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TCH-Thomas

Ms Office 12's Radical New Look

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I just read an article on Ms Offices new look. I wonder if they will really do this and if it will be something that people will learn to use...

 

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Looks interseting. I think it will confuse semi-novice users who have finally become acustomed to the interface. I mean, what if you just want to print the dumb thing? Wonder what button you click on? It isn't obvious from the main interface.

 

I think, as mentioned in the article, it will be very interesting to see what other office suites (like WordPerfect, and OpenOffice.org) do in reaction.

 

I don't think I love the new layout. But maybe it will just take some getting used to.

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Forget what it looks like--I'm worried about how it works:

 

Unlike the current Office, a lot of the tools in Office 12 involve showing canned formatting effects and letting you apply them with a click. Such as the type effects in the above screen's "Quick Formatting" section. (Tools for manually formatting documents are still there in the new suite, but it looks like they'll be played down.)

 

Of all the things MS could have done, their solution was MORE canned formatting effects? After all these years with their current suite I *still* can't get their dumb canned effects to get out of my way and let me work... and now they're making it even harder to personalize formatting?

 

Unless they change that before they release, I think someone is going to have to pay me to upgrade. A lot.

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I wonder when Microsoft will realize you don't have to change the UI of a program every time you release a new version. Then again, I'm an old command-line kinda guy.

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Forget what it looks like--I'm worried about how it works:

Of all the things MS could have done, their solution was MORE canned formatting effects? After all these years with their current suite I *still* can't get their dumb canned effects to get out of my way and let me work... and now they're making it even harder to personalize formatting?

 

Unless they change that before they release, I think someone is going to have to pay me to upgrade. A lot.

It's funny how Office (Word, in particular) is incapable of fulfilling two tasks: it's not a very good text processor and it's certainly one of the worst layout design apps. I never thought I could switch to using something else, however. But you know what? That was because I never tried. I'm a happy camper now. I use Nisus Writer Express for text processing (it's a brilliant app) and Pages for layout (although I rarely need any layout done). I haven't launched Office for a long, long time.

 

Conclusion: there are viable alternatives to MS Office. You just have to try them.

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Conclusion: there are viable alternatives to MS Office. You just have to try them.

 

Personally I use OpenOffice.org, and rather like it. As soon as version 2.0 is released, and I have a viable alternative for MS Access, then I'll love it even more (I hate that my work relies so heavily in MS stuff, but welcome to corporate America).

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I have been a very happy Word Perfect user for many years.

It was redesigned years ago with user feedback,

what an idea :)

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Nisus is for a Mac OS. Most of the people in the corporate world are running some version of Windows.

 

I agree with Aaron OpenOffice is a good alternative to M$

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I wonder when Microsoft will realize you don't have to change the UI of a program every time you release a new version. Then again, I'm an old command-line kinda guy.

 

Well, interestingly enough, the reason Microsoft is switching to a different UI is because their basic user interface (UI) hasn't changed since Office 97. For almost 10 years now, the MS Office Suite has looked basically the same. Each new version has added maybe a fancier skin to the core application, but this is the first time in a decade that MS is considering a fundamental shift in the UI of Office.

 

As a technical writer, I'll tell you that MS Word isn't my choice for long documents or documents that contain a lot of images. At work we use Adobe Framemaker for our book files and I personally use OpenOffie (I use the beta 2 version) for my other documents. I would use WordPerfect (I was a WordPerfect fan since version 4 (yes, on DOS)), but when I went to college, I was forced to use Word.

 

For basic documents, I've leared that if Word is what you've got, then it will be fine. (Although to this day I wonder why you set page margins in the File | Page Setup menu. In WordPerfect, it is on the Format | Page menu, where page margins SHOULD be!) If you've been given a choice, though, I'd consider OpenOffice, or WordPerfect -- both of which are much more standards-compliant than Word, and both of which are willing to play with the other kids on the block. Word is the stuck-up bratty kid that thinks it is so much better than everybody else that it doesn't have to play well with the other children.

 

Oh, back to Word 12. I think that such a dramatic change to the UI is risky. And I agree with the author of the linked article in that if it is successful, then it could influence the way that all Windows UIs are designed for the next decade. But if it is a flop, then it will be a big flop, and MS will take a big hit in their cash cow line. But one thing is certain; when Office 12 goes live, OpenOffice and WordPerfect will be sporting the "old" look. Depending on whether or not people like Office 12, this could be a good or a bad thing.

 

And looking at the pictures provided in that article, I wonder how you do some very basic tasks... like Printing, or sending the file as an email, or (gasp!) changing the margins. If the program isn't intuitive for computer-savvy folk, it will be a REALLY hard sell to the non-computer-savy folk.

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After a second look at the screen shots -- is it just me, or does the ribbon take up a lot of screen space to provide users with options most of them will never actually use? And where are the shortcut keys, which I like to use all the time? It looks to me like the new UI is going to require a lot more mouse-keyboard-mouse movement while making it more difficult to get a full page view. It's hard to say without being able to actually play with the program, but I'm seeing less and less to like in those screen shots.

 

On the other hand, it will definitely be interesting to watch how other programs react to it. Even if the reaction to Office 12 is lukewarm, someone like Open Office could pick up the new concept and improve it. From a purely visual standpoint, I really don't care what the program I'm using looks like. If MS or Open Office or Bob down the street can take that UI and make it truely functional, great. From where I'm sitting looking at those screen shots, though, I don't think MS is on that track. If they really are a year away from release, how likely is it they'll improve some of the most obvious flaws in that interface?

Edited by owatagal

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I dunno really - I'm not great fan of MS, but I'm resigned to the fact they are here and that their software is an every day part of life for the majority of modern world.

 

Usage of computers has changed so much over the last 5 years or so with "normal" people now having them in their homes whereas previously they wouldn't have known how to even switch one on.

 

I think it's fair to say that on this forum, most of us are either very computer literate or at least more computer literate than average - it's easy to forget that what we know has taken such a long time to learn bit by bit.

 

How many hundred menu options does Word (and other similar programs) have at the moment? How many "normal" users need, use or know how to use any more than a handful of those options?

 

I bet I'm not alone in saying that there have been times when a family member has wanted to do something with their computer and I've cringed at the thought of having to explain it to them ... even though it's often a simple task, it's only a simple task if you know what you are doing.

 

Computers have changed, and so have the people that use them - anything that makes things more "real user" friendly than "geek user" friendly has (reluctantly I agree) got to be a good thing.

 

Skype is a good example - my mother in law is petrified of everything computer related. We live in different countries, so in order to talk to her grandchildren she had to face up to the possibilities of IM. We started off with voice chat on MSN Messenger with hilarious results (not ending calls at her end and us listening to all the conversations in her house for the rest of the evening etc), but then moved on to Skype which she is totally happy with - why? ... because it rings like a real phone and has a dial and hangup button :tchrocks:

 

Ali.

Edited by vengavenga

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I understand what you are saying, in that if Microsoft (MS) can make it easier for newbies to use their program, then the newbies will be happy with it.

 

However, here we encounter one of the fundamental problems of software design: when you add more features, you inherently make the program more complex. It is much easier to design a simple interface for low-complexity software than it is do design a simple interface for high-complexity software.

 

This new version of MS Office looks like they have "dumbed-down" the interface. This is risky, because I would guess that the people who buy MS Office most frequently are organizations who employ people who use MS Office frequently. Many of these users are advanced users who have come to rely on the advanced features that Office 97-2003 (or whatever) have provided. Now, I recognize that these features will continue to exist in some form in the newest Office, but if the end users perceive that the features have gone AWOL, they aren't going to want to upgrade.

 

So if you want a simple interface for new users, then you provide that. But advanced users expect an advanced interface, and these days expect that there will be more than one way to accomplish a specific task. (Take a current version of Word, for example. Offhand I can think of five different ways to make text appear in bold. And I'm sure there are other ways, and other combinations even in my five examples (show below).

 

(1. Type the word. Highlight it. Right click on the highlighted area. Select "Font". Select bold. Click Ok.

2. Type the word. Highlight it. Press Ctrl + B on the keyboard.

3. Type the word. Highlight it. Click the bold button on the tool bar

4. Press Ctrl + B on the keyboard to enable bold. Type the word. Press Ctrl + B on the keyboard to disable bold.

5. Click the bold button on the toolbar to enable bold. Type the word. Click the bold button on the toolbar to disable bold.)

 

The point of this exercise is just to illustrate that Word is a complex piece of software, and you will have different users who will use each of the different methods outlined above. So when you dumb-down the interface, you may cut out three of the five listed methods. Then how does the user who used one of those methods feel about the new program?

 

As an advanced Office user, I would feel betrayed by a newer version of Word that dumbs down the interface to the point that I no longer want to use it.

 

Then again, I reached that point when I was introduced to OpenOffice.org a year ago.

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Yeah, I agree that all types of user are just as important.

Wouldn't be surprised though if there turns out to be a "classic" interface option as well in the same way as the XP Start menu and Control Panel can both be set to "Classic" (which is the first thing I do after installing Windows).

 

Ali.

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Just found this 40 minute video where one of the MS employees demos Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

 

The video did increase my desire to see a working version of the product, when I can open my own documents, and do my own normal, basic tasks. But here is the link, if you are interested:

 

http://channel9.msdn.com/showpost.aspx?postid=114720

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