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Doug's Mailbag: On the Fence About Office 2007, Windows 7 Answers, More

Like Doug, most readers are mixed about Office 2007:

I like the fact that Microsoft Office 2007 is not trying to cram more features down our throats. The ribbon is a major improvement once you get used to it. In training, it's much easier if someone had no experience at all using Office. A fresh user will love the interface, in my humble opinion. And at least Clippy is dead and buried. We can all be happy about that.

The worst thing about Office 2007 is how inconsistent it is. Some products have the ribbon, a couple do not (Outlook, Publisher). For Office 2010, Microsoft, please keep things simple and realize there are more people experienced with office than those who are not.

While a newbie might actually like it, those of us who hated Office when we were forced to leave WordPerfect have found little to really like in Office 2007. One of the things I truly miss is the built-in scanner interface. Office 2007 forces you to leave it, create your scan, then return to import it -- lots of work and no gain over 2003. In addition, 2003 is still resting under it, as evidenced by the ability to find the old 2003(ish) menus under the font and paragraph bars (click the tiny X). So, Microsoft, why not give us the option of going back to the 2003 GUI?

I could go on. I teach this stuff on the high school level and have to get my students to translate between what they may be using at home -- often 2003 and sometimes WordPerfect -- and Office 2007 (Microsoft no longer includes help for WordPerfect users).


I've been using Office 2007 since spring of 2007 and love it! It was hard to get used to the new interface at first, but it's second nature now. I keep meaning to build my own ribbon so that I have all the buttons I usually use on one, but haven't gotten around to it. It's supposed to be easy to do even or a non-tech person.

Interesting note: My brother-in-law works at an investment firm where they practically live inside Excel. They still have 2003, which has a severe limitation of something around 10,000 rows. They have to sort their accounts/transactions/funds then paste parts of them into different spreadsheets in order to look at what they want. What a nightmare! From what I understand, Excel 2007 has an almost limitless row number. I'm sure the IT guys are saving money by not rolling the new product out, but how much time is spent by the analysts, sales and support staff trying to do their jobs?

I'm an Army Microsoft user, now using Office 2007 at home and at work. I like the Outlook views with the calendar sidebar; I find it very helpful and try to play that up to our users faced with moving to Office 2007.

But I am struggling to find the logic behind the placement of some features in Excel and Word. I am not by any means a "power user" of either, but common sense would say that the simple user functions would remain the same. NOT! I just tried to insert a row into a spreadsheet and finally gave up and just added the line, using "sort" to get it in the proper order. And until I set up my printer on the Quick Access Toolbar, it took three or four clicks just to print a document. Madness! Then, of course, there's the SNAFU with Office 2007 and Silanis ApproveIt, the software used for digital signatures. Awful! But there I blame the Army for forcing us to new software before testing all the requirements. Just as they've done with Vista...but that's a story for another day!

For me, Office 2007, like its predecessors, required a steep learning curve and a number of custom macros. After mastering (and I use that term somewhat facetiously) the new interface, command locations and ways of getting things done, I achieved a decent level of productivity. I'm even willing to stipulate that I am somewhat more productive with the new system.

However, I'm not sure cost savings incurred from the increased productivity outweighs the high cost of developing mastery of Office 2007 to the same level I enjoyed with its predecessor. Maybe the hidden benefit is that the mental challenge of the effort exercises my mind and staves off degeneration of my mental faculties. Maybe that was Microsoft's plan all along. It could happen.

Meanwhile, Asif tries to clear up some of Doug's Windows 7 problems:

I can answer all your Windows 7 questions with one statement: beta! The bottom line is that this is beta software, and if you are using Windows 7 for regular use, I would really reconsider.

But to answer each of your questions, the reason Flash won't run in Firefox is probably partly because Windows 7 is still in beta and partly because the current version of Firefox was not designed for Windows 7. As for why your network and VPN connection die when Windows 7 goes to sleep, it's simple: When going into sleep mode, the network adapter is powered down, which shuts off your network connection. Now, if the problem continues after waking up the PC, then the problem is most likely in the driver, which is not bringing the network adapter back online. Again, this could be related to the product or the driver being still in beta. As far as Windows 7 crashing, I am running it on two different laptops and have not experienced any crashes on either laptop in three months. Again, the problem may be the drivers. As far as the printer problem you are having, this is most likely an HP driver problem. HP print drivers are horrible; they are notorious for causing other problems such as blue screens -- just Google it.

Finally, July's Patch Tuesday raised plenty of alarms over DirectX and ActiveX security. Dan thinks constant patching isn't enough:

When it comes to DirectX and ActiveX, I wonder if Microsoft shouldn't just sit down and redesign both from the ground up. I'm really tired of the endless patch circus we've been living with these past couple of years -- and not just from MS. It has taken a lot of the fun out of personal computing and it keeps our corporate systems constantly late with the updates because every patch has to be tested before being deployed.

I'm still waiting for MS to write a completely new OS that drops ALL legacy code, that would run in parallel with existing OSes until everyone has migrated to the new, leaner, safer, smarter, faster OS...OUCH! Oh, I was dreaming.

Check back on Friday for more reader letters. Meanwhile, share your own thoughts by writing a comment below or e-mailing Doug at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/22/2009 at 1:16 PM


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