A few things you'll miss when you upgrade to Office 2007

There may be a lot to like about the new release of Microsoft Office, but you might find that it comes up short here and there. Deb Shinder shares some of the Office 2007 changes that have transformed or preempted familiar, long-standing Office features.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

Microsoft's Office programs are in use in businesses and homes all over the world. According to Business Week, as of July 2006, Microsoft Office held a 95 percent share of the market and more than 400 million copies were in use. On January 30, 2007, Microsoft released the latest version of its office suite to consumers: Microsoft Office 2007 (formerly known as Office 12).

The new release includes a number of cool new features, but that's not the subject of this article. As with almost every new software version, upgrading is a tradeoff. Along with enjoying the benefits of the new Office, you'll probably miss some things about the old one. Here are a few features users seem to miss most after upgrading to Office 2007.

My menus morphed into a ribbon

The most obvious difference between the 2003 and 2007 versions in most of the Office programs—and the one causing the most controversy—is the new ribbon, which takes the place of the familiar old toolbars. Some folks love it and some hate it. But many of those who like the ribbon agree that it would have been nice to have the option to go back to the old "classic" look. Figure A shows the ribbon.

Figure A

The ribbon replaces the old toolbars in most Office programs.

Sorry, but the old look is gone for good. However, if you don't like the large amount of screen real estate the ribbon occupies, you can minimize it. Just right-click on any of the ribbon tabs and select Minimize, as we've done in Figure B.

Figure B

You can minimize the ribbon so it takes up less screen real estate.

When the ribbon is minimized, it expands automatically if you click one of its tab headings, then minimizes again after you've chosen your task. Once you get acquainted with what selections under each heading, it's easy to work with the ribbon minimized. However, diehards will still miss the old customizable toolbars.

Outlook's memory isn't as good as it used to be

Okay, I know we all get a little forgetful as we get older, so maybe Outlook is just showing the signs of aging—but it doesn't remember things as well as it used to. One of the nice features in Outlook 2003 was that if you clicked away from one folder to another, when you came back to the Inbox or a mail subfolder, Outlook's focus was on whatever message you had highlighted when you left that folder.

Well, now sometimes that happens, and sometimes it doesn't. More than half the time, when I click away from the Inbox and then come back, Outlook takes me all the way to the earliest message in the list and I have to scroll down (or press the [End] key) to get to my most recent messages.

Another thing Outlook forgets is my preference for listing mail messages with the oldest on top. It keeps going back to the default of newest messages on top. Sometimes (not nearly as often as the preceding problems) it will even forget that I want to use the Preview pane. A couple of times, when I've closed Outlook with everything configured just as I like it, next time I opened it, the Preview pane was missing or it was at the bottom instead of on the right side like it had been before.

There are a lot of things I like about the new Outlook, including its handy To-Do Bar, but I miss Outlook 2003's razor sharp memory.

Help! Where's the Help?

I've had several people tell me that they were unable to find any Help in Office 2007. It's there—just click the little blue question mark at the far right side of the top row of the ribbon. Everyone's so used to seeing the word Help on the top menu bar, they completely overlook the question mark button.

When you open it, you'll discover that Help does have a new look, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Once you find the Help feature, you'll see that it has a new look.

You can also access Office Help on the Web. The complete Help files for each product are available; just click on the product name under Help By Product in the left column.

What about "About"?

In previous versions of Office programs, you could click Help and select About to display version information, licensing information, and the product ID for Office programs. Now it takes a bit of digging to find that screen. Here's how to get there:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office button (the big round button with the Office 2007 logo in the upper-left corner of the program window).
  2. Click the Options button (Word Options, Excel Options, PowerPoint Options, etc., depending on the program you're in).
  3. Click Resources in the left pane.
  4. Select About in the right pane. You'll see the program information, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

The About display still exists, but it's a bit harder to find now.

Status bar gets hijacked

In Word 2003, you could see the word count of a document by selecting the Word Count toolbar from the View | Toolbars menu. You could put that toolbar anywhere you wanted, at the bottom or top of the document or floating somewhere in between.

You no longer have that option in Word 2007. Instead, the word count is continuously displayed in the status bar, changing as you type, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

The new Word Count feature on the status bar is great—except when it isn't.

I thought this was a big improvement—until my antivirus program hijacked the status bar. When this happens, the Page number and Word Count information disappear and the left side of the status bar just says Running virus scan. You can still use Word while the scan is running, but you can no longer see your word count (or page number).

If you need that information while the virus scan is running, you can still get it, but in a very convoluted way. Here's what you have to do:

  1. Click the Office button.
  2. Select Prepare.
  3. Click Properties.
  4. When the Document properties toolbar is displayed, click the down arrow beside Document Properties and select Advanced Properties.
  5. Click the Statistics tab.

That's a lot of work just to find out your word count, and looking under Prepare for the document properties isn't exactly intuitive. I guess it would have been redundant, but if Microsoft can't prevent the virus scan from hijacking the status bar, it should have retained the ability to use the old Word Count toolbar in addition to the display on the status bar.

FrontPage: Wherefore art thou?

FrontPage was the part of the Office System that you used to create and manage your Web pages. It was easy to use and made designing and uploading Web pages simple.

With Office 2007, not only has FrontPage been banished from the family, it's been killed off entirely. Now Web page design is done with one of two new products: SharePoint Designer or Expression Web. Having two Web design applications is confusing to users. And Expression isn't part of the Office family because it has its own family, called Expression Studio, which includes Expression Blend, Expression Design, and Expression Media.

To be fair, Expression Web builds on the FrontPage interface and, once you get past all the extras, has a low learning curve for FrontPage users. But I'd have preferred that it be named FrontPage 2007 and stay part of the Office family. The good news is that if you want to stick with FrontPage 2003, it will still peacefully coexist with Office 2007.


Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

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