Software

Word 2007: Lessons on usability

Although Microsoft says that the radical interface changes in Word 2007 are aimed at enhancing usability, not everyone is convinced that the goal has been met. Justin James analyzes several aspects of the redesign and offers a case in support of the changes.

This article is also available as a PDF download.

Much ink and many bytes have been consumed in the debate of Office 2007's new interface. Everyone agrees that the new look and feel of Office is a radical departure from the interface that Office has been using since its inception. From Office 2000 through Office 2003, the interface has been nearly untouched, other than some gradients and other beautification. Just what was the thinking behind the new interface?

It is no secret that Office (particularly Word) has been an application that users love to hate. You could often spend more time and effort trying to figure out how to format a block of text than writing the block of text. Word is the application that gets most of the attention, with Excel coming in a distant second. There is a good reason for this: Everyone uses Word and Outlook, many people use Excel, and far fewer people use Access, Publisher, etc. On top of that, the assumption is that Word should require little training or sophistication to use, since it is "simply" a word processor. Conversely, it's assumed that Access requires a trained or technically savvy user; it is a database, after all.

Except for Word, Outlook, and Excel, the Office suite applications are all special-purpose applications that users would need training or experience to use, regardless of their software choice. Excel often gets a free pass, because while a billion people use it as an ad hoc database, people tend to do a bit less with Excel than they attempt to do with Word. When they go for the advanced features, they expect it to be difficult. Outlook actually has always been fairly easy to use, except for the Word-powered e-mail editor and the initial configuration, which is no worse than any other e-mail client, due to the complexities of setting up e-mail. So today, I will take a look at Word 2007 and try to make sense of the usability decisions that went into it, and how the changes relate to usability in general.

Toolbar changes

The first thing everyone notices about Word is the toolbar. In fact, that's where the bulk of the changes were made. The menu bar is completely gone. In its place (and looking just like a menu bar), are tab controls that change which major set of toolbar functions are displayed (Figure A).

Figure A

 

To put it simply, Word's never-ending cascading menus have been flattened into major toolbar groups. Within each toolbar group are minor groups of toolbar buttons, organized by subcategory. For example, the Page Layout major group contains the minor groups Themes, Page Setup, Page Background, Paragraph, and Arrange. Another item to note is that unlike a traditional toolbar, the buttons are not all equally sized. Some buttons have arrows to indicate that they have further options that can be selected, above and beyond the displayed default.

One of the most curious changes is that only six items are always displayed on the screen, in addition to the standard Minimize/Maximize/Restore/Close group in the top left: The Office icon that provides access to saving options, the Save icon, the Undo and Redo buttons, a down arrow for changing toolbar displays, and the Help icon (Figure B and Figure C).

Figure B

 

Figure C

 

Other big changes

There are only three other really noticeable, major changes in the interface. The first is that hovering over a block of selected text brings up a "fade in" of a small toolbar right next to the block, containing a few of the most common items that apply specifically to that type of selection (Figure D). The second is that hovering over any toolbar selection applies those attributes automatically, as appropriate, and then unapplies them when you move the mouse off the button (Figure E).

Figure D

 

 

Figure E

 

The third big change is a welcome redesign of the ancient image editing system that has made an external graphics editor a must for anyone working with images in Word documents. The new image editor (Figure F) is much improved over the venerable control that has been around since at least Office 2000, and more likely back to 4.3.

Figure F

 

How is the new version an improvement from a usability standpoint, with its constantly shifting toolbars and the tiny icons for the most common items? On the surface, the design decisions make little sense. A bit of study and use reveals the thinking behind them.

The design rationale

Previous versions of Word have been so complex that the user had to consciously think about using them. All users eventually had to learn the complex tree of menus to access the items they used on a regular basis. If someone asked you for help, you'd recite the lengthy list of steps you took to get to the command. WordPerfect had keyboard overlays to help users remember its huge list of commands; Word has actually been worse, forcing users to wander through menus to eventually find what they were looking for.

Let's start with the toolbar itself. In no cases, are more clicks required to access any particular function than in previous versions--and in many cases, fewer clicks are needed. For example, changing styles used to be one click to drop the Style list and a second click to select the new style, assuming you didn't need to scroll through the list. Now, you simply highlight your text and click the large button for the appropriate style at the top of the window. Thanks to the automatic preview, you even see what the style will look like before you select it."

Paste is now one click, or two, if you are not on the Home toolbar. In the past, it was always one click from the toolbar or two from the menu. Even more important is its positioning. Previously, a trip to Paste was either to the top of the screen and then to the Edit menu (below the window border, a few menu positions to the right, then down the menu) or a small square icon mixed in with the other icons. The new Paste icon is smack in the top-left corner (Figure G).The user's tendency is to "slam" the mouse along a diagonal to get to the corner of the screen and then work toward the center to find the desired option. That slam is almost always toward the top-left corner, not the top-right. In other words, when you slam the mouse to access commands, your pointer lands nearly perfectly on the large, friendly Paste icon. This is a significant improvement.

Figure G

 

Similarly, the same decision was made for the few icons that you always need: Save, Undo, and Redo. After the initial learning curve of trying to figure out where they are, the mouse instinctively finds them. No more having to consciously search the toolbar looking for them and precisely clicking on a tiny icon. Although the icons are no bigger than in the past, the top-left positioning and lack of neighbors makes it easy to seek out Save, Undo, and Redo.

Even the button sizing is interesting. Many of the buttons that used to be commonly used seem to be diminished. Most notable in the downgraded list are font controls (font size, font face, bold, italic, etc.). Instead, styles are much more prominent. The reasoning behind this is fairly obvious: The user is encouraged to choose the Emphasis style over making text italic. Why? Both methods seem to do the same thing. Well, not quite.

Although the default Emphasis style does simply make the text italic, it also adds a strong semantic value to the text. Word (or anything else parsing the text) now "knows" that the "why" is to put emphasis on the text; the "how" is through italics. If the user later decides to emphasize text by making it bold, or larger, or whatever, he or she merely changes the definition of the Emphasis style. In a nutshell, styles do for Word documents what CSS does for HTML documents, and the new interface encourages the "why-based" approach of styles over the "how-based" approach of manual text formatting.

In addition to guiding the user, the button sizing and placement serves another function, which is to unbury the less commonly used commands. As previously mentioned, the most common items are positioned so that the mouse seeks them naturally, but the less common items are given visual preference. Why? So that when you enter the "hunt for the command" mode, you find them more quickly and easily. One of the biggest gripes against Word is that out of the hundreds of commands available in it, no one ever can locate what they need--and the items they always use require too many clicks to access. The new interface addresses that by letting the mouse seek the common items and making it easy to scan for the less common items.

The "fade in" toolbar is, of course, a welcome and obvious change, and so is the improved image editor. But how is the preview function useful? Anyone who has been working on a document with a lot of formatting knows the old routine: Select the text, put one hand on the mouse to change formatting, and the other hand on [Ctrl]Z to rapidly undo the selection and try a new one. (You never really wanted to just keep changing formatting without undoing it first, in case AutoCorrect mangled your text).

The new system allows you to skip the constant undo cycle and see exactly how the text will look before committing to a selection. It is like the difference between picking the color for a car by seeing pictures in a book and hoping the color you select looks good in reality and actually seeing that color on the car at the dealership. The preview alone makes Word a much more usable piece of software.

Is the new Office interface a major change? You bet. It took me a good deal of usage (about three or four articles and blog posts written in it) to get the basics nailed down. Does it require retraining? Oddly enough, I would say "no." The biggest problem with the new interface is not learning it, but unlearning the old interface. It's similar to the Macintosh interface, in that a first-time computer user is much less baffled by it than a veteran. Ironically enough, so many people already use Office (almost anyone who might use it has already used it) that an interface that's easy for a newcomer but hard for a seasoned user seems like an odd choice. But now that I've adapted to the new way of doing things, I find that my efficiency and productivity have gone up dramatically. Yes, the initial learning curve is a bit steep, mostly mired in "that used to be here, where did it go?" But once that period is over, the functionality you use daily is so intuitive that you can't explain how to do it, and the features you use less often are much easier to find.

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

56 comments
NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301
NoGraphicsAddict-23017392721738376704665969885301

It's easier? Oh yeah? Ok, tell me about those common-use items those of us not into or feeling the need of insanely complicated graphics but who instead work with words (text) can no longer find --if they exist at all. Here's a good example: I write and edit word text documents constantly, and it is usually very important to know the page count as I work. After a lot of time wasted on the ridiculously unhelpful "help" section and far too much time frittered away in experiementation, I still cannot find any way whatsoever to make the program display show 1) a standard page without the silly 3D top/bottom/side effects to mimic a piece of paper an inch above a flat surface 2) with clear marks of the bottom of the page (ie what in Word 2003 showed by a simple horizontal line with a little space above and below in which text did not appear) 3) and a page count including line/column information on the bottom bar. In other words, standard display for people not mentally caught up in wasting time and memory on mimicry effects while doing simple text documents.

HvdM
HvdM

1- It is good to put more frequently used functionalities more in the top of the menu structure, or in own toolbars, but please give me back the old GUI look. I am getting crazy of this pizza look. 2- I welcome some functions that are improved or added, but please give me back the removed functionalities - I relied on them. 3- Stop mentioning fake advantages like applying styles in stead of font changes. This is what you should have done aleady using much earlier MSWord versions.

heather
heather

I have many customised toolbars. How do I recreate these in Word2007? HeatherRess

tanya_bolkcom
tanya_bolkcom

Thanks for the info on Word 2007, big help. I am just beginning to use it and have one question? Where can I find a guide to shortcut keys for 2007. I much prefer to use shortcut keys over a mouse. I rarely have to lift my hands from the keyboard using keys (back to the days of Wordperfect). Thanks, TABolkcom

smiddlebrooks
smiddlebrooks

What's the ratio of users of older version to users who are going to be learning it from scratch? My guess is at least 30:1. Why unlearn what you know? StanM

NewToTheGame
NewToTheGame

Sorry to re-post but would like an answer :- I always seem to find that the use of styles is fine as long as you are the only user of the document - give it to some one else or copy it into another document and you have to go through the whole resetting it to look the way it needs to. Not sure if W2007 has a feature to lock the style rather than using the one set by the current user. I think that is why formatting the text is preferred over the use of styles > Can someone please tell me if this problem has been fixed in W2007 or is there a fix I can apply to our current W2000

blarman
blarman

There haven't been ANY changes in Word that have benefited me since Word 97. I use formats for both paragraphs and headings, change text styles and sizes, and more, but it seems like the more MS dinks around, the less I like it. The multi-copy paste tool is way more of a hindrance than a help, their automatic selection of text just screws up my copy/paste, and I always use the hot keys for copy, paste, bold, italics, etc; toolbar changes to those are a waste of time to me. I am not impressed. OpenOffice does all that too without the $350 cost. What I would like to see is a basic version of Word without all the features and add-ins for $30 and the same for Excel. If people want the add-ins for the solver or publish-to-web agent, they can pay an extra $10 for them. And I won't even go into how many 0-day flaws are out there. The bottom line: its just more annoying eye candy. EXPENSIVE annoying eye candy.

JodyGilbert
JodyGilbert

Do you agree that Microsoft's redesign of Word 2007 represents a step forward toward better usability? Which interface changes do you think are improvements (and which, if any, do you think are poor design decisions)?

Ron_007
Ron_007

1) In print Layout view, hover the mouse cursor over the gap between pages. When you are in the right spot the pointer will change into a graphic representation of the gap between pages. Click on the gap and it will shrink. Is that close to what you are looking for? 2) Try Office button / Word Options button / Advanced option / Show Document content section / turn on "Show Crop Marks" and/or "Show text Boundaries" 3) Right click on the bottom of the Word application window. You can turn on display of the page count etc, like it used to be.

Justin James
Justin James

Sadly, I stopped using shotcuts (except cut/copy/paste, CTRL+B, CTRL+I) after WP 5.1 myself. No clue where to find a "cheat sheet" for them, sorry! J.Ja

nickrusso
nickrusso

Thank you. I thought I was the only one who had that thought (see my post above).

Ron_007
Ron_007

The "un-stickiness" of styles when moving between computers/users has always been an issue. The style information for styles in use are in the doc but they can be 'overwhelmed' by styles on the new machine. Partial solutions: - do not use the NORMAL.DOT template. Create a new template that you share with everyone who will be working with the doc - if you are working on a corporate network, you can define "Workgroup" templates that are shared from network drives (tools / options / file locations). This way everyone is using exactly the same template file (not local copies). You have to lock down/limit write privileges to the shared templates to prevent accidental updates/changes - define new styles that do not have similar names in normal. When the doc goes to a new the style information will not be overwritten by the local normal.dot - if the new user wants to create new docs using these differently named styles they can use the organizer (format / style / organizer) to copy them from the document to the users NORMAL.DOT On "hacking" at the ribbon ... I haven't had a chance to use the new ribbon UI, but I have looked at it and read about it extensively. That in mind... NewTo ..., hope these suggestions help. From what I've read about the design philosophy, flattening the menu etc, it all sounds good. It is great for "new" users, the "Average" users who refuse to learn advanced features (most users), and "mouse-aholics" (I for one, "...hate mieces to pieces...", keyboard all the way!) But in doing this, MS has ignore the installed base, especially the advanced users. They have provided statistics that show less than 1% of users have customized toolbars, so no built in customization. They want to force everyone to use the new ribbon, so they ignored one of their prior design philosophies, allowing people the option to revert to prior techniques. Funny thing, even before the official release, someone had an addon on the market to allow anyone to customize the new XML ribbon system. http://pschmid.net/office2007/customize/index.php And just a couple of months after release, someone else has created another addon that re-instates the old menu system, along side of the new Ribbon http://www.pcworld.com/article/130635-1/article.html?tk=nl_dnxnws Now that those independents have released addons to provide the functionality, I wonder just how long it will be before MS builds them in. I found it annoying that M$ would ignore these "features", which I considered fundamental. It is not as if they are "new" functionality, they both represented existing features (the old menu style, and menu customization). And given how apparently easy it was for third parties, I don't agree with their justification that "only 1%" of users used them. Given the total number of users, even 1% represents millions of users. Assigning even $1 from every power user's upgrade would easily cover the cost of these missing features. And "Power" users at that. The people most likely to promote the education of "average" users. Yes, I also agree with the characterization that 99% of users use only 1% (or even 5%) of features. I see it every day. And that is why I disagreed the MS justification using the 80/20 rule of thumb. Realistically, almost every Word feature could be excluded on that basis.

nickrusso
nickrusso

I posted a couple of days ago, but it somehow didn't get in here. I've also lost some other posts in forums recently. Glitch on my end or TR's? In any case, if you're still hunting--Look into MASTER DOCUMENTS in any 2003 or prior versions. This is intended as a method to let users collaborate individually to a "Master" document and use styles they prefer, while allowing the "master" (i.e. owner) of a compound document to override with consistent styles across the subdocuments. This can be tricky (hard to use... we need some help here, MS), but it might be worth your time. You can find it in any comprehensive or advanced Word text. It has also been one of the advanced skills included in the MOUS/MOS certification for Word. Here's a piece of one of the Help files: "Using templates and formatting in a master document The template ...you use for a master document controls the styles ... used when you view and print the entire document. You can also use different templates ? or use different settings within the templates ? for the master document and for individual subdocuments." Hope this helps, New! NickRusso

gregads
gregads

I notice that the problem in our organization is the unfamiliarity with the style feature as well as the overall purpose of styles. Typical users who are not familiar with style-based markup (e.g. CSS/HTML) usually do not intuitively use styles, or any other structural markup techiques at all. While I think it's a good move for W2007 to emphasize (no pun intended) the use of styles, locking them down would likely irritate those of my colleagues who are used to the hunt-and-select method of formatting. For us, proper training is the only way that seems to work. Hopefully W2007's focus on styles will assist our efforts.

Justin James
Justin James

If you think that Office is filled with "eye candy", I beleive that you are quite mistaken. Everything on the screen has a purpose. That being said, the very nature of an office suite means that they violate the 80/20 rule pretty bad, and more or less flip it upside down. Instead of having the 20% of features used 80% of the time, they have 80% of the featurres used 20% of the time. Indeed, Office (particularly Word) is more like 99% of the features used 1% of the time. That is exactly why the interface was so desparately in need of a rredesign. I have not seen a new feature in the Office 2007 products, other than the "delayed sending" in Outlook that I have been wanting for years. Indeed, I agree that many of Office's "helpful" features are more of a hinderance than a help. And I also agree that stripped versions at a low price would be great (let's bring back the "Works" package please!). But to call the 1,001 formatting features in Word or formulas in Excel or data access methods in Access etc. "eye candy" is a severe misuse of that descriptive phrase. J.Ja

smallbusinesshelp
smallbusinesshelp

I also have been running 07 since 1st beta release, the "Eye Candy" along with file format changes etc has a waiting period on every Open, Minimize, Close, Save etc. I now spend more time waiting for the cycle than typing. It's not the computer, 2 gig RAM, 3200 processor, Terrabytes of disk space, greedy about any programs running.

r.r.j.maier
r.r.j.maier

In word 2003 I have a narrow tool bar across the top (not often used and mostly switched off), The main toolbar is down the side (locked to the window frame - not floating) with commands I need to use most often (mostly macros and styles) I also occasionally use a further toolbar on the bottom of the window for drawing tools and block diagrams (only on when I need it) This gives me the highest possible window size for my documents and I can easily work on 2 A4 pages next to each other on a 21" screen. If I need to work on a single page or a diagram this works also perfect when I rotate the screen to portrait mode. It looks like that it is impossible to use side down menus in 2007 and even Toolbar toggle cant quite do what I need . It can make high and narrow toolbars but not 1 icon wide and for example 23 high and it doesn?t lock them to the window frame. The toolbar down the side gives me the highest possible window size for portrait documents and the largest possible display dimensions for an a4 page. Any idea if this could be generated using any other tool / application?

nickrusso
nickrusso

I have noticed some improvements mentioned in feature overviews, but have not had the patience to re-learn these apps in order to use them. The ribbon is fine and an interesting experiment, and should be offered as an option, but removing the menus and even the categorizations of commands in which we have become so proficient over the years is a slap in the face to all veteran to Office users. My biggest complaint is that it now takes at least two clicks instead of one to get to the command I need (assuming I can ever find it). I was relieved to find out from Office Watch (http://news.office-watch.com?502) that a replacement "classic" menu system is available from Addintools at http://www.addintools.com/english/menuoffice/default.htm. Note their marketing: - Frustrated by endless searches for features on the Ribbon? - easily use the familiar main menu, the standard toolbar and formatting toolbar - you can minimize the Ribbon and finish all operations without Ribbon

Monty Palmer
Monty Palmer

We have been using the previous format for 10 years now. I don't think anyone can make an objective determination until they have become as adept with the new as they have with the old.

markinboone
markinboone

I think MS finally did something right with the GUI for Office (specifically Word). Yes, Powerusers (at one end of the user-level spectrum) do use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible, and most of the shortcuts are unchanged across Office 2007. In Word (but not in Excel or PP - go figure?) you can customize keyboard shortcuts for ALL of the commands in the application. For beginners, the Ribbon is a (mostly) logical arrangement of the commands. The fact that you can't move the commands around will help with the learning curve, since they are in the same place on every system. (A hitch to customizing shortcuts - your customization is only available on your own system. Better to learn the defaults when you can.) Two great features of the Ribbon that are probably underused and should be included with any Office training are (1) Key Tips: press Alt to display shortcuts for all visible tabs on the Ribbon; press the letter or number to select a tab and the shortcuts for all its commands are displayed; press the letter or number to execute the command - easy, no memorizing; press Alt again to return to editing your document without making a selection; and (2) Minimize the Ribbon (right-click on any tab) - once you know your keyboard shortcuts you can put the Ribbon away and have more of the document showing. (Word now practically has the beloved interface of Word Perfect for DOS.) Oh, and don't forget the impossible-to-live-without aids for the transition learning curve from Office 2003 to 2007: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/results.aspx?qu=command+reference+mapping&sc=9

Justin James
Justin James

... there are very few first time Office users out there at this point, at least in the industrialized worl, with the exception of students. Developing nations? Sure. In the US, if you have ever needed to use an product in the Office genre, you used MS Office at least once. J.Ja

NewToTheGame
NewToTheGame

Locking down templates does not provide a reasonable answer as documents come from all sources not just internal many items are not only collaborated on but sent from other agencies, with a myriad of styles used - the problem comes that when the recipient opens the document their styles take precendence if named the same, the problem being that you are forced to use heading styles to make outline numbering work effectively - it only takes one user to have on automatically update style and bang formatting is out the window. Working in Records Management the quest is to preserve the record in its original format (what was the authors style?) but how is this achieved if the style can so easily be overwritten - from my first post there needs to be some sort of style locking which stays with the document no matter who opens it, to ask the same question does W2007 have the abilty to handle this???

nickrusso
nickrusso

Justin Yes. Most of the exposed features are either beginners' stuff (okay, maybe that's good for them, but let more adv. users get rid of them), or the clueless who have "Mouse Death-Grip Syndrome." Get your users into Tools - Options and Tools- Autocorrect Options to turn off those annoying "helpful" features. And CTRL+Z is an effective reverser of Word stupidity. What do you think of my suggestion under your prior post regarding a user-preference wizard? I would hate to see users constantly have to buy more modules as they become more advanced.

ArseneLupin
ArseneLupin

I couldn't agree more. As an Office training consultant, I can honestly say that most features will never be used, even after an intensive training intervention. I maintain that most users can ten to one get along perfectly with older versions of the software. Document creators want speeds and minimum fuss - and most likely a good keyboard shortcut - who cares where the paste icon sits? If your hands are on the keyboard typing, Control V is perfect!

Justin James
Justin James

On my old PC, Word 2003 was noticably faster than 2007, I definitely agree with that. J.Ja

thompson.ray
thompson.ray

I have used Word 2007 for two weeks and I am liking in more and more. However, my wife hates it. She needs larger icons for the ribbon strip and I have not been able to figure it out. I wonder if I can reinstall Word 2003 and run both versions.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

are offset by the extra clicking, imo. And the loss of menus. I keep 03 at home and use 07 at work because I have to. That whole mini-toolbar thing drove me so nuts I turned it off. Am not visually oriented and the damn thing startled me everytime it came up.

Justin James
Justin James

I have been using Office 2007 since the "gold bits" hit MSDN, around November, if I recall. I agree, you need to become adept before making a decision, which is why I waited a few months to write this article. I just wanted to put that out there, to let you know that the article was not an "oh wow, look how cool it is!" article, but actually written frrom the perspective of someone who has been using it for quite a number of months now. J.Ja

cdawe
cdawe

From an EPSS perspective, software tools should be sufficiently intuitive as to allow any user to sit down and become immmediately effective in performing their required task. I suggest that Office 2007 is a step in the right direction, but certainly nowhere close to achieving that end. Just my $0.02 C.

nickrusso
nickrusso

Thank you for the link to the menu utility. I may need it if I am forced to use 2007 at some point. Some observations: As a former music teacher, and having a degree in Music, I submit that learning a new GUI is less like learning a new piece and more like learning a new instrument. When learning a new piece, all the notes are in the same place as they have always been, you're certainly using the same clef as you have always, used, and you are using the same techniques. With a new instrument/GUI, you have to re-learn all the scales and arpeggios, learn new fingering and/or breath/lip techniques, you may be using a different clef, and the new instrument may be in an entirely different key, causing you to have to mentally transpose to what you are actually playing (saxophones, for example--none are in the key of C, they're B-flat or E-flat). Voila, Office 2007! The menus (sic) are changed (notes/fingering), you can no longer get the command you want immediately because it has disappeared from the toolbar/ribbon (the names of which make little sense) when you chose the last command (technique). And where might it be? It might be on the ribbon. It might be on one of the dialog boxes which SOMETIMES are available on a "ribbon group," or maybe you have to go to the big fat Office Menu (really an in-your-face advertisement for a product you're already using) and hunt through Customize and All Commands, or maybe you can't recognize its cryptic All Commands name and give up (maybe the instrument can't play that note, or I can't even recognize it if it's there). and place it in the rapidly-dwindling space you have left on the miniscule customization toolbar. Let us not forget that Microsoft created the Office GUI as a standard, and even encouraged other software vendors to emulate it with the Office-compatible logo. And it made considerable revenue charging for certification exams taken by people like me, to demonstrate proficiency in the GUI. As for being released as a separate product, to the best of my knowledge, separate products are not released under the same name with a new year on the end. Microsoft Project is a separate product. Microsoft Windows is a separate product. Products with the same name are intended to be replacements of the prior product: Windows 1, 2, 3, 95, 98 ME, XP, Vista. One wonders if Office 2003 will continue to be supported and available as long as 2007? History tells us no. The question of fairness: it's a non-issue. Microsoft is trying to figure out how to make more money. I submit that it could have made more money, and had more satisfied users if they had released it as a truly separate product. As far as interface design, I really don't want to or intend to put forth an ad hominem attack toward Markinboone on this issue. Let us say look around you--do you really think interface design is all that good in most products, computer and otherwise? These interfaces are created by interface designers--people whose jobs depend on CHANGING the user interface, not leaving it alone. Change can be positive or negative. Office has stood the test of time. I had been proud to tell my students that I could have used any version of Office up to 2003 with very little effort, even if I had been frozen at the time Winword 1.1 was in use. Consistency with improvements that has been accepted by so many is indicative of a good UI. That was an important element in my uncompensated promotion of Office, and the future value of the training they were receiving. Now those hundreds (thousands?) of people will be lost as they migrate to 2007. How nice. I can see some benefits of 2007. The only benefit *for me* would be the little popup toolbar when you are working in the document (although I believe this requires you to remove your hand from the keyboard). The rest are great for newbies. In contrast, Vista takes away a few long-depended on GUI elements, and adds a few new ones, many nice, others nice eye candy. And Microsoft, as always, juggles some elements around unnecessarily, just to mess us up, like giving new names to the same old tools in control panel ("Add/Remove Programs" becomes "Programs and Features" - just enough to slow you down and confuse you if you've used them in the past. Thank goodness Run appwiz.cpl still works. But it does not try to reinvent the wheel. There's still a Start Button on a Taskbar with a "Notification Area" (formerly system tray--what do you call this area if you are using Windows Classic theme, anyway? Notification Tray? System Area?) Where the menus don't appear, you can press Alt or use Options to bring them back. I have no big problem with Vista except that it's still unstable. Oh, by the way, where exactly IS the Paste Menu? And why are we calling it a menu? I can't see it if I just did something with another ribbon. Prior versions it was ALWAYS visible. ALL THE COMMONLY USED COMMANDS WERE ALWAYS VISIBLE and if they weren't there it was easy to put them there. And if there were ones you never used taking up space, it was *ridiculously* simple to remove them. With the Ribbon, either you got it or you don't. And it sure takes up a lot of working area! Best learn those shortcuts (I always recommend that, anyway). As for a "byzantine interface" I don't get it. Aren't Cut, Paste, Delete, Select All, Find, Replace all Edit operations? Aren't Save, Save As..., Print, Print Preview, Open, Close,, Remove Hidden Data all File-related commands? Aren't Normal, Print Layout, Reading, Web View, Outline, Task Pane, Ruler, Toolbars all View-related commands? You're kidding, right? Lastly, how would learning where all the commands and shortcuts for 2007 benefit me, or anyone for that matter? For all we know, MS may change everything entirely in the next version! And I don't see any material benefit to using 2007 to begin with. The only benefit I can see is if I am in a position where if I don't, I won't keep my job. I can do much more than I need to do now in 2003 (or 2000 or 97, for that matter) than I need to. And I've yet to see anything in 2007 that can't be done (usually more easily, and with fewer clicks or keystrokes) in 2003. Granted, I concentrated on Word, Excel and Outlook, and just quickly ventured into PowerPoint and Access. Oh, and WOW, I can now have a million rows and columns in my Excel sheets! Even more reason people will be using a flyswatter to flatten an elephant. If you are filling up the space in your pre-2007 sheets, you should be using Access. BTW, as far as I can tell, in spite of what the help files and texts say, you can have an unlimited number of sheets in a workbook. They just start getting names 256 (1), (256 (2). Well I have to end this rant somewhere. Markinboone, I respect your position, but disagree entirely. Sorry for the sarcasm, that's just how I write... take it as directed toward MS...

markinboone
markinboone

Nickrusso explained exactly what I meant by "beloved Word Perfect for DOS" - its users were invested (to whatever degree) and baulked at change that rendered their habits obsolete. The complaints in this post could have been written about the updates from Word 2000 to Word 2003 (including the interim variations). There were completely illogical alterations to the menus and dialog screens frustrating those of us who had invested our time to learn the former iteration. And who came up with that obnoxious overhaul of the Styles interface (somewhat improved in 2007)? I stuck with Word 2000 until moving to 2007. Nonetheless, some may find the Word 2007 interface "ridiculously easy" by comparison. "Yes, [Word 2003] was (is) beloved, because the people who learned how to use it had invested so much time and effort into its Byzantine interface, they wanted to protect their turf, and resisted change." I referred to the Word Perfect for DOS interface as "beloved" by the experts who knew the keystrokes by heart in the absence of a GUI; Word 2007 can be used the same way by anyone who is willing to learn the keyboard shortcuts to execute all the commands used. How did many of the experts memorize the mostly cryptic codes? They had a reference card taped to their desks. Microsoft offers a complete 2003-to-2007 command reference as an Excel spreadsheet. And most keyboard shortcuts can be found here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word/HP101476261033.aspx?mode=print Learning a new GUI is like learning to play a new piano piece: sure it's easier to play the same song you've been playing for years; but if you'd like to play something new, there will be a learning curve before you can play it like a pro. Nickrusso is right: some people will not want to invest the time and effort to learn the new piece; so they'll play the same old song over and over. And like the enlightened WP users, some who commit to practicing 2007 will find along the way that the new GUI reveals functionality they never knew existed. Was it fair of Microsoft to make so many fundamental changes to the GUI? The real question is: Do the wholesale changes to the product constitute an improvement? For beginning users, I think so; and if MS wants to hold a decent marketshare in an era of free open source competition, it's the adoption by potential users that will make or break the product. Most of us power users have figured out how to tweak the older versions to work best for us (something that took us awhile to learn), and some will be content to drive the old model for as long as she runs. Nickrusso said: "Office 2007 is a dumbed-down interface that should have been released as a separate product. Perhaps you can do the more advanced things, but it's not worth the time and effort. Stay with 2003. It's so much easier." I believe Office 2007 was released as a separate product, and 2003 is still available and supported. Simplifying can result in a smarter interface. As a former GUI designer, I'd be interested in reading a "short book on the interface errors in the 2007 package." Of course, the real test for an interface is how usable it is; and since there are so many different users, there will never be one all-purpose interface design for an application as complex as Word. I still believe the 2007 upgrade is better than most that I've seen come from application developers (though that was not my first reaction). The function losses are minimal, and while the changes have taken some getting used to, a connection to the former interface is strongly maintained in the familiar dialog screens and keyboard shortcuts, and the compatibility across the Office suite seems to be an improvement. (If the same could be said for Vista, it might find a bigger share of the OS market; but with no apparent benefits from "upgrading" I'm sticking with XP - and I'm not alone.) In response to another post by nickrusso in this thread regarding frustration with finding the Paste Special command: I don't think Paste Special could be more logically placed... it's selected by dropping down the Paste menu from the Paste button (clicking the arrow instead of the whole button). Even simpler, you can open the Paste Special dialog with the keyboard Ctrl+Alt+V (an alternate paste function). I found a free utility for emulating the 2003 menus on the Ribbon here: http://www.indelibleink.com/WordMenu.html , but I'm using it less and less as my habits conform with the new interface.

Justin James
Justin James

WP for DOS was a perfect interface... for trained, experienced professionals. Even those who used it for years had those reference books, cheat sheets, and so on *on their desk*, not to mention those keyboard templates. The templates were good because you saw every possible option at a glance, instead of digging through menus. For someone first encountering the program, it was daunting, to say the least. Once you got up to speed (which could take months or years, depending upon your usage levels), it was a blazing fast system to use. J.Ja

nickrusso
nickrusso

Word Perfect for DOS was completely unusable except by trained experts. You opened up to a blue screen with nothing there. No hint of how to accomplish anything except type. No hint of how to get help or save. I was asked by a client at that time to reproduce a template I had made in Word for Windows 1.1 quite easily. I could not do it in WordPerfect. At the time I was working in assorted law offices where the Admistrative Assistants were supposed experts in WP. They said you could do practically anything in it. Well, not one of them could figure out how to track out letters in WP, even with their huge reference books. This task was, and also was up to 2003, ridiculously easy in Winword. Yes, WP was beloved, because the people who learned how to use it had invested so much time and effort into it's byzantine interface, they wanted to protect their turf, and resisted change, Most people I trained to switch from WP to Word were astonished by how much easier it was to accomplish things that they didn't even know existed using WP. Again, the only ones who responded poorly were the "experts" who wanted to remain the experts and protect their status. Office 2007 is a dumbed-down interface that should have been released as a separate product. Perhaps you can do the more advanced things, but it's not worth the time and effort. Stay with 2003. It's so much easier. I could write a short book on the interface errors in the 2007 package, but I don't have the time, or care enough to let MS know what idiots they are. Stay away from this piece of c__p.

nickrusso
nickrusso

I think there should still be the ability to create several images that would be scripted and pushed for different types of users in a corporate environment. A wizard would definitely be a time-waster in that situation. MS usually provides tools to push installations for IT pros. BTW, to insert a row in a Word table, right click in the selection bar (left margin) and choose Insert. Works just like Excel. And the Tables and Borders Toolbar has a simple two-click (if default is not the action your looking for) button to select any kind of row or column insertion you want, as well as AutoFit controls. So I guess if you do most things through the formal menu structure, it certainly can be harder in the older interface. I do welcome 2007's ability to go directly to a dialog box with one click if you don't know the shortcut key.

Justin James
Justin James

Nick - Still thinking about the wizard idea. I like it up front, but the more scenarios that I put it through, the more doubt I have. First time users will opt to have it just like older versions, so they lose out on the interface changes. I've been using Office since version 4.3 (I had to use DOS 6's disk compression to fit the help files onto my 405 MB drive!), so I know what you mean about long term Office users. In all honesty, it took me a very rough first few days, but it was smooth sailing after that. Word, for example, no longer makes me think about every simple little task. I think I will go to my grave and still remember the 4 menu deep system for adding a row to a table in pre-2007 Word. So the issue I have with the wizard idea, is that what someone thinks they need on first use (and it would need to be first use, not installation, because different users have different needs, and the IT department that sets up the PC definitely does not know my needs!) is quite likely not what they actually want or need at first, and definitely not down the road. That being said, I definitely agree with the idea of being able to quickly redefine Word (and other apps) based upon task (legal, medical, fiction, research paper/book, just to name a few) and special needs like color blindness, blindness, low mobility, and so on. I think that is an outstanding idea in general. I would love to see that cooked into Windows, in fact. Kind of like a user defined style sheet to meet the users' needs. Color schemes plus a whole lot more. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea, I am just not 100% sure about it being a wizard per se. J.Ja

Peon
Peon

I have a P300 (512 MB RAM) at home running Win95B (Yes ;-)) with Office 97 and it seems to be faster or at least not slower than the HP P2800 or whatever (512 MB RAM, believe or not !) here in the office with bloatware XP and Office 2003 and a dozen security, spysweep, login etc programs in the background & M$ Index disabled. Well I use it as multi-tasking system (That's what M$ said it was !) and it swaps the hell out of the hard drive. Must be "Good enough for Government use" ! ;-(( Peon

nickrusso
nickrusso

In any recent version of Word (back to at least 97) go to Tools - Customize - Options tab - Other and select Large icons. These are huge. I do take issue with the characterization of the pre-2007 icons (they really mean buttons) as tiny. They are larger by default than many of the 2007 buttons, although many 2007 buttons *are* overly large and distracting.

Justin James
Justin James

If she needs larger icons, going to Word 2003 is *worse*! It has tiny icons! If you want a Word 2003 experience in Word 2007, right click the ribbon, and have it show the "Quick Access Toolbar" below the ribbon, then right click the ribbon, and tell it to minimize. Finally, right click the "Quick Access Toolbar" and customize it to look just like Word 2003's. Presto! Word 2007 now looks like Word 2003, with a lot less worrk than trying to run them in paralell! Also, I highly doubt you can run 2003 and 2007 in parallel, I know people who have had a lot of problems with similar situations, especially if they install the 2003 stuff after 2007. J.Ja

nickrusso
nickrusso

Uhh... Paste Special is implemented in 2003 in the Paste Options button that appears as soon as you paste foreign data into a document. Can it be simpler than that? I've also used Tools - Customize to replace the Paste Button with Paste Special. How the heck do you do that in 2007? You clog up that stupid custom button bar with one more tiny, inscrutable command. Or is it hidden somewhere on the ribbon? Which one? You have to change to a new one for every new action. 2 clicks if you know where you're going (which is rare, considering the poor categorization of the indicators (what are they now? You can't call them menus). Too bad you just can't place it next to or replace the paste button on the ribbon without being an XML programmer. Ugh, what a mess...

Justin James
Justin James

That magic toolbar is a *lot* of the enhancement, because it reduces mouse travel as well as providing a context sensitive set of formatting options. Turning it off will go a long way towards increasing the "clickiness" of Word. Of course, there are users (such as yourself) who turn it off. :) For me, I found that if I use styles and not individual formtting options, the "clickiness" drops a LOT. J.Ja

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I have disabled that damn mini-toolbar because it startles me when it appears. This means that whenever the home tab is not active and I want to utilize those formatting options located there I have to reactivate the home tab. I much prefer the previous versions toolbar for the kind of things I do in Word. No, I don't auto-hide the taskbar either, and for the same freaking reason. Damn stuff jumping out of nowhere into my visual range startles the crap right out of me everytime. :O

Justin James
Justin James

I have heard a lot of folks talk about "extra clicking". I have not really "felt" this myself. Where I feel it is when trying to a lot of very disjointed tasks all at once, where you need to switch between ribbon views. Outside of those edge cases, it is always equal to 2k3, and often less. "Paste Special", for example, is one less click, and I use that a lot more than margin adjustment. :) J.Ja

peterwuertz
peterwuertz

Hi - I am writing technical software manuals since a couple of years now. Always using Word. And it worked fine with the menus. Having been forced to switch to Word2007 a couple of month ago has not done any good so far. I am still searching where the features are now, hidden behind or buried deep down in some ribbons. Just find out that the last feature dialog is still the same as it was in Word 2003. You just have to search for it! Right now I need almost twice the time to finish a manual as it was with Word 2003. Great advantage. As a private user I guess will still use Word 2003 for a long time. Peter

nickrusso
nickrusso

All of the above-mentioned items had real benefits for users (with the possible exception of WordPerfect to Word, although I've always preferred Word, until now). O-07 (pr. Ohoh!7) has no benefits I can see that could not have been implemented without the interface redesign. I would love to use Oo, but I am a "power user" who needs a commercial office suite. Oo is great for casual users, and I hope it can gain momentum, as it has what the great majority of users need. I just wish they could make it faster! Oo USERS: Please don't flame me! I like it!

Justin James
Justin James

Look at the list of gigantic shifts that Microsoft imposed upon users, and survived: * DOS to Windows * Windows 3.X to Windows 95 Start Menu (at the end of the day, Vista is more like Windows 95, than Windows 95 is to 3.1, at least in terms of UI usage) * WordPerfect to Word * Lotus 123 to Excel * NetWare to NT And so on. It is like cigarette taxes... everyone gets really mad about these huge shifts, says that they are going to not going along with it, and they do anyways. I am not saying that Office 2007 is guaranteed to be a hit. I am sure that many folks will stick with older versions for years to come. But I highly doubt that people will be replacing older versions of Office with anything other than Office 2007. OpenOffice simply does not have much traction at this point, the WordPerfect suite is essentially dead, so what is left? J.Ja

nickrusso
nickrusso

When I think of the hundreds (thousands?) of students I have taught to use MS Office apps (including yesterday's group), as well as "outside the package" apps like Project, I shudder to think of the lost productivity as they and others are forced to learn a new interface after the years (no embarassment there) they have used the old one (anyone here retrain WordPerfect and 123 users to switch to Office? They were sooo happy...). Indeed, apps should "strive toward first time usability and task confidence for... users," but why ignore the incredibly huge installed base? And I sure can't attest to any task confidence I experienced using this product. My God, where's the File menu? Don't forget that MS has heaven-knows-how-many copies of Office out there. This is not a trivial consideration for businesses and individuals. Perhaps MS should put together a "baby" interface version of Office and see if it can compete on its own merits, rather than taking user choice away the way only a true monopoly can. Yes, I am taking some shots at MS here, but I have been an early adopter and proseletyzer of MS products since Windows 1.1. This is not like the shift from DOS to Windows. There are no benefits (you heard it here first!) in the new interface for current users that could not have been implemented without making this change. I have no problem with Vista, it introduces many improvements as well as changes that are well within the abilities of users to cope with. Can we strive for an interface that has users staring at their screens in awe at innovation, not in shock wondering where the save command went?

cdawe
cdawe

I'm glad you indicated the kind of experience you've had with the application. I think how long you need to become proficient is key in my permise here. Again, in my opinion, Word '07 (much like any/all other app) needs to strive toward first time usability and task confidence for its users, not just after months (or years?) of using said app. This principle is becoming more important as employee productivity and effectiveness is being heralded as key to an organization's effectiveness - both from an economic and time-based perspective. The concept itself does not necessarily fuel bloatware or "eye-candy"-type features as has been suggested. At it's very core, the concept strives to ensure a clear focus on "what users need" vs. "what all users might want." Just my $0.02 Curt

nickrusso
nickrusso

Look into Master Documents (you will find it in an advanced Word text or Help) and you will see how styles can be used effectively in a team environment to override other users' styles with your own. This is intended to maintain consistency across a group of contributors, while allowing those contributors to use the visual styles they prefer. It can be tricky (read: "hard to use" -- we could use some improvement here), but be your own judge as to whether it is worthwhile for you.

NewToTheGame
NewToTheGame

I always seem to find that the use of styles is fine as long as you are the only user of the document - give it to some one else or copy it into another document and you have to go through the whole resetting it to look the way it needs to. Not sure if W2007 has a feature to lock the style rather than using the one set by the current user. I think that is why formatting the text is preferred over the use of styles

dougscrm
dougscrm

I've been doing user support since Word Perfect reigned. Here's the scenario I envisage. The user of the PC would set Word to "Create Quotes" mode during the wizard that runs when they setup Word the first time. Then they would call in to support when they can't get Word to stop making a table every time they type in numbers. MS probably tested this idea and found it created more support then "kitchen sink" approach. Trying to guess exactly how the user needs things to appear in a word processor is difficult. The user would end up fighting the wizard driven modes. I often hear "why can't this be as simple as driving a car". They've forgotten all the time they spent in driver ed :) Document creation is more complicated than driving.

nickrusso
nickrusso

I agree with almost everything you have said, especially that there is no app that needs no training (or at least some attentive exploration). Instead of eliminating features, I suggest that there be an optional wizard (we know how MS *loves* those!) for installation that queries you about what you do and do not use. This could be implemented much like the first-use setup in accounting apps that offer options for different types of businesses (service, retail, inventory, no-inventory, time tracking, job costing, etc.). This would allow it to be customized initially for legal, medical, general office, educational (elementary, HS/college, higher ed, teaching), design, structured or short documents, for instance. It could also be set up sensitive to users' individual needs with respect to vision, mouse/shortcut/hotkey preference, skill level among others. Hey, come to think of it, I think MS should hire me! (LOL)

Justin James
Justin James

I think you are confusing principles here, but I may be reading it wrong. Creating stripped down, or task-focused verrsions of apps *increases* the chance of "sit down and use". "Kitchen sink" *decreases* that! J.Ja

blarman
blarman

But WHY should an application be so simple you should be able to just "sit down and use it" ? I would argue that all this does is contribute to bloatware - people want an app to do everything right out of the box, leaving 90% of users with major pieces of an app they don't use or need. Instead of taking the approach to include everything and the kitchen sink "just in case", I would suggest going back to the basics and selling add-ons for those who really want the functionality. And I also suggest that there is no such thing as an app that noone needs training on. I would posit that you would do better with a cheap app and a little training. Let's face it, how many people know about or care about smart tags? One in a million? There is no substitute for training that an app can provide.

Justin James
Justin James

That principle is great, and in my own blog I hammer away on it time and time again. Unfortunately, it falls apart with a "kitchen sink" app like Word. It will never be "sit down and be effective" when an application is so much to so many people. Sure, even in the worst versions of Worrd (and its competitors) anyone can sit down and immediately start typing. And Word 2007 does a much better job at guiding users in the right direction for forrmatting too. But at the end of the day, Word is "kitchen sink". When the paralegal needs to do and what the novelist need to do are radically different. But they both use Word. If you wanted to have them use a "sit down and be effective" application, you would need to get a specialized application. For example, to write a screenplay, a screenplay-specific application like Socrates is much quicker to get up and running in, but it is impossible to do anything else with it. So while I usually support the "sit down and be effective" measure of usability, I am of the opinion that it is impossible to ever acheive it with any office suite, general spreadsheet, word processing, etc. software. And that is why I really like the changes in Word 2007. While it may be a radical departure, it guides you much better towards your goals than any other word processor I have encountered. J.Ja