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July 21, 2006


Great article !!!
Yes OOo is the good way.

As a joke, if users still need billions of cells in their spreadsheet, Calc can event beat the future Excell 12

I think it's fair to say that Office 2007 represents a real opportunity for OOo - but also that its a real threat too.

Obviously, because OOo essentially mirrors the interface of the current version of Word, it represents a zero-cost option for businesses in terms of both the amount of time that people need to get used to it, and any retraining costs. That's the good bit.

However, Office 2007 also represents an opportunity for businesses to cut the costs of both supporting and training in using the applications. The new interface is a big step forward in terms of making the features of the applications easy to find. There's no features buried underneath layer upon layer of menus, dialog boxes, and so on. The fact that features are easier to find means that it's less likely that users who've used something once will then forget where it is - and call support to ask.

Around the last place I worked, I became known as "the guy who knows about Word". Every day, someone would ask me how to do something in Word - and nine times out of ten, it was something they KNEW Word could do, but couldn't find. I think with Word 2007, most of those questions wouldn't come up.

With OOo, they most certainly would. Because OOo mirrors the Office interface, it inherits the mistakes that generations of Office UI designers have made (and, alas, adds a few of its own). While that makes it a very familiar environment for current Office users, it's not a really friendly one.

That's the threat. If Microsoft approaches business with the story that the new Office will lower support costs, they will jump at it - even if it offered NO other new features, that alone would make it worth the upgrade costs.

Hi Ian,

Thanks for commenting. I am all in favor of better design. I can see how if MS 2007 truly is better then once the retraining happened then there could be less support and less reliance on the "Word guy" in the organization. ;>

But. That's once you get there.

You can't get great deals on silk in Thailand if you're afraid to fly, and you can't get runner's high if you aren't interested in running three miles every day. And you aren't going to bother to try to train to get runner's high if you think you feel fine right now.

There are a lot of people out there who really don't care about software. Who want to spend as little time as possible with it. As little time as possible changing or relearning or doing anything but what they need to do, which is get the five reports out to the mayor's office--or whatever their job is.

Some companies may make the leap quickly. Programming organizations, if they truly need the software and can afford the upgrade, should have relatively little problem. They groove on software and will beg to take it home to play with and learn it. If you've got 500 users supporting a nursing home, a gym, a city or state government--well, it's more likely they've got their jazz combo to practice with, their house to remodel, their swing dance performance troupe, and might not be so interested in how cool the new drastically different software UI is.

Essentially, I think IT people and beta testers are not good predictors of how the rest of the users across the world are going to react. I certainly had a lot of relearning to do when I started teaching--and I am certainly no programmer, no macro whiz, no compliler of my own Linux distro.

So if you're an IT director, really consider, and pre-test if you can, how your users are going to do with the new MS 2007. The results might not be what you expect.

I'm willing to be wrong, but my experience tells me I'm not.

There is another 'issue' with dynamic interfaces (those that change depending on what the user is doing), and that is support. When our organization made the move from WordPerfect 5.1 and Multimate (both DOS-based word processors) to Word on Windows95, our ability to support our users over the phone was severely crippled.

Instead of "Hit F3, tab, tab" we now had to say "Find the little picture that looks like a..." And it seems to me that this kind of extra-support-burden is about to hit again. Instead of saying, "Click the menus: Tools, Language, Thesaurus", support personnel are going to be faced with "ok, what does your ribbon look like now" problems.

This might force organizations to buy and install remote desktop control software (assuming that all client machines are even reachable via a network) just to support MS Office. And users will not be able to write-down instructions (Tools, Language, Thesaurus) on a Post-It Note for next time.

Hi Ronan,

"There is another 'issue' with dynamic interfaces (those that change depending on what the user is doing), and that is support."

Excellent point! Yes. Changing, and having to say in tech support or documentation "that thing that looks like a badger smoking a carrot" or whatever is a pain.

I had a similar doc experience long ago as a techwriter--it was for a GUI product with a complete toolbox for changing the interface anyway the customer developers wanted. ;>

And personally I'm not a fan of the Mac's adaptive menus.

You know, the navigation will bring MS trainers the same problem I USED to have when OOo had context-sensitive changeable toolbars--the Big Blue Triangle, for those of you who remember. I like the View > Toolbars > Toolbar of your Choice so much better. (The right toolbar still pops up as much as it used to, but there's a straightforward way to do it.)

Fabulous points. Thank you.


MSO 2007 apparently also has some substantial server and CAL requirements.

No one's writing about them. I can speculate why with some wild guesses:

If one doesn't have the server already, the new purchase will add to the cost. If the old server doesn't have the power to run the new software, then an upgrade adds to the cost. Then there are the CALs for MSO 2007 and, presumably, a separate set of CALs needed for the server. My cynical guess would be that they are not sold in matching quantities. Also presumably there may be some re-configuration of the workstations needed to get all of the above to work. So on the whole, I'd guess that it's a time consuming and inconvenient process, otherwise MS would be crowing about how easy it is.

It could be that in addition to saving in regards to re-training, substantial time and costs can be spared in regards to infrastructue re-tooling and maintenance.

Hmm.. well some of the arguments here seem to me to be a rehash of the ones that people made when jumping from DOS to Windows ("Well sure it looks easier to use... but think of all that retraining cost..."), and I tend to think that ease of use trumps familiarity over the long term. Whether MSO 2007 represents enough of a level of increased ease of use, though, only time - and lots of users - will tell :)

Lars - afaik there's no extra server requrements, unless you're committing to using Sharepoint etc as well.

I wouldn't emphasise the adaptive toolbar, or whatever it's called, too much as a showstopper. MS has been introducing such features into its OS and apps for years; however they've always allowed you to turn it off and use "Classic" menus that don't keep changing and making stupid suggestions. MS is very aware of "legacy" problems and bends over backwards to keep users comfortable. Probably the new versions of Office still have the WordPerfect compatible keystrokes and help; Excel still has Lotus 123 compatibility features.

I do think though that word processing reached feature-completeness about 1990; 95% of users would be happy with Winword 2 (and enjoy its amazing speed on new hardware). OO just has to watch its bloat.

This is a very informative post about the new Office 12 - thanks very much!

The idea of adaptive menus, while it may be very visually "interesting" to the user does in fact present extraordinary issues for those involved in provding user support by phone, as Solveig points out.

And the vast majority of users in a so-called "average" business setting already have no use for 90% of the existing features of Word, let alone a whole set of new features. Sure the power users are going to be happy, but the real day-to-day users are not geeks but rather people to whom using a computer should not come as a hassle; they legitimately should not have to learn an entire set of new menu features just to print a normal letter and envelope.

And to the extent that the new menu items have a similar name but a different functionality than the existing menu items...{shudder}. Guranteed problems!

Yeah, Mirosoft realizes that adding new functionality to Word is much more difficult than adding zippy new menus (how many new word processing features does anyone really need, anyway? ) but I think that MS is simply going off in the wrong direction here in another misguided marketting effort to churn out new levels of profit from essentially matured products...

Good article, I have some thoughts though. I work at an Architectural firm, and we do not use AutoCAD (thank God). Our program is much, much pricier, but enables us to complete jobs much quicker than with AutoCAD. Here's my point: office users will be willing to shell out more cash if it will (or makes them think it will) increase their current productivity level. I am a OOo fan, and currently use it at work and home. Eye candy is a pretty good hook for most people. Heck, the 'Live Preview' in office 2007 is great. It may not accomplish very much, but it's flashy. People like *bling*. Minimalistic approaches will not continue to work over the long run.

Hi Jerry,

I know, I think flashy is one of the things Microsoft does best. See my blog on how to get to people emotionally and with design rather than logic.

If people are intellectually evaluating whether they need to pay $XX,XXX,XXX dollars to upgrade, though, and are willing to analyze rather than go with a simpler (must have bling!) approach to decision-making, well, that's where OpenOffice.org comes in.


It is really nice looking.
I like it.

Office 2007 really rocks.

To be honest, I think the new UI for Office 07 is incredible. My wife, who is NOT a computer expert and is very used to word 03, took about 10 minutes to learn the new interface, after which she could not stop talking about how great it was. I have the same opinion. It is redesigned, but is FAR more intuitive to use. In fact, I used linux pretty exclusively until I got my hands on the 2007 beta release, and have switched mostly back to windows now because of it. Some of the comments above mention the eye candy; it looks great, but the important part is that it actually helps make you more productive. I really feel like I don't have to go searching through 7 levels of menus and pop-ups to find what I need to do. The point is that you don't actually NEED to be retrained to learn the program, it is so well designed that the learning curve has become VERY shallow. I have used openoffice in the past, and it was enough to get by, but as of now, it cannot hold a candle to word 07. I guess the feeling I get is that the open source community is often a few steps behind commercial products like MS Office (which is to be expected, since they do not have a billion dollar budget to work with), and the new office suite is really INNOVATING, not imitating. OpenOffice could either go the path of staying with what they have (which is really outdated, with no significant changes since office 97), or go with the new ribbon UI (which is really, REALLY productive, but then you would be imitating, not innovating).
I'm all for supporting the open source community, and do a lot of programming of my own, but at the end of the day I have to go with what makes me the most productive, and for now, that is office 2007.

I switched from Office 2003 to Office 2007 a few weeks ago, and, honestly, it was a relatively painless switch. I got the hang of the UI within the day. The only difficulty I had was finding the Link button.

2007 is intuitively designed and MS has fixed, as far as I can tell, the two most infuriating problems I had with 2003 - numbering and moving text boxes and graphics to a specific spot. I'm sure there are other major improvements beyond those.

Also, a huge benefit is that 2007 has a "compatibility mode" that allows you to work with your older documents within 2007.

I can create a new document in 2007 (.docx) and save it as a 2003 (.doc). It's very easy to switch between older versions of Office and 2007.

Overall, I went from despising Office (and MS to boot) to being relatively content with the way Office 2007 works.

Also, the suggested prices are as follows: upgrade between $239-$539 and new between $149-$679.

Until OpenOffice/StarOffice offers a OneNote replacement, it won't be making it on my PC. I have become dependent on OneNote and the functionality it provides. Writer, Calc, and Impress look to be excellent alternatives to their MS counterparts, but the lack of a OneNote replacement makes it a no-go for me.

Hi Rick,

Is it possible to use OneNote without Microsoft Office? I would imagine the applications can be installed separately.

Here are some alternatives to OneNote

It's on an ubuntu forum so I'm not sure if they run on Windows.


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