November 20, 2007, 9:18 AM — For many, the Microsoft Office 2007 experience has been, well, something that
falls well short of bliss. For others, it is a breath of fresh air. It would
seem I fall somewhere in the middle.
When the Office 2007 system was released to manufacturing on Nov. 6, 2006,
reactions among those from the IT staff to administrative assistants to home
users varied widely, from excitement to horror. With its all-new user interface
that dumped the decades-old File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools hierarchical
menu structure for a highly graphical context sensitive "ribbon bar,"
there was no going back, only forward.
Yes, tens of millions of licenses have been sold. And yes, there are lots of
new features under the hood that extend security and the concept of collaboration,
especially with SharePoint Server.
There's just one problem. I can't find many people who are using Office 2007,
at least not willingly.
It's not hard to understand. Although many underlying dialog boxes are the
same as those used in recent generations of Office, understanding how to negotiate
the ribbon bar to get there can be a frustrating undertaking. I've spent lots
of time staring at the ribbon bar, unable to get there from here, only to find
instantly what I'm looking for a week later. Curiously, the old blank stare
and trance often returns later on, when I can no longer find what seemed obvious
just days -- or hours -- earlier.
More than once I've given up, saving a document to the server, walking over
to my second PC, where I then call up the same file in trusty old Office 2003.
It's a comforting experience, not unlike stepping into those old worn-in slippers
with a mug of hot chocolate on the side.
The ribbon bar interface truly is ingenious. It's just, well, different. Very,
Another challenge I've seen is file formats. As you know, Microsoft dropped
its proprietary binary .doc, .xls, and .ppt formats in favor of an open, XML-based
format that's there for anyone to examine. Instead of its earlier practice,
cramming body text, graphics, and other document components into a single file
that goes south when one part breaks, the new formats separate components into
separate files, pictures here, tables there. And it's all collected in container
files ending in .docx, xlsx, and .pptx.
Want to see for yourself? Append ".zip" to a filename so you get
file.docx.zip. Now you can unzip this container and see all of the constituent
directories and files that, taken together, become the whole document. Corrupt
one piece, and the document, so the theory goes, should by and large be ok.