Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
5/26/2006
05:39 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Getting Ready To Eat My Words About 2007 Office And Windows Vista

I'm not prepared to eat my words just yet. But I'm setting the table in case I have to chow down. A couple of months ago, I predicted Microsoft would have big trouble getting users to upgrade to Vista and the next version of Office. Well, Microsoft dropped Beta 2 of 2007 Office, and it's looking pretty ta

I'm not prepared to eat my words just yet. But I'm setting the table in case I have to chow down.

A couple of months ago, I predicted Microsoft would have big trouble getting users to upgrade to Vista and the next version of Office.

Well, Microsoft dropped Beta 2 of 2007 Office, and it's looking pretty tasty. It may be a big hit after all.

The most intriguing--and controversial--feature of Office is the new user interface. Microsoft has dispensed with drop-down menus, a standard of user interfaces for more than 20 years. Instead, 2007 Office uses a tabbed bar across the top of the screen, which Microsoft calls a "Ribbon." Take a look here. It'll look familiar to anybody who's ever bought anything from Amazon.com.

In the past, I've thought that the Ribbon was the worst part of 2007 Office. Even if it's better, I argued, it's still different, and that'll mean users have to be retrained, running up big expenses for IT departments.

Our reviews editor, Barbara Krasnoff, shared my skepticism, but she seems to be on her way to becoming a Ribbon convert:

There has been a lot of skepticism about the usefulness--and, indeed, the necessity--of the Ribbon, and I have to admit that I was among the doubters. Why change something that works for many people? Because, according to Microsoft, the current interface has become bloated with too many menus.

Jenson Harris, the lead program manager for the Microsoft Office user experience team, explained that the current system of toolbars has meant an exponential increase from two toolbars in Word 1.0 to 31 in Word 2003. "Conventional punditry was that people only use 5 percent of Office and that everything we need was in older versions," he said in a recent press event. "However, we found that real people said that people simply can't figure out how to use what features there are in there." He described the new interface as providing "one home for functionality."

You can appreciate better organization for controls if you've ever spent long minutes hunting through Office menus and toolbars, looking for some obscure command you only use every few months.

So the Ribbon could be a hit after all.

The software also adds Groove and SharePoint integration to make it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues from within the application suite.

I also predicated big trouble for Microsoft in getting users to adopt Vista. It still looks like Microsoft will have troubles there, but our reviewer Preston Gralla gives the latest Vista beta high marks, commending its security and search features and noting that it eliminates annoying nag screens that plagued earlier versions.

So will I be chowing down on my own writing? Hang around and see for yourself. I've got the Pepto-Bismol ready.

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