Software

Office 2010 annoyances that I can no longer ignore

Even when you like a software package, certain aspects of it may bug you. Deb Shinder shares her list of the most vexing Office 2010 features.

In some ways, it might seem that I'm the wrong person to write this article. I've been working with Office 2010 every day since the early betas, and I like it a lot. In fact, way back before it was available to the public, I wrote about 10 cool features to look forward to in Office 2010. But every software package has its annoying aspects, and Office 2010 is no exception. Although many of the changes make it easier to perform common tasks, there are times when you just shake your head and wonder, "Why did they do that?" In this piece, I'll look at the dark side of Office 2010 and those little things that annoy me (and other Office users).

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: There are too many editions (but not enough choices)

It's good to have choices, but when it comes to software, many users wish vendors would subscribe to the KISS ("keep it simple, sweetheart") philosophy. One of the biggest complaints about Windows Vista and then Windows 7 was the number of editions you have to choose from. Office has developed the same problem: How do you figure out which edition has what you need? You can have Home and Student edition (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote), Office Home and Business (which adds Outlook), Office Professional (which adds Access and Publisher), or Office Professional Plus (which adds SharePoint Workspace and InfoPath and is available only through volume licensing).

On the other hand, some might say there aren't enough choices (or the choices aren't configured correctly). What if you want Word, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook but don't need PowerPoint? What if you want Publisher but have no need for Access or Excel? What if you want SharePoint Workspace but your company isn't big enough for volume licensing? Sure, you could buy the individual applications, but that ends up costing more. How about a "cafeteria plan," where you pay X dollars for X number of applications and you get to pick the applications? Just an idea.

When it comes to putting together a suite of software programs, you can please some of the people some of the time -- and the rest of the people are likely to be annoyed.

2: The cost is steep, with no upgrade price

At $499 for the full boxed edition of Office Professional, the software is considered to be just too expensive by many users -- especially when Open Office, which has some of the same functionality, is available free. But it's not just that the prices are high -- it's that they're confusing, too. For instance, the Professional Academic edition has the same programs as the regular Pro edition but costs $400 less. Teaching might not pay so well, but sometimes it carries nice perks.

For any particular package, you have the options of full price (boxed retail, which allows you to install Office on two computers) and the "key card" price, which is the cost for a single-license card with a key that lets you unlock the software that's preloaded on machines by the OEMs. What you don't have is an "upgrade" (discounted) price for those who already have a previous version of Office installed. And that has many users very annoyed.

3: Color schemes are limited (and ugly)

The color scheme might seem like a little thing, but to me -- and a number of other Office 2010 users I've heard from -- the new and definitely not improved offering of color schemes is a major annoyance, especially in Outlook. I used the black color scheme in Office 2007 and it worked well for me. The borders were a crisp black but the backgrounds were all white, including that of the left folder pane. Now the true black option is gone. There is an option called Black, but it's really a muddy gray, and it turns both the left folder pane and the right Today pane dark with white text. This makes them harder to read and, frankly, a lot less attractive. If some people like that, it's fine to make it an option. But why not leave the old color schemes as options, too? There's no reason we should be limited to just three choices here, anyway. That's just plain annoying.

4: Recent docs are buried Backstage

In Office 2007 Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications, clicking the big Office button invoked a relatively compact menu with items such as New, Open, Save, and Print in the left pane. Recent Documents were handily displayed in the right pane.

In the final release of Office 2010, the Office button is gone. Instead, we have the File tab. It looks just like the rest of the Ribbon tabs but instead of taking you to a Ribbon bar, clicking it opens up Backstage view -- which has three panes and takes up much more space.

By default, to see your recent documents, you have to go to Backstage view and click Recent in the left pane. There is a way to change this: At the bottom of the list of recent documents, you'll see the Quickly Access This Number Of Recent Documents check box, with a drop-down box to set the number. After you enable this option, your recent docs will show up in the left pane of the Backstage view. But it's annoying that this option is not more obvious.

5: Outlook gets the blue (or silver or "black") Ribbon

In Office 2007, Microsoft introduced the Ribbon to most Office programs -- and received a lot of negative user backlash for it -- but Outlook retained the traditional menus and toolbars. With Office 2010, the Ribbon comes to Outlook, too, and that's sure to annoy all those anti-Ribbon activists out there. Personally, I like the Ribbon interface most of the time, but I am annoyed that it has resulted in problems like the next one in this list.

6: Add-ins: Go to the back of the line

With Outlook 2007, when I installed an add-in such as Twinbox (which lets you compose and send Twitter updates from Outlook), the Twinbox toolbar was added to the interface along with the regular Outlook toolbars. It was right there, whenever I wanted it. In Outlook 2010, at first I thought it didn't install properly because the toolbar didn't appear. Finally, I found it. You have to click the Add-Ins tab every time you want to use it. Again, this brings an extra step and a little bit of extra annoyance to the user experience.

7: Newest is on top -- still

My biggest overall annoyance with Office 2010 would have to be those previous annoyances that Micrsoft had the opportunity to fix... and didn't. The "newest on top" phenomenon has been a pet peeve of mine with various versions of Outlook. Blogs, with their newest posts at the top of the page, may have started this trend of putting the newest of everything at the top of the page. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I like to go from top to bottom, with the oldest messages at the top and the newest at the bottom. By default, Outlook (still) does it the other way around.

It's easy to click the column header and reverse that, within a folder. But why is there no way to change this setting on a global basis? When you have dozens of folders, it's really annoying to have to go through and reset every one of them to the "right" display. Invariably, there is some folder I rarely access and haven't changed, and then I open it and am at first confused because things are not in the right order. So then I'm annoyed that I have to change it yet again.

8: Upload Center takes center stage

Office 2010 is integrated with the free Office Web Apps, which can be very handy if you need to work at a public computer that doesn't have Office installed. However, if you don't use Web Apps, you might be annoyed by the Upload Center icon that Office 2010 puts in the notification area (system tray) of your taskbar. Upload Center auto-starts by default when you boot the OS, so even if you uncheck the option to display it, it will run and take up valuable system resources. If you want to disable it completely, open the system configuration tool (msconfig.exe) and uncheck Microsoft Office 2010 on the Startup tab.

9: 64-bit can be a hindrance

Office 2010 is the first version of Microsoft Office to come in a 64-bit version. The 64-bit version can take advantage of the larger virtual and physical memory capacity of today's 64-bit processors and operating systems. This is especially useful if you need to use large Excel spreadsheets (more than 2GB in size).

Although the 32-bit version is the default, due to compatibility issues, it's a good bet that many power users will install the 64-bit version. However, you may find that your favorite add-ins don't work with the 64-bit version. ActiveX Controls and add-ins written for 32-bit Office don't work in the 64-bit process. And although we expect 64-bit to equal better performance, you may find graphics rendering is actually slower with 64-bit Office because of the lack of support for Intel's MMX technology on 64-bit. In addition, the Windows Mobile Device Center doesn't synchronize with the 64-bit version of Outlook 2010.

Another problem is that you can't install 64-bit Office if you have any 32-bit Office programs installed. This means you have to uninstall your 32-bit Visio, for instance. And you can't install 32-bit PowerPoint 2010 (to get Flash support) alongside 64-bit Excel (for large file support).

64-bit is the future, but you might not be ready just yet for the annoyances that come along with the more "futuristic" version of Office 2010.

10: Social networking integration falls short

Sometimes, the biggest annoyance in a new version of software is the disconnect between what the new features could be and what they actually deliver. A good example in Office 2010 is the social networking integration in Outlook. It's a lovely idea: Check out your friends' updates in the People Pane at the bottom of their email messages. The problem is that it's really designed to work with SharePoint 2010, so if your company doesn't use SharePoint, some of those great features don't work.

Yes, there are social connectors for other social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Windows Live. And after you jump through some hoops -- install an updated version of the Social Connector and then download and install the connector for each social network -- you can see your friends' status updates in the People Pane. What you can't do is do anything with that information. This would have been so much better if they had provided a way to comment on or "like" updates or post your own updates from within Outlook.

Summary

I like Office 2010 and I use it every day. In most ways, it's a big improvement over its predecessors -- but as with anything new, there are still some annoying aspects. Let's hope Microsoft addresses them in the next version.

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...

21 comments
steve.hards
steve.hards

As a small producer of add-ins for PowerPoint - search for Opazity, ColorSlammer, Perspector - I was pleased to see matter of add-ins and the 64bit version raised. Many people buying new computers with Windows 7 64bit installed assume that they should therefore install Office 2010 64bit and complain to us when their add-ins don't work. We have to explain that it is not yet cost effective for us to re-write the software for the 64bit version but that, if they choose to replace their Office 2010 64bit with the 32bit one, they will notice no difference and their add-ins will work. Somehow, Microsoft has manage to make itself, as well as us, look stupid.

kentg
kentg

My Annoyance is the way MS rely on users (and MVPs)to provide support and documentation on their behalf. In many cases they may spend thousands of hours coding features and then publish nothing on how to implement them. Hoping that word may leak out via an MVP or two who will then distribute the knowledge. Programming the Ribbon is just one example, CDO another. And there are countless other examples that have led to frustration when trying to implement. The only dissemination of information seems to be via forums or sites like TechRepublic where, thankfully, altruistic souls with some internal contact at MS manage to let the word out.

pizzacheeks
pizzacheeks

Call me crazy, but I like most people went to see the newest emails first. I should never have to set it that way unless I changed the sorting

TheChas
TheChas

I find the ribbon interface to be a PITB. I would much rather have the old drop down menubar that only took up 1/4 of the screen height that the ribbon uses. I chose to minimize the ribbon and, added all of the functions that I use often, including the recent files button to the toolbar. In fact, you can add a lot of functions to the toolbar and place them in the order you desire. Makes Office 2010 a lot more palpable to me. Now, if we could figure out why one of our documents created with Office 2003 crashes Word 2010 if opened for editing. Chas

douglas.gernat
douglas.gernat

I agree with you about most of these points; however the one I don't is the editions. Since Office 2k3, there have been 5 or more editions, and basically consisted of the same items. Sure, some folks will never use PowerPoint, but the majority or 'business' folks will at some point need it. I personally like the varied editions, and that they have followed very similar lines since 2k3, from a management perspective. Good post though!

john3347
john3347

No! Really, Microsoft has not done that. Microsoft makes it VERY clear that unless a user has specific need for the additional capabilities of 64 bit Office 2010, they should install the 32 bit version whether they have 32 bit or 64 bit OS. The mindset that I have to have a 500 horsepower motor in my automobile that will never use more than 200 horsepower because 500 horsepower is the "state of the art and the fastest thing on the road" is why they install 64 bit Office 2010. That is the same reason that the vast majority of users who have a 64 bit operating system, do so. The rule is simple, If you don't need it, don't buy it and pay the additional overhead for the "duration".

bd1235
bd1235

Actually Microsoft do put out a lot of info via their Office 2010 website. You can also get a lot of info from the Help for each Office program. Most people dont use either resource or so it seems. You should try both. Another place to look is www.mousetraining.co.uk who have a lot of Quick Reference Guides. So you want to program the Ribbon. Look here http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/word-help/customize-the-ribbon-HA010355697.aspx which is part of the Office 2010 web site. On that page they have How To guides, a video and customised ribbons for the downloading. I opened Word 2010 clicked the Help ? at the top right and entered RIBBON. The second offering was how to customise the ribbon and there was a video offering there too. If you want info on CDO then Google "microsoft office 2010 CDO" and you will find plenty. I am altruistic but so far I dont have an internal contact. What you want is available.

QAonCall
QAonCall

Demonstrate the thinking behind the ribbon since inception. By default the most popular stuff shows, but if your most popular is different, customize the ribbon. If it was not MS who had done this, the response would have been... Genius! Can we please get beer in a bottle?

krsmav
krsmav

Clicking on the Office button (top left) shows the 17 most recently edited documents in the program you're in. Clicking on the Start button (bottom left) and hovering over Recent Items shows the most recently edited 15 documents in all programs. I find this particularly convenient when I want a doc in a program other than what I'm in, since I can click on it and load the program and the doc without having to load the other program separately and going through its Open dialogue. While I'd prefer to see the most recently edited documents be on the Open (Ctrl-O) menu, bringing up the list is a single click on the Office button and a click and hover on the Start button.

Ron_007
Ron_007

Doug: I agree completely with your first 6 points. The final 4 I don't disagree with, just don't worry about. You seem to think that MS has it's customer's best interest in mind. Guess again. MS is a FOR PROFIT corporation. They do what they have to, to make MORE MONEY. The answer to Point 1 and 2 is brain dead simple if you look at it from the right point of view. With Office 2000 and 2003 M$ started to see a slowdown in adoption of the new versions, ie REDUCED INCOME! What the heck, there are still significant numbers of people still using Office 97! Take a look at M$ earning statements. Much more than half of their income is from Office and Windows licenses! If revenue goes down, Wall St is unhappy, share prices drop, and executive bonuses go down (everyone say it together: awwww). The ribbon was designed explicitly to make it "easier" for new users, MORE MONEY for M$. But there was resistance from experienced users, LESS MONEY (oops). Provide lots of combinations of apps to encourage people to buy higher priced versions, more money for M$. With 2010, they came up with several new money making strategies. First, eliminate the discounted upgrade option, MORE MONEY for M$. Say you are "simplifying" the product catalog to make it "easier" for users to make buying decision. No impact on new users, too bad for existing users. Introduce the new "discounted" Key Card licensing option (ignore the fact that it is complicating the newly "simplified" product catalog...). It is very convenient for average user to buy just a product key online or on a credit card sized piece of paper to activate pre-installed or downloaded software. No messy, bulky plastic boxes to store (note: the product key sticker is on the #$$%^&* plastic box, not on the CD or a convenient paper insert!). Too bad 99% of buyers don't realize that it is false economy. They lose the option of multiple concurrent installations (2 or 3 machines depending on version), MORE MONEY for M$. More importantly, they lose the option of moving the license to a new machine when they buy new hardware. MORE MONEY FOR M$. No problem for new users (more convenient), more money from existing users (sorry, not). Call me cynical, but that's the way pocket is picked.

steve.hards
steve.hards

Hi John, Thanks for the observation, but where does Microsoft make it clear before someone installs the 64 bit version of Office? And do you know anywhere else it makes it clear? It would be great to be able to refer our complainers to it. When I search 'microsoft office 2010 download' the top result takes me to the MS page: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/try/ There's nothing about it there, nor on the 'Which suite is right for you?' page: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/buy/office-2010-which-suite-is-right-for-you-FX101825640.aspx Steve

darkstate
darkstate

Me being a total noob to office I can honestly say I like what I see. I like all the whistles and bells, and the complexity keeps me busy for hours just messing and tweaking it. I've been playing with the onenote side recently with the online live side of it and that's a great idea. But saying that,its early days for me,anything could go wrong purely because it's microsoft.

john3347
john3347

TheChas is pointing out a workaround for a very negative condition that was designed into Office 2007 and 2010, not illustrating the genius of the basic ribbon system. Regardless of whether one likes or dislikes the ribbon system, fact is, it requires 3 to 5 mouse clicks to perform many of the same operations that were possible with 1 or 2 mouse clicks in previous editions. That, alone, is designed-in inefficiency.

darkstate
darkstate

All the comments I've read, and tutorials whether you have a 64 or 32 bit system all say use the 32bit bit version office 2010. Don't ask me why,I'm a noob :)

Ron_007
Ron_007

"Noob's" are the explicit market that the Ribbon Gooey is targeted at. Nothing wrong with you being new to the product. Actually it is good for M$, new "blood" = more MONEY! MS assumed that experienced users would simply adapt to the new environment. Bad assumption (for me, not M$) with my investment of time and MY money in learning the menu system over the last 20+ years.

darkstate
darkstate

Being a winblows user for over 10 yrs yes, Failure is there trademark. They start off with greatness, Then spoil it by tweaking and messing,then low and behold the hackers get to find a hole and exploits are plenty. I wish they would just have 1 single os and programs that they just updated and that was it, but that wouldn't be a good business plan. I'm new to office purely because i got it very cheap on ebay :) nothing more.

QAonCall
QAonCall

You assume failure by MS! lol

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

IMHO, the ribbon is a lame idea by a good software company. It is simply 'change for the sake of change,' and serves no purpose other than creating a new learning curve for people doing primarily the same mundane jobs, thus wasting precious time. MS needs to get a clue about this problem. We are in business to make money, not to learn the same thing over and over, for the sake of pseudo change.

QAonCall
QAonCall

Not MS research and development. In your uses, it may be an inconvenient solution, if so, make it your way. For the power users, that are the base market for the tools, these are the 'heavy hitters'. If you would like background on why things work like they do, here are several articles: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/jensenh/archive/2008/03/12/the-story-of-the-ribbon.aspx http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz.5.733748.11 http://blogs.technet.com/b/office2010/archive/2009/10/06/designing-with-customers-in-mind.aspx The fact is, the design is very good, if you are a soluion designer. There is intelligence and variability. Is it the same interface you used for the last XX years, no! Neither is DOS, Linux, Apple, etc. Your point about clicks is exactly why the changes were made. The most popular clicks, for the most popular activities are fewer clicks. Sadly it appear they are not your clicks! BTW, most users overcome their initial reactions to it being different after a short amouont of time. (Yes I have done training on solutions using the new interface, so I have experience)

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