Microsoft Word has always been a pain in my side. Though it is a powerful word processing program, it has quite a few disadvantages.
Aside from ol’ Clippy, the auto formatting and other “features” do less for the average person writing an essay than are intended. I understand that writing a program that works for everyone in every situation is a big deal, and it takes quite a bit of brain hours to come up with some of the ideas. I’m not knocking the programmers in this rant, but rather the product that they put out. I am a fellow programmer, and understand that business practices can severely detract from a programmer’s vision of a product and its future.
That being said, I believe that Office 2007, and by cascading attributes, Word 2007 is the devil. Satan’s spawn has nothing on this lump of steaming poop from the Redmond campus.
A Little Bit of History
I have been using Microsoft’s flagship word processor for a very long time. I have vague recollections of the white on blue interface. Word was an easy way to get thoughts from your head into a digital form with minimal fuss.
After various incremental updates, Word started to become a powerhouse, allowing the user to do just about anything they can imagine and then some. This is one of the reasons that Word has gone down the tube.
In high school, I became a MOUS in Word, Excel and Powerpoint 2000. This, as far as I’m concerned, was the nexus of the Office experience, and was not the giant, hulking behemoth that it is today.
I had to use Office 2003 in a job back in 2004. This really wasn’t that bad in retrospect, but there were quite a few issues that started with this version.
First, load time. Although Microsoft makes Windows, and has access to the barebones structure of the operating system, somehow their products still tend to be a crazy resource hog. Sometimes, it would take upwards of 30 seconds just to launch a new Word document.
Next, resource management. Outlook was the standard at this job, and we had to keep it running at all times, so that we could get constant updates on the various issues that came with the job. Outlook would quickly exceed any other program’s memory and CPU usage. Hiding the program, and shrinking it to the system tray would cause the program to dump most of the used memory and swap space, effectively giving your resources back to every other important program you are running. This is a very ugly “hack”, and should have been completely avoided from the start. Even on a 2+ghz Pentium 4 with 1gb of RAM, Office ran dog slow, and caused all kinds of crazy Windows behavior in the process.
Now comes Office 2007
Ugh. The ribbon just seems like a bad idea. Sure, Microsoft feels that new users will be better able to find all of their options right in the convenient tab-based interface.
For us “legacy” users, though, it is the source of a constant headache that tends to go away only when the program is closed.
Office 2007 is certainly not any kind of complete rewrite, at least from a user’s perspective. I feel like they just tacked on a new interface into the 2003 programs, and added some unnecessary, completely baffling “features” in their new .docx file format.
I understand that using CSS for text is a very good way to format things, and get the point across using a universal system of standardized attributes. But, this is at a detriment of users of older versions of the program, as well as any competing applications.
Open Office has done very well at keeping their system in a way that is inductive to users of the Microsoft products, but it is also a resource hog.
Where the real problems come from Word 2007 is in using the text from the program in another application. When copy/pasting from Word, not only is the text copied, but the non-universal formatting of the text is also copied.
If I were to copy text from Word 2007, and just paste it into WordPress or Joomla articles, the styles contained in the formatting of the text will overwrite the page’s already established style rules.
Each of these systems provide a “Import from Word” applet, but this is completely unintuitive. The average user is going to be dismayed when they find their page is completely funked up because of an unknown issue.
I spent a few hours this weekend working with the Joomla system at AppIndie.org, trying to determine the source of terrible issues where pre-formatted links messed up the stylesheet for the whole site, destroying the uniformity of the site.
This seems completely unacceptable to me. First, Microsoft determines to use standard CSS for the formatting in their plain old word processing documents, even though they don’t support most of those standards with their completely useless web browser. This, combined with the horrible resource management, make for a terrible product.
In a free, open source program, these features would be improved upon, changed, and the community would be the better for it. Instead, Microsoft sees fit to charge $150 – $330 for each new version upgrade. What’s up with this? Why do people still buy this instead of supporting products that have real potential in addressing the issues that concern the users?
To most “average” users, Windows is the one and only choice on a PC. Things are changing now adays, but it still remains that any grandma who goes to Wal-Mart to get a PC to use on the interwebs, is going to buy a Windows-based PC.
Between Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Internet Explorer, Windows is becoming more and more of what most users don’t want. I would never trust my in-laws or my father with Vista and Office 2007. No way, no how.
That being said, I would never trust them with Linux, either. Linux still isn’t quite ready for a prime time spot on most users’ PC. What’s left? A Mac.
Macs are wonderful pieces of modern engineering, allowing an entirely new PC user to do exactly what they want easily and effectively.
Rather than turning this into a pro-Mac, Windows-bashing session, I’ll offer some suggestions.
Please, Please Listen to Your Users
Windows is an insane piece of poop that causes insane amounts of issues for the average user.
What can Microsoft do about it?
How about doing a complete rewrite of the underlying systems, using virtualization for backward compatibility? Apple did it with OS X, and it worked out for the better.
Not wanting to alienate customers who don’t know better, Microsoft with never do this. And because they will never do this, they will lose more and more of their audience to companies and products that will.
A brand new Windows, completely rewritten from the ground up, coupled with a rewrite of Office and bringing Internet Explorer into the modern age of standards, is the only possible thing that will bring me back to the land of using Windows full time.
That’s right, I’m switching back once again.
I can’t justify the price of a Mac Pro for a desktop OS X experience, so I’ll be going back to the light side of the force with Linux.
I’m as yet unsure which flavor of Linux I’ll be switching back to, but I plan on trying out a few before settling myself on one for the long run. More about my adventures in a future blog post.
In conclusion, be aware that Word 2007 will screw your wife and destroy your livelihood. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.