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Doug's Mailbag: Novell Notes, Living with the Ribbon

Readers share their thoughts on Novell, which a New York-based hedge fund offered to buy last week for $2 billion:

I like the analogy comparing Novell to Ali. He was great in his time, but got pummeled a few too many times and could barely communicate in midlife. Yep, sounds like Novell.

However, I don't see how you can admire Novell. They blundered in their marketing against NT. NetWare and directory services could have buried NT with the right marketing. Yet they persisted in asking for the additional pound of flesh when you bought it; Microsoft undercut them. They blundered in buying WordPerfect (for way too much money), thinking they could go against Microsoft on their own software platform. The first few WordPerfect versions on Windows were horrible. GroupWise under a different company might have been a contender, but almost 10 years later, SharePoint is finally doing what Novell wanted to do back then. Novell was the king. The king is dead. Long live Microsoft.

As a Windows professional working in a Novell shop (well, we just migrated away from Novell), I remember this video from BrainShare in 2002. Our Novell engineers all got a big laugh out of it. But when I looked at it more closely, the crash errors appeared to be from Windows 98 vintage, not from Microsoft's new OS at that time, Windows 2000.

I don't think NT killed NetWare. I think Active Directory killed NetWare. Don't get me wrong, I think Novell had good products. But when they should have been innovating to separate themselves from Active Directory, all they did was try and make fun of Microsoft's products. Flying Boy and the Microsoft butterfly swatter are what I remember most from Novell.

Doug's mailbag was recently filled with readers' gripes about the Office ribbon. A few of you wrote in to commiserate and offer some tips:

You might want to post a tip for the folks who think the ribbon is too big. If you click the Customize Quick Access Toolbar icon on the top line of an Office app, there is an option to minimize the ribbon at the bottom of the menu. I have chosen that in all my Office 2007 apps, and now the ribbon is only active when I click one of the commands (just like a pull-down menu).

All in all, I think the ribbon is slightly better than a pull-down menu. I'm still using Office 2003 at home (for financial reasons), and I'm now finding those pull-down menus to be irritating, especially when I have to branch out three or more times to get to a function!

I, too, struggled with the ribbon, and continue to do so. A co-worker of mine sent me a link to a video from Microsoft that helped alleviate the pain somewhat. The video is called "The Ribbon" and is located here. Near the middle of the page, under "Key Features," is the link to play it.

I like the ribbon now that I'm used to it. Most of our users aren't tech-savvy and need a lot of hand-holding. Consequently, we were late to adopt Office 2007. Users are adapting and may eventually become more productive with the new UI. But whatever gains we see are offset by increased training and support costs. To me, the ribbon is an example of fixing something that wasn't broken.

And one reader offers a wry assessment of the new breed of smartphones:

Whenever I get a new phone and start trying to figure it out, I can't help but chuckle as I recall the words of Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++: "I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone."

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected] Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/08/2010 at 1:17 PM


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