving birth to such a retard.

        You also need to learn how to speak English. You obviously aren't to bright, and neither is the idiot who wrote this article.
      • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me

        I'm seriously amused at people that fall for woulddie4apple's trolling. He's obviously parodying the rabid fanboy nature that most of us perceive Apple fans. That the rest of you can't see that is amusing.
  • Very confusing, indeed.

    Very confusing that a "tech expert" writing for ZDnet has this much trouble getting to page 1 of Office 365 (then blames it on Office 365).

    tell me, how long did it take you to find the Office Button in the top left when Office 2007 came out?

    It's also confusing that you're taken aback by an online application that carries with it the functionality to marry with your local apps. hence all of the "licensing issues", it's trying to marry it's online functionality with your local functionality (or lack thereof)

    It's even more confusing that you even udder the thought of "silverlight installing in the background, without pestering you"... Really? after the whole MacDefender thing? You want some other application to install itself un-announced? Um... how'd you get this job?

    And it's most confusing when you say this: "And then, as I tried to flip back to Word, it garbled the screen."

    And you attributed [i]that[/i] to anything but the browser (or the o/s). Yeah, it couldn't have been your machine's presentation, it had to be MS' delivery.

    What confuses me is how ZDnet comes to choose their writers. They might as well hire [i]Woulddie4Apple[/i]... I'm sure [i]he[/i] at least could navigate a web app.
  • RE: Correction: Office 365 is half dead to me signed up for O365 as an administrator and are surprised to have an interface catered to help you perform administrative tasks...of course you leave the previous post there with all the incorrect statements. Why not put the update at the top? I guess that wouldn't help your trolls out much if you admited upfront that you have no clue how to navigate a website. "OMG who looks up top for links?"
  • Not to mention the pricing is a horror show

    I briefly gave some thought to using Office 365 but I had nearly the exact same experience.

    Confusing UI
    Confusing pricing
    Confusion over which flavor of subscription included a full Microsoft Office

    Honestly the only reason I'd touch this is that I keep getting MS Office documents via email and I'd like to be able to open and edit them online (Google Docs tries but often fails).

    Microsoft really missed the boat here. I don't think most users will wade through and try to decipher the confusing array of monthly subscriptions. This appears suited mostly to enterprise users where someone else is paying the bill.
  • Confusing UI is understatement

    Office 365's functionality is very promising and it appears it could easily be used in conjunction with Google Apps and Zoho.

    However, the UI point made is very serious. The people flaming that UI doesn't matter and "stay away from my network" etc. are not likely involved in UI development. User experience is critically important. Google has refined their user experience to the point where the Gmail interface (especially on Chrome) is considered a gold standard for webmail. In contrast, the Office 365 interface reminds me of websites from the early 2000s with "mystery meat" navigation systems.

    There is plenty to knock on any of these cloud offerings as far as functionality, but I don't think we can seriously sit here and say the user interface doesn't matter. I have been using the Office 365 for a couple of months and still get lost - this is bad. A real web app designer needs to step in and start new rounds of impartial user testing to fix this issue.

    The biggest sign to me that the UI needs retooling is the default bright orange/bright cyan font colors. Those look like a marketing consultant picked them, not via user testing analysis.