Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Office 2010 not worth the upgrade

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post wrote a great item about Microsoft's Office 2010. His conclusion: Office 2010 is not worth the upgrade. Sure, there may be some neat stuff in there (as is always the case in an upgrade) but mostly it's just window dressing for the same old, tired back-end.

From the article:
Unfortunately, Outlook 2010 -- like Office 2007 and, for that matter, much of Windows 7 -- reveals the same old cluttered, confusing dialogs and menus once you dig a layer or two into its interface. This is a generic, maybe genetic defect with Microsoft: The company changes the facade of a program enough to confuse veterans and then fails to fix problems underneath that continue to stymie beginners.
And he ends with:
When Microsoft can bring OneNote's desktop-to-Web continuity to the rest of Office 2010 -- better yet, with mobile access too -- this could be a worthwhile upgrade. Until then, most home users can leave this one on the shelf.


  1. PowerPoint and I guess OneNote (I have a weirdly hard time considering that part of Office, but whatever) are the only parts of Office I care much about. Every once in a blue moon I'll use Word or Excel, but for the most part the stuff I do in them I'd be just as comfortable in OpenOffice.

    IMO PowerPoint 2007 is a very worthwhile upgrade to 2003, and 2003 is a very worthwhile upgrade from both XP as well as any version of OO Impress. But I don't see much when it comes to PPT 2010. There are a couple nice features... slide sections is something I've wished it had for ages, and there are a couple neat collaboration features I wouldn't use... but it really doesn't seem very compelling.

    OneNote is one of the rare pieces of software that I actually enjoy using. A significant amount of the software I use I dislike, and much of the software I use I have spats of outright hatred at. (I do enjoy ranting about it though. And just to clarify, my dislike extends to PPT. I view it as the best of a bad lot*, which is like most of the software I use.) But I've got a Tablet PC, and OneNote has been almost nothing but a pleasant experience. (It's largely by virtue of OneNote that I am so enthusiastic about tablets with styluses.) There are a couple features I wish it had, but that's about it; those are more of a wishlist item than a "who's the braindead person who designed this crap" item.

    And still... there's not much I see for me in 2010. A lot of collaboration stuff... but I wouldn't use it. Versioning of pages and a page recycle bin are nice, but not stuff I'd need 99.9% of the time for my workflow. About the only thing that I think could have a big effect is the ribbon -- and even that is a bit iffy. I'm pretty indifferent about the ribbon in PPT, so I'd probably be pretty indifferent about the ribbon in OneNote.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is... I'm pretty sympathetic to the author's statements here, believe it or not. :-)

    * Except perhaps Keynote, but I don't feel like spending $800 on presentation software, even if it comes with a half-decent computer.

  2. >> IMO PowerPoint 2007 is a very worthwhile upgrade to 2003, and 2003 is a very worthwhile upgrade from both XP as well as any version of OO Impress. But I don't see much when it comes to PPT 2010.

    IMO, people use PowerPoint (that includes OpenOffice Impress) too much. They create so many slides for the topic that they may as well be doing Pecha Kucha Night.

    A good presentation, one that really holds the audience's attention, makes spare use of slides. Slides should display chart data that you can talk to, or else be used as a backdrop for the presenter. Have too many slides, or too much information on a slide, and your audience starts paying more attention to what's on the screen than what you are saying.

    My typical presentation is one I gave at a conference that had about 9 slides for a 1-hour talk, and that included the title slide, and the "questions" slide. Yes, that's 6-7 minutes per slide. The audience keeps their attention on what I'm saying, not on my pretty slide animations or transitions.

    But I'm kind of off-topic. :-)

  3. How many features do you need in Word to write a TPS report?

    I wish Micro$oft would stop trying to add "features" and would just fix the stuff they already have. Why so many clicks ot do somethign simple? Why the confusing error messages?

    Atleast with Openoffice, they fix bugs at the same time they improve the experience, so everything gets better at each release. M$ isn't doing that.

  4. Off-topic is fun. ;-)

    A agree... and disagree.

    One one hand, you don't want slides with a bunch of text on it. At best, the audience will read your slides and tune you out for 20 seconds or whatever. At worst, you'll read your slides and your presentation will be mind-numbingly boring.

    I also agree, most of the time you don't want heavy-handed animation as well; again, because it distracts. (On the other hand, you may want to use a quick slide transition when changing topics or something, to help cue into that. Consider how some movies do a wipe or dissolve when changing scenes... but at the same time, changing shots within a scene is done by cutting.)

    On the other hand, I think slides *do help*. They mean that not everything you're doing is cued off of audio, because you provide some visual indication of what you're talking about too.

    The way I solve these problems -- and I've got some evidence that I'm at least reasonably successful at it -- is basically the exact opposite of what you do. You spend a ton of time on one slide, but I spend rather little. However, I compensate by not putting much information on them -- I'll usually have just a simple diagram or something like that.

    It's not uncommon that when I'd use PowerPoint when giving a 50 minute lecture in a compilers class a couple semesters ago, I'd go through 80 or so slides. (This number is artificially inflated a little bit by the fact that I almost always do "animations" by creating new slides rather than using PPT's animation feature, since the latter is so obnoxious to use.) If I was talking about a process, I'd show it. If I wanted to demonstrate how a parser worked, I'd show have a series of slides with the input to the parser and the parser's internal state, and walk through it.

    (If you do things "my" way, it becomes absolutely essential to have either a presenter view or separate speaker notes, because slides often no longer contain enough information to cue you into everything you want to say on their own. The same probably applies to your way too (but not the "have a few bullet points and one minute per slide" model), though my way makes presenter mode quite a bit more convenient than separate notes. Presenter mode is one of the features that is grossly missing from Impress; it's only available as a beta-level extension. Even that isn't as usable as the one in PPT, at least last time I played around with it.)


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