Software

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.

About

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...

38 comments
uiuidos
uiuidos

outlook does not let you sort by colored flags anymore. they are categories now, and automatically group - not just a simple list - when sort. Outlook does not list the most recent folders when you click the "move to folder" button - it shows the whole stinking list again, then you have to navigate it all over again. #$%^&*

NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301
NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301

I'm actually really confused by this article. The picture shown of the status bar looks completely different from the status bar shown in Word 2007 on my computer, which is utterly blank. No page count, no word count, no "virus scan running" no anything but narrow blue space. One of my greatest frustrations with the stupid new look is the impossibility of having a running page count displayed -- no matter what "view" I switch to, NO PAGE COUNT. Help is absolutely impossible as werll, in two days of trying, I could not get the idiot program to tell me how to get page counts displayed at all. Someone tell me what settings correspond to the status bar shown in this article before I go out of my mind?

rafiber
rafiber

And how come no one mentioned anything about the file format change in 2007 (e.g., docx)? How annoying is that?? I now have to deal with saving down to 2003 file format for others I communicate with. Not only that, I have gotten many warnings of incompatability when saving down to 2003, especially in Excel. I miss the .doc and .xls formats.

jpdecesare
jpdecesare

Time to move on to the "new". You miss a few, you gain a lot. If we always had to stay with what we know without advancing, we'd still be typing D:\setup.exe at a black and white screen. ;-)

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

Miss a few, gain a lot? What exactly do I gain ? I upgraded from Office 4.2 to 2000, and have not upgraded since. 4.2 did everything I needed, and did much of it better; e.g, 2000 did away with the multiple-document interface (MDI) in Word, so in order to open two Word documents at the same time I had to loose valuable screen real estate with an additional Title Bar, Menu Bar, Standard and Formatting toolbars, etc., by opening a second instance of Word. I understand that MDI was restored in Office XP, but why should I have to upgrade again to get back what I had in an earlier version? That is just one example. Others, in brief, include a much more difficult to manage bullet & numbering system, the inability to delete styles from Normal.dot that I don't use and don't want, the ridiculous splitting of the Help system in 2003 (I have to use it at the companies I work for) so you can't just minimize the Help screen; you have to close out both the Help search and display, separately, before you can get back to your primary focus, the document you're working on. Bottom line: Microsoft has long since abandoned serving its customers; it is now only interested in establishing and preserving its revenue stream via planned obsolescence.

DanLM
DanLM

That wasn't a nock at MS, because I use that also and like it. Just saying, I happen to be a fan of command line because when i tell something to jump... It does it exactly the way I want it too, and I know from the switch's I set that it won't do more then what I want. Thats what I hold against GUI's... No matter what flavor... You don't know what really is occuring... It's all a matter of trust. dan

dogknees
dogknees

Although you can access the same tools on the ribbon, as you say, it needs extra clicks. Since when has requiring extra clicks/keystrokes/time to do some been an improvement? Some might say that it helps less skilled users. It's easy to train people, it's harder to have to write a custom interface to get back the speed and functionality lost be this kind of change. To me an upgrade means nothing will take more time/clicks/... , no functionality is dropped, and at least some extra functions are added. Seems to me the Office 2007 isn't an upgrade. One question I have is as an Excel developer, I often create custom toolbars and menus for my apps. Given there are no toolbars, how will this work in 2007?

scotts
scotts

I know the ribbon is designed based on the most utilized tools and is tab seperated. So the typical tasks work well and quickly given that you get used to where things are. However when you do some little task that is not directly visible on the ribbon and you have to hunt for it. That is where you waste a lot of time.

TG2
TG2

yes ... so here is the rub.. can you revert the ribbon to the menus? can you make the program do what the previous ones did? And why is it that MICROSOFT decides what IS and is NOT something that *I* needed to have easy access to? Its not just a matter of access but having to RELEARN how to work in general terms. You have people that may have just started out working with 2003 versions.. now being shoveled into 2007 having to relearn. Or you have someone like me.. everything I needed was on the menus.. that's how I liked it. But... F me... I'm not important.. Fine Microsoft.. you're not important anymore.. 2003 is the last office version of yours I use.

dogknees
dogknees

Will you sign a legally binding contract to NEVER use another version of Office? NEVER? Not this year and not in 20 years? Thought not! If you don't mean it, don't say it.

Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson

It would've been lunacy for MS to name Expression Web as FrontPage 2007. FrontPage it is not. As has been regularly pointed out by every web pro for years, FrontPage is a dog. Good for newbies like myself to get started, and OK as an HTML script editor but very inefficient in WYSIWYG. Expression Web is a top, standards compliant professional tool. It's no longer tied to the accursed FP extensions. If MS had had possessed enough nous to also release it in a Mac OS version it would be a serious challenge to Dreamweaver's dominance.

mikeandrews
mikeandrews

I would respectfully disagree - Expression stripped out many of the valuable features that Frontpage users liked. Try a simple hit counter, for instance. You will have to resort to HTML coding. Frontpage? Just drop one in from the Web Components. After suffering through Expression for a few days I decided that enough is enough - I upgraded to Dreamweaver. I found that the learning curve on Dreamweaver was much shorter than on Expression. I have a theory about that, too. Expression is a multi-level software designed to entice the basic user into upgrading (for more money). The basic level is stripped of functionality that we all came to like in Frontpage in order to get us to upgrade. I didn't upgrade. I out-graded. :) Ciao Microsoft, Mike

Snak
Snak

Why? Hit counters do two things: 1. Tell visitors how few other visitors you've had. 2. Give no useful info at all. Your web host should have all the stats you need - if you use cpanel or other 'front end' you should have access to a multitude of hit, unique visitor, country-of-origin, referrer, browser etc stats. But welcome to DW - I've been using it since there were no version numbers and can not fault it. True, it's pricey (too pricey), but in my opinion, it IS the best.

jfowler
jfowler

Funny, I would have said just the opposite. I find FP easy to use in WYSIWYG, once you know your way around the program. Where Front Page falls flat on it's face (IMHO) is in the unnecessary and redundant html that it creates. Cleaning up THAT mess can be a real chore! I'm looking forward to kicking the tires on Expression Web, and if it is as good as everyone seems to think it is, then goodbye to Front Page, ..and good riddance. As for "Dreamweaver".. Nice program, IF you can afford it. Most casual web builders cannot.

Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson

I didn't say it wasn't easy to use, I said it was inefficient in WYSIWYG - implying that it produced sloppy HTML script if given free rein. "Good for newbies like myself" is another way of saying easy to use. :o) Expression Web actually encourages the use of direct coding in HTML and CSS - a very good thing IMO. I use both Dreamweaver and Expression Web: there are differences, but I would put them on an equal footing overall. Of course Adobe may come back with a Microsoft buster replacement for Dreamweaver before too long.

SROVO01
SROVO01

I notice in your article that you say "click this" and "click that". However, for those of us who type over 80 wpm, clicking anything is disruptive and annoying. I can use keyboard shortcuts much faster than I can aim and hold a mouse cursor within a 4-pixel square and click on something. Did they retain the keyboard shortcuts? Are they still the same, or did they change them all again?

geek 256
geek 256

You can even use the old Alt menu commands, if you remenber them. Ex: Alt T,O to bring up the options dialog box.

Alan Henderson
Alan Henderson

Press shift+F5 to go back to the last place edited. It worked on reopening a document in previous versions - really useful - now it doesn't. I upgraded because I got a free copy of Office 2007 from MS. I'm reverting to Office 2003. I miss my menus. And Shift - F5. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

kiminyme
kiminyme

The author mentions that experienced users will miss customization. However, users can put frequently-used tools on the banner at the top of the window, with more buttons available than older versions of Office had. I have been using Office 2007 for about three weeks on one machine, but I still have older versions on other machines, so I switch back and forth a lot. I have found that Office 2007 is generally more intuitive and user-friendly than the older versions. There is a transition curve, but in the long run, the new settings make much more sense, IMO.

robert_blumenfeld
robert_blumenfeld

I have several of my own toolbars that do lots of good things for me. Now they've been cut off at the knees. I haven't seen any information about customized keystrokes (a poor but usable alternative to toolbars) or if VBA is even present in W2K7. In fact, a cynical part of me wonders if that isn't the real reason for eliminating toolbars: Get rid of that virus-prone VBA.

mamies
mamies

We created our own ribbon menus. We have a report one that works quite fine, that has all our custom report Macros in it. Thanks, Matthew

JodyGilbert
JodyGilbert

Are the missing or altered features discussed here likely to slow you down or do the changes make sense to you? What options and elements are you really going to wish you had back?

jawatson
jawatson

I will miss being able to navigate through my Outlook folders, right-click on one, and select "find..." (or some other search option). Instant search behaves bizarre, I hate it, and takes me a LOT longer to find what I'm looking for.

mvsbs
mvsbs

Office 2007 is good

techrepublic
techrepublic

is the money that used to be in your wallet, when you pay for this bloated, "gotta-have-the-newest" version of Office. I found very little in the way of substantive improvement that would induce me to part woth the bucks.

markguer
markguer

Access 2007 now has pretty much seamless integration with Sharepoint. you can now use Access as a front end to a SP database for lists, contact, tasks etc. This is now a very powerful tool for managing sharepoint content.

Snak
Snak

Finally we get to lose that rubbish piece of software, Frontpage. As a Dreamweaver user often asked to repair or rebuild web sites built in FP, I was really grateful for the 'Remove MS-Specific HTML tags' option, although even using that I still had to go through the code and get rid of the rubbish. I've not seen the replacements (and am not particularly bothered about doing so either) but I can only hope they are better than Frontpage, which was Micky-Mouse software (IMO). I think I'll party.

markguer
markguer

Yall completely forgot to mention the Expression Web has full support for ASP.NET 2.0 server controls, something FrontPage has NEVER had. Its WYSIWYG interface also support CSS layering. Hmmm... does Dreamweaver do that? Not sure.. The folks at MS is finally giving web developers (i.e. programmers, not basement hacks making web site for their dogs) a decent tool.

iainwrig
iainwrig

MS wouldn't eat their own dogfood when it came to Frontpage. This alone is enough evidence to prove just how useful and functional it was. Anyone whos ever built anything more than a simple site with 3 pages and 10 images knows not to use FP.

TG2
TG2

Thanks.. you provided just enough to help me realize I will not get 2007, and only if they revert back to 2003 way of doing things would I ever consider going further up the office upgrade chart. I still have office 97 running on a pc, and have office 2000 as my main on my two main pcs (1 work, 1 home) and only recently have started using office 2003 (the move to outlook 2003 which litterally killed my accounts settings has been the biggest reason I've not gone whole hog into office 2003 until now) As I've always said .. Microsoft, one step forward, two steps back. For every single advance microsoft has made, there seems to be two reasons not to find their advances acceptible.

CodeBubba
CodeBubba

Agreed. Office 2003 is really *nice*. Best version they ever came out with IMHO. I tried O2007 on my machine here at the office for awhile - felt like an overkill just as Vista does. Time to quit the upgrading for awhile. I'm going to "drive the wheels off" XP and Office2003 - I simply can't see the purpose in spending money to solve problems I don't have. -CB :)

NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301
NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301

True enough. Which is exactly why Gate's empire should be taken down a whole lot of pegs...if the need of making things sensible existed, y'all would still have work, but it wouldn't be so much dealing with frustrated end users trying to decipher the latest "put up pretty! destroy sensible!" psuedo-upgrade.

markguer
markguer

Noble thoughts for those who do not have to support end-users. When have we forgotten that we are in a service industry? Don't learn the new software and you'll be out of a career before you know it. Users do not care about your personal preferences, just that you can help them fix probles with their pc's (which will likely be sold with Vista and Office 2k7 within short order) just my two cents..

Manitobamike
Manitobamike

Every time MS upgrades their software be it Office or Windows I always find the most useless features on the surface. The ones that everyday users actually use have become buried deep in the bowels of the program or removed completely. It seems to me that when they get suggestions they must come from one time users who couldn't find anything that was on the second level of the menu or those that use it to read other peoples work but never actually use the programs just want to see "pretty" on the screen. Seems same goes for Windows - forget function - add pretty.

dbremer
dbremer

most people won't know this. It's a plugin for powerpoint which lets you make a presentation from a powerpoint all with about 5 clicks. It creates a webcast with audio and video - imagine a talking head in the top right corner, menu of slides underneath with the majority of the screen being the powerpoint slide (other arrangments were available). I use this heavily and its being dropped without replacement. A *REAL* shame btw - I really hate the way techrepublic makes everything a PDF. this article (and most) would be far FAR better as a normal html page

powermacj7
powermacj7

I used the 90 day trial of 07. It is nice, and in my view, the learning curve is not that big. In the end, I stayed with 03, and happy with it. I know I am going to get flamed over this, 07, I actually miss the office assistants LOL....

DanLM
DanLM

lol, sorry. Couldn't resist. Dan

Editor's Picks