Monday, March 05, 2007

Microsoft Office 2007 - Don't try to right click without dual processors!!

I have used Office products since the late 90's, so I was very excited about the new Office 2007 suite. Granted, I am partially biased towards it since I was an SDET intern on Outlook before coming to grad school, but despite that fact I see some major flaws. In fact, if I hadn't acquired it at the student price I would probably be extremely annoyed.

It's always best to say the positive parts first (well, the positive parts with caveats): the suite as a whole is very well done, and I especially like the ribbon (the new controls in place of the old menu) most of the time. I am in love with the task bar in Outlook. I appreciate the slightly more elegant look to Excel charts, except that it takes the power of at least one full 1.6ghz processor to edit them, and editing chart titles is nearly impossible. I am entranced with the new Outlook calendar, although I'm still not impressed with the low details view.

I should probably expound on those caveats before I go on a tangent about memory usage, and details by application is probably the best. I haven't used the new Infopath, Access, OneNote, or Publisher yet, although I have all of them except OneNote, so that will be a different post probably far in the future. One should also note that I have an Intel Core Duo with 1GB RAM. So here goes it with the general products:


I can't remember ever having so many problems with right-clicking or scrolling in an Office product. The response time seems to be fine if the spreadsheet only contains data, but as soon as you add charts it's a whole new world. For a spreadsheet with only charts, scrolling down is nearly impossible. The best I've been able to do is continuously click the down arrow; otherwise, it seems to forget that I wanted it to scroll.

As far as right-clicking goes, don't do it on a chart unless it's on an axis. I've had Excel quit responding due to a right click, although to its merit it eventually recovers on its own and doesn't crash. But who wants to wait 10 minutes to do any editing after clicking on the area to edit? After a week of frustration I discovered that editing charts via the ribbon did not slow down the application at all, and it responded as quick as Excel 2003! As much as I love the ribbon, I find right-clicking to be easier because it doesn't require me to move my mouse away from the chart...and I do love the semblance of efficiency. However, since right-clicking is apparently prohibited in this new version, I began using the ribbon. At first it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to change my chart title and I nearly threw the computer across the room (the only thing that stopped me is the fact that it's a new laptop and I absolutely adore it, despite Office). Now that I've learned where some crucial buttons are though, I can use the ribbon relatively quickly. I still wish I had the choice of right-click; did no one bother to test that it was realistically possible to use? Seems like right-clicking locking up the application should have been a high priority ticket....someone really dropped the ball on that one.

Speaking of dropping the ball...are users expected to no longer what to edit their chart titles without overwriting the previous changes? If I click on the chart title twice to edit it, I get the cursor at the end as in previous versions of Excel. I can then proceed to erase the last few characters and type in new characters. However, if I press enter or click on the chart I will always lose the original text and only the changes will remain. If I instead click on the spreadsheet after making the changes as the first click outside of the title box, sometimes it will save the entire thing, but many times it still loses the original text. For example, if my title is Run2 but I click on it and erase the 2 and replace it with a 3, when I hit enter I will end up with '3' as my chart title instead of the expected 'Run3'. I have discovered that to ensure chart title editing works appropriately, the user should click on the chart title (or select it via the ribbon) and then type the entire desired title into the function bar near the bottom of the ribbon. Why would I want to use the ribbon just to edit a chart title? Who knows. Well, someone knows...and he/she is probably a SDE.

One thing I can't complain about though is the default colors for graphs. They are more subdued than the pure red/blue of versions before, and make them look much more elegant and closer to a Matlab creation.


Part of Word ribbon

Word has been a relatively positive experience so far. I remember the Word ribbon from my SDET summer, although it has of course changed in the past 2 years. I've heard that it has a new equation editor, but since I use LaTeX for everything I haven't tried it out yet (although I'm tempted, at least). I did use Word to show off the ribbon to my Mac-using labmates, however, who were impressed. They didn't believe me when I told them that Microsoft had completely revamped the menu system (apparently they live in a dark hole), but Word was great for demonstrating the ribbon. My absolute favorite part about the ribbon in any application are the superscript/subscript buttons in Word. Finally, I don't have to use LaTeX just for easy superscript/subscript creation! (yes, I'm aware that keystrokes could be used previously)


Outlook medium details view

Oh, Outlook, how I worship you. Well, maybe not...but I do feel like it is one of the most successful of the new Office applications. The calendar is such a far cry from the old flat pastel one, any frequent user must be ecstatic. The fact that I can easily view my week's schedule in a reasonable format makes my heart flutter. The task pane allows me to finally be able to keep track of the days activities without having to constantly switch back to the calendar view, and I can finally keep up with my tasks without needing to switch to the task view. I use Outlook as my life management system (combined with my Treo, of course), so being able to stay organized efficiently makes my day that much better. Besides, how could anyone dislike the new pleasing aesthetic?

Unfortunately Outlook isn't perfect either, just like all other complex software systems. The "low details" view on the calendar seems relatively useless, whereas the "medium details" view seems like a good "low details" option. I think medium details might be better used to not display day long appointments since they crowd the space, and only display appointments with specific times. But I don't think I thought of that when I was testing the calendar...or did I? Only the work ticket system knows!


I definitely like the new PowerPoint, although coping/pasting graphs from Excel is a time consuming task for no apparent reason. It is really nifty that they finally copy/paste graphs without a border and with a clear background by default though! I'm also impressed with the fact that if you have chart 1 on your slide and selected, and you try to paste chart 2, it will combine the data from the 2 charts to create a new one! I accidentally did this the first time, but it is such an awesome feature that I didn't mind! My quickly made slides for an afternoon presentation look so much better just because of the default graph quality, as well as the default font family (verdana, soooo much nicer than times new roman!!).

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