Office 2007: Pretty, but reorganized to no apparent good purpose.
Classrooms were never going to be the first place you’d expect to find the latest versions of Windows and Office. Nevertheless, the short shrift given to Vista and Office 2007 by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association this week sounds particularly harsh[.] From the agency’s summary of its 1-year study:
Why not classrooms? If I were a software tycoon, that would be the very first place I wanted to place my products. Even if I had to give them away for free. Create lifelong users, and the “my product=computers in general” habit of mental association.
Hence the Enciclomedia project, I imagine.
- John Bull Overlooks Vista (March 2007)
- “Why Do 34,000 Brazilian Beancounters Need 44,000 Copies of Microsoft Office?”
The Tech blog excerpts the BECTA study:
The new features of Microsoft’s Vista product added value but did not justify early deployment in the education sector. The deployment costs were seen as high and the benefits were far from clear. Office 2007 contained no “must-have” features and Microsoft should develop an underpinning business case to justify deployment in the education sector. There were interoperability concerns regarding Office 2007; and Microsoft should urgently provide “native” support for the Open Document Format (ODF.)
Hear freaking hear.
Some colleagues and I were just bitching loudly this week about the “new, but not improved” factor, particularly in the Office suite, of which we all consider ourselves veteran power users.
First, we would like to consider an open-source translation memory software that we like. The stumbling block: Having to convert .DOC files to .ODT, for example, before the software can work with them. It is not authorized to work with Redmond’s proprietary formats. This is a bit like having to buy several TV sets, each designed to tune in one channel but not the others.
Second, Office 2007 in particular cheeses us off mightily.
You get very used to a program that is organized in a certain way, from version to version, over more than a decade of churning words and numbers.
You grouse about it some, but then you come to appreciate its advantages, and even to defend it against the Microsoft-bashers. I still say Excel is the best number-crunching doodad out there, for example.
And then they completely reorganize the interfaces.
For no apparent good, usability-based reason that we can make out.
For example, grouses one colleague: Where the hell did AutoCorrect go to, anway? A lot of us have huge custom dictionaries set up where, say, “orgl.” is automatically corrected to “organizational.” Saves keystrokes.
It’s as though you came out with a new car in which you use your feet to steer and your hands to brake and accelerate.
Some marketing genius most likely decided that the product needed to be “differentiated” from, say, Open Office and other small-w windows-based operating systems.
(Innovation marketing geniuses who think that the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle — not to mention “listening to customers” — is for soulless non-visionaries who “don’t get the Internet.”)
If you can use Windows or Mac OS X, for example, then the Gnome Desktop or KDE will not thoroughly confuse you. (Really, those interfaces are better designed, I find. Simpler. More intuitive.)
For example, I leave my five-year-old nephew, who knows how to right-click into context menus already — I believe that children are the future — alone for five minutes with my Gnome-equipped Linux laptop.
I come back to find he has already discovered how to launch games, extrapolating from what he already know from hacking Mommy’s Mac. This actually happened.
There is a menu bar at the top, and you click through a “garden of forking paths” to find the tasks that you want to run. Jogos means “games.” (My machine speaks New World Portuguese.)
A GUI is a GUI — much as a city is a city.
Many of the principles you learn for navigating one city can be applied to others, mutatis mutandis — unless that city is São Paulo, which is sort of the Windows Vista of global urban planning disasters.
The FT Tech Blog wraps up:
After its rejection last September, Microsoft will make another bid next month for international backing for its own new “open” document standard. This is a reminder of how much is at stake.
- Chile: “Digital Revolution Against Microsoft!”
- Antitrust Mistrust In Google Vista Beef
- Kernel Wars: St. Bill “Bruce Wayne” Gates of Assisi x The Penguin
- Pirated Vista Arrives in Brazil: Local Press
I have not used Vista much, but in the small amount of poking around that I have done, I tend to find that it has become even more of a nag than XP was.
Constantly warning you against doing this or that, second-guessing your every move — “Are you sure you don’t want fries with that?” — and breaking in constantly to offer inane advice, pointless choices, and generally waxing hysterical about the dangers of unauthorized user activities.
“Open the pod-bay door, HAL.
“I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that.”
It’s like a bad waiter, angling for a big tip.
You know the kind.
The “I am not really a waiter; I am just doing this until my career as a Shakespearean actor takes off” sort of waiter. The kind who hates his life and takes it out on you.
Asking you, in a chipper tone, if everything is all right every 30 seconds, breaking into your conversation to do so, and generally creating the impression that what they really want is for you to just finish shoveling the slop down your piehole ASAP, pay the exorbitant tab, and scram, so they can bring in the next candidate for fleecing.
His solicitude is a form of veiled aggression. His friendliness a form of veiled disdain. You have had this waiter, haven’t you? I know you have.
Another new experience: Excel with Portuguese terms for the functions used in mathematical formulas, such as SOMA(range) for SUM(range).