Saturday, January 17, 2009

MS Office vs OpenOffice

I was at a conference yesterday, but I still needed to write some documents. I figured it was a good first exposure to using Microsoft Office 2007.

On Linux, I used OpenOffice (version 2.4) to edit all my documents. Usually Word (DOC) documents, but the also some Excel (XLS) spreadsheets. Exchanging files with Windows users was not a problem, because we (mostly) used the same DOC and XLS formats. A few people in the office use the newer DOCX and XLSX file formats, but I had downloaded Novell's ODF Converter so was able to convert those file formats to versions that I could read.

Using the standard DOC and XLS formats meant it was easy enough for me to pick up right away with MS Office 2007 to edit my documents. Back to work, right?

MS Office is a pain. It's not the worst word processor in the world, but I find that Word actually makes it more difficult for me to create and edit my documents. It's much easier to do the same work under OpenOffice.

Maybe it's that I'm just new to MS Office, too used to how it was done under OpenOffice. I'm willing to give it a fair shot. Here are the main problems I'm having:

The menu works differently from every other Windows program.
I started by opening an existing copy of a document, but wanted to save it under a new name. It was not immediately obvious to me that this "file" command didn't exist under a "File" menu. In fact, there is no "File" menu - instead, you click on the MS Office logo in the upper-left corner. I had always understood that the program's logo in the title bar was where you could select "Maximize" or "Close", not the place where you choose "Save As". This makes no sense to me.

The menus are too weird.
Those "menus" at the top of the screen in Office aren't really menus - they're tabs. I am constantly confused by this. Again, no other Windows program works like this.

Adding and editing a page header is hard.
Most documents that I create for work require that I insert a standard "OIT" header. The process to do this was fairly straightforward under OpenOffice: Insert-Header, then paste the "OIT" banner into the header. Under MS Office, it's just hard. Sure, the "Insert" tab, then click Header-Blank wasn't too difficult to figure out. But once I had the header, the "Type Text" message really did not look like a text input field. It looks more like an information box. I clicked on it, nothing happened. Double-click, nothing. Why does this have to look different from other Windows applications?

The Style Gallery is confusing.
I like the concept of the Style Gallery, and the fact that you can preview a style as it would be applied to your text is a nice feature. But the rest of the Style Gallery feels poorly executed. At first, I thought there were only 6 different styles to choose from - there's nothing to indicate there are more styles, since the scroll bar is nonexistent here.

Also, why mix block styles with character styles in the Gallery? It means the "Title" style acts differently when applied to a paragraph than when applied to a selection of text within the paragraph. That doesn't make any sense.

In the end, I was able to create my document, but felt frustrated all the way. We'll see if this improves with time.

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