Microsoft Office evolutionary angst: Change or go away.

Microsoft Office evolutionary angst: Change or go away.

Summary: Complaining about Microsoft Office's ribbon is like complaining about moving a car's light dimmer switch from the floorboard to the steering column. Change with the times or go away.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Software

I read the following article, Microsoft is Tipping its Cash Cow, a little while ago and thought that I can't allow it to go uncommented on. The article is by technology journalist veteran, John C. Dvorak. Though I'm not sure why he needs the "C." with a name like that, but he seems to want that moniker, so be it, I'll play along. The article, in case you don't want to read it, is basically John's (and wife's) shared dislike of the Microsoft Office ribbon. Like it or not John, John's wife and anyone else out there, you have to change with the times. Well, I suppose you don't have to change, you can still ride a horse, pedal a bike, use film cameras*, or resort, as he put it, to OpenOffice.

Wow, John, really, is resort the precise word you wanted to use there? I'll bet that "resort to OpenOffice" comment got you a lot of pageviews from the open source folks. It's a good thing that PC Magazine doesn't allow comments, because you'd have a lot of them.

I don't have a problem with John per se but it is interesting to note that people have told me that I write like him. I'm not exactly sure how to take that except as a compliment. John's been in this business for a long time and he hasn't stayed relevant by being an anachronistic old curmudgeon. Or has he?

I digress.

My point is that his opinion about Microsoft's ribbon is completely understandable but wholly incorrect. The ribbon is a good thing. It works. I mean, do you complain when you step into a new car and the windshield wiper controls aren't where you expect them to be? Do you only drive old cars? Do you only want a television that has a dial that you turn or are you OK with a remote control--a wireless remote control. And John, I know you remember dials and wired remote controls just as I do.

You have to change with the times. Software isn't static. It's a product like anything else you buy. It's going to change. Did you complain when Windows 3.x became Windows 95? Oh, I heard lots of grinching about that little transition, believe me. Not from John, but from just about everyone else.

Change is good. There are people who don't like OpenOffice too. By the way John, the official name of the product that you resort to is, Apache OpenOffice. Try to keep up, will ya?

You've got to learn the new fangled stuff or retire from the business John. There's just no two ways about it. Get with the program (pun intended). Install Microsoft Office 2013 on your Windows 8 (which he also hates) laptop and get busy writing more fodder for me to comment on.

Hey, this is fun, now I understand why I command such rancid comments from my readers. So, go for it, comment away. I'll try not to smack you back too hard for doing what comes natural.

John, there's nothing wrong with the ribbon or Windows 8. They're different. Once you get past the new grille and taillights, you might actually enjoy using it. And John, just like Boston (the band) said, "Don't look back." Yeah, I know you know who they are too. It's time to put the hands back on the clock and change with the times.

What do you think? Change or go away? Talk back and let me know.

*I still use film cameras so I'll let that one slide--pun possibly intended. I also use a QWERTY keyboard and not a Dvorak one. Yeah, I know, there's no connection. I just thought I'd throw that in for free. You're welcome.

Topics: Microsoft, Software


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • not sure what the fuss is

    The ribbon isn't that bad and was probably a wise move as the old menu system was getting out of hand.

    I guess MS can never win, no matter what they do.
    • @otaddy

      Correct. It seems that they can't. I can't that every idea they had has been good but I count a lot more winners than losers from them.
  • I think that it is about paradigms and how people think

    I remember debates from the '70s about RPN calculators vs those calculators with brackets and and equal key. Each paradigm suited some, but not all. It is the same with apps and OSes. Some people can adapt to a changed paradigm, even though they might not like it; others cannot. For those who cannot adapt, that does not make the people or the paradigm inherently wrong. It simply means that they are unsuited for each other. At that point, the advice from Dvorak is correct . . . go elsewhere!
  • Microsoft Office evolutionary angst: Change or go away.

    Time to go away Get a suite like Libreoffice and it will fullfill all your needs. You Windows people will have to suffar because your stuck in the Windows world. More progressive IT people move on to a good Linux operating and get things accomplished in a timley manner.

    People who use Linux are forward thinking people of our times...................END OF STORY
    Over and Out
    • I think the end of story started with your first word

      You sound more upset then you do progressive. I think you typed what you want things to be because you don't like the fact that the real thinkers of our times are using Windows or Apple, which is the end of story you know to be true, but are afraid to accept.

      NoMore MicrosoftEver
    • Hmmm

      Exact repeat from SJVN's posts. Still no integrated spell checker I see ;-)
    • The story will never end

      I am a dual environment administrator and to be perfectly honest with you I dont' see Linux taking over anytime soon, if ever. I run Linux at at home on my laptop and my taste in distros has changed over time and I no longer have an "opinion" about one or the other (except Gentoo and Debian in production environments). However, to be perfectly honest with you, Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice will never have the market share that Microsoft Office holds, ever.

      There have been many times I tried to use Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice for a few classes but I got "dinged" on the formatting because it wasn't recognized properly in Microsoft Office but that is in academia and as we all know, academia is NOT the real world.

      Microsoft Office will change, plain and simple, like all other programs. I disliked Windows 7 for a while and got used to it. I didn't like using debian based distros but I love Linux Mint. I also didn't like Junos at first, but I love it now. It is human nature to complain about change because it puts us in an uncomfortable situation.

      To not make any of you Linux evangelists piping hot mad I will say I have deployed environments that are 100% Linux to the desktop. The company, for which I will not name, is an HVAC contractor who was tired of viruses and license costs. So, all desktops were formatted and utilized Ubuntu and the server was RHEL and ran their web based HVAC ERP system. They saved thousands of dollars in license costs, never had to deal with a virus again and because they only installed XFCE and not a heavy KDE desktop they're able to keep their current end user machines running faster and cleaner; thus, increasing overall ROI. So, yes, Linux is making sense in some markets right now but not everywhere.
  • Blame internet

    Unfortunately any idiot can be a blogger, and most bloggers don't have a university education and their understanding about technology and business is noting but abysmal. Listening to these morons opinion about productivity software is pointless.

    The best solution is to ignore is idiots and insult them whenever possible.
    • BLAME Owlll1net and Loverock Davidson don't blame the Internet

      Unfortunately any idiot can be a poster, and most posters don't have a university education and their understanding about technology and business is noting but abysmal. Listening to these morons opinion about productivity software is pointless.

      The best solution is to ignore is idiots like Owlll1net and Loverock Davidson and insult them whenever possible.

      To the flame wars...........
      Over and Out
      • That also doesn't seem like the

        mature thing a well educated person should do. Personally I usually just ignore the extreme fans, whether they're for or against something. Both side often have valid points though, even if they go to extremes and bicker back and forth.
        Sam Wagner
  • Really?

    Someone already said it. Change is a good thing. And, when you are too set in your ways to change, it's time to move on. Microsoft just can't seem to please "some" people. As a tech instructor on all three major platforms, I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in all of them. Nobody's perfect.
  • Excellent article and Thank you

    I couldn't believe John's article when I read it. The first words out of my mouth is "Does this guy actually get pad to write this tripe?" A series of complaints, backed up by his wife? Seriously? I know there is a lack of women in IT, but I didn't think getting a woman's opinion for a blog post sealed it's validity. The entire article was just so absolutely dismissive of anything near the current state of software. Dude should just go back to paper. Maybe he and his mother can gripe about all these new fangled gadgets via postal mail.

    And all the points made here in your article, Ken, really are the bigger point: Someone here already replied and attempted to make the "Linux owns!" comment. Newsflash: Ubuntu went through the same transition in their UI. They too moved away from the traditional flat desktop look and feel. Change is EVERYWHERE.

    It is all about change. If you are a competent IT professional, it's all about seamlessly integrating change and leveraging the benefits. Windows 8? Office 2013? They're great products. I'm replying from my Windows 8 Pro laptop right now, with my colleagues snapped to the left in the Skype app. Was there an adjustment period to learn this new UI? Barely. Was it a burden? Hell no. I was so damn excited about the performance improvements in the OS, I WANTED to learn something new.

    And to go on and on about Office 2013 in particular is just sad. The ribbon UI has been around since 2007. It's far, far too late for such silly commentary. And going from Office 2010 to 2013 is a breeze. There are many welcomed changes and noticeable performance improvements.
  • See it in action with normal workers

    I have been impressed with the amount of users that Office 2007 opened up. It used to be that only one or two people in an office would be "Pros's" using Office 2003 and prior. But I routinely see plain folks using Visio to do incredibly complex office layout diagrams or using Excel to create truly neat stuff, etc etc. Of course, it's not perfect and you'll get a flummoxed quibble here and there, but by-and-large Office 2007 was a landmark change-- and a good one. I used to like John C. Dvorack back in the old Computer Shopper days- but today he reminds me a lot of your own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: old foeggies like Andy Rooney that hate everything.
  • Using your logic

    (to quote you) your "opinion about Microsoft's ribbon is completely understandable but wholly incorrect." The menu system is a good thing. It works.

    I hate the ribbon. It is disorganized, advanced options are hidden, ribbons pop up into the title bar because they can't be categorized nicely, it is not a customizable as previous versions, it takes up a lot of space, and I don't work on a touch screen where I need bigger buttons.

    More to his point, Microsoft is loosing market share when non-power users start using different operating systems or free alternatives because they don't need all the features or it is harder and harder to use. Corporations don't want to keep training on new UIs so they don't buy the next version or turn to something else.

    Microsoft is slowing down the productivity of the power users by not making things backwards compatible like Office or Windows Explorer or Visual Studio. Provide alternative options like Firefox does but also allow people to work as fast as they can through their years of experience with the same tool, not starting over.

    It is the power users who are earning their paycheck by using Microsoft technology with which they should be concerned. Those people are all that Microsoft will have left if they haven't gone on to use other technologies by that time.
    Mic Cox
    • Power users pick up the ribbon no problem

      which is why they are power users.

      And this is nonsense: "More to his point, Microsoft is loosing market share when non-power users start using different operating systems or free alternatives because they don't need all the features or it is harder and harder to use. Corporations don't want to keep training on new UIs so they don't buy the next version or turn to something else."

      turning to something else requires even more training, with no guarantee that the next version of that other OS won't change. Windows 8 is more like Windows 7 then any Linux is, so where is all this magical knowledge coming from that will let them use this free alternative with no training?
      NoMore MicrosoftEver
      • Challenger R/T ..your first paragraph is 100% correct... but you have to

        ask yourself, If it so plain for you and I to see these details.....than why dosen't Microsoft own customers tell them your killing us all ready ....and enough is enough already.

        Everyone knows that every person is under the gun to perform every single day and he/she dosn't need to keep re learning things over and over because the vendor (Microsoft) thinks its the greatests thing since sliced bread..................

        I don't agree with you on paragraph two. I pesonally think that Linux Mint 14 is as easy to learn and is a look alike to Windows 7..............
        Over and Out
  • The Ribbon Is An Anachronism

    The ribbon was clearly designed before the prevalence of today's widescreen monitors. Otherwise, it would not take up limited vertical space, but the more abundant horizontal space.

    Even on touch devices, it sticks out like a sore thumb, not fitting in with TIFKAM design principles at all.

    So don't try blaming the users, when it's the Ribbon itself that is at fault.
    • Yeah

      Although I like the ribbon, I tend to agree with this. I wish they would streamline it. But I guess that's what "autohide" is for. I just don't find the autohide feature elegant at all.
  • "You have to change with the times"

    Particularly when Microsoft forces you, for the umpteenth time.

    And you don't get a choice,---- again.
    • @dfolk2

      You can always 'resort' to Linux or Mac OS X.