I'm a creature of habit, especially when it comes to technology.
And especially when it comes to software.
I tend to stick to things I know work for me.
I use MS Word as my word processor (oh, yeah! I'm a maverick, I am), and have for a long time. I stopped upgrading around 2003, I mean, seriously folks, how many enhancements to a word processor do you really need? Word 2003 has worked just fine for me for a long time. I used to do extensive relational database programming and I like Access a great deal, but again Access 2003 has worked just fine for me for, well, the last four years. Same with Outlook and PowerPoint (which I use for many things, including template and pattern making in the shop - no really, it works great for that, though I do feel a bit like a heretic saying so, I am a graduate of Professor Edward Tufte's courses after all, and Tufte considers PP to be the ultimate in Devil Spawn. In fact he and I got into an argument on that subject in the middle of one of his lectures, but I digress). And then there's MS OneNote, which I use on my tablet - for notes, organization, and data collation there's really nothing better suited to my mental process than OneNote. Especially on the tablet. My wife uses Excel (me, I have no use for spreadsheets, I hate them in point of fact, and I tend to make databases that do the same thing as a spreadsheet - only with much better interfaces). So, I prefer the Microsoft Office Professional package - and we've been using Office 2003 around Stonekettle Station for quite a while now.
There's a few bugs in the software though, and an especially annoying one in how Word works under the XP Tablet operating system. It has to do with mouse scrolling after an edit in fullscreen mode, and it irritates the crap out of me (as does any interruption when I'm writing). I've submitted bug reports over the years (I'm a registered MS beta tester), and I kept hoping the folks at Redmond would come out with a patch to fix it eventually. No such luck. And MS has recently announced that they will stop providing patches and upgrades for Office 2003. Sigh. I saw it coming, but still...
So, anyway, I decided it was time. Yesterday I finally got around to installing Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Access, OneNote, InfoPath, and Groove - whatever the hell that is.
Seriously Groove? I'm sure it's just me, but when I hear somebody from Redmond say the word 'groove' I picture the 1986 Prince's Charity Trust concert in Wembly, England. It was an all star rock concert given in support of the Prince of Wales' Charity Trust (oh, you thought I meant that Prince, uh, no. Shudder). Reason it springs to mind for me: Dire Straits accompanied by Sting and Eric Clapton were belting out Money for Nothing on stage. The sound coming from Knopfler's Fender Stratocaster was intense enough to induce nuclear fission, it was absolutely fucking incredible, and up in the Royal box Princess Diana and her girl pals were dancing their polka-dotted highborn asses off and everybody was having a blast. Next to them was his royal highness, Charles, Prince of Wales - with a pinched look on his face and an expression that said very clearly that he would rather have been just about anywhere else at that moment. Every once in a while he would stiffly move his shoulders, or bob his head - that's what I think of when I hear Bill Gates say the word 'groove' - Charles in a dark suit, trying to fit into a rock concert. (and now you have a frightening insight into how my mind works - I am nothing, if not a connection machine, but, see, OneNote allows me to organize that very process.)
Anyway, back to the upgrade. There's been a few changes in the last four years.
I've got it running on my big machine, under Vista Ultimate. The installation went smooth as silk, along with the registration process. With Vista, MS has made some real improvements to the embedded installer. The installation package automatically brought up the Window Update Control Panel and after my acknowledgment, downloaded the latest service pack and upgrades - again painless and easy. Though, if you don't have a high speed connection, you might want to skip this step - the download was 197MB.
The new software is certainly cool looking, that's for sure. Under the Vista Aero interface, the look and feel of each application is slick and glossy. And that's where I started having a bit of trouble. Being the aforementioned creature of habit, I'm used to having things in a certain way. And I've heavily customized my Office package over the years, with tools bars and macros. Of course, all of that customization didn't carry over to the new software. Drat. No problem, I figured, I've been using Office products for going on fifteen years, and somewhere in the past I was certified with the MCSE-I and MCSD qualifications - how different could it be?
A lot, actually.
1) It's going to take some serious getting used to. I'm not sure I like how the new menu system works - it took me twenty minutes to figure out where they'd hidden the 'options' dialog box, and it's not exactly obvious. What is obvious, is that MS doesn't want you fooling with their default settings, screw them, I want my software configured the way I want it. I paid for it, and I'll damn well use it the way I want to (and don't start with me about Linux or OSX, they're just as bone headed about this stuff).
2) In Word, the styles (fonts and their properties) are now graphically displayed across the top of the window. Yeah, I'm sure that sounded like a good idea, but come on, how many styles does the average user need in a document? One, maybe two? Seriously, is there anything more annoying and distracting than a document written by somebody who just has to use every font, bold, italic, underlining, color, size, and etc installed on the machine. Really? Well, yeah, sure it's handy if you're writing Neo-Con Republican viral email screed, but for the rest of us? I use one, maybe two, styles when I'm writing. If I'm writing technical papers in government format, I use maybe four styles. And I tie those styles to a button and put them on a button bar down the right side of my window. I don't need or want twenty different style icons displayed across the top of my screen. I want them to go away, and they won't.
Now, if you hover your mouse over them, they will preview the style in your document by changing the text, that's cool, I like that. But i want the bar to display only the styles I want, not take up screen space with every single damn style in the system. It may be possible to modify it, or make it go away entirely - but it sure isn't obvious.
3) In Word, full screen display - When I'm writing fiction, I want my screen to look like a sheet of paper. White background, black letters. Nothing else, no buttons, no icons, no menus, no window frames - full screen. That's what I want, the new version of it doesn't quite work for me. It'll display in full screen, and there's some cool new features, but there's still crap on the screen. OK, it's mostly unobtrusive, and I'm being petty about it, but it still bugs me.
For the most part, however, full screen is OK, and I'm sure I'll get used to it. I do like the ability to display multiple pages side by side on my big-ass wide-screen flat panel, though it does irk me that I can't display two pages at the same time with Ink and Comments turned on. I use comments to add notes to my text and I use Ink (pen enabled tablet handwriting) to add sketches or handwriting notes in the margins when I'm working on the tablet. I want to see those notes in the margin when I've got multiple pages up, and I can't. So I've got to go back to single page display, and that irritates me.
4) OneNote seems to be about the same, and that's good for me.
5) Access has been completely over hauled, and that's not so good for me. I don't have time to play with it right now, but I've got few projects coming up, so maybe I'll take the time this weekend and fool around with it.
6) Excel looks to operate about the same way, except that they've changed the menu system just as they did in Word (go figure).
7) Outlook 2007 I've used and it's OK. I do like the email summary popup and the integrated RSS reader.
8) PowerPoint is all fubarred up. I don't like it at all.
9) Groove? Yeah, I'll look at that later too, but I don't see much use for collaboration tools around here. I work alone, damnit.
Anyway, there you have it. As you might have figured out, I'm not getting much writing done this morning - and I've basically given up on it for today. I'll spend the rest of the morning fooling with Word and trying to get it customized to my liking. Then I can get back to finishing Chapter 22 tomorrow. Joy.