Office 12 Reactions

At first glance, my reaction to Microsoft’s pre-announced, pre-Beta version of Office 12 was, once again, “god help us, we’re in the hands of engineers.” They’ve put a prettier face on the monster, but it’s still a monster. You won’t be able to buy it until “Spring” of next year — that probably means June, 2006. By then, who knows what we’ll really need in a word processor, spreadsheet, database, and presentation application?

I know what I need right now: a better HTML-based text editor that also saves in the OpenDoc format. Office 12 won’t provide that.

Here are the initial reactions to Office 12; first, a description of the beast, from Office 12 makeover takes on ‘feature creep’:

In user testing, Microsoft found that nine out of every 10 features that customers wanted to see added to Office were already in the program. “They simply don’t know it’s there,” Chris Capossela, a Microsoft vice president, told a developer crowd last week. “It’s just too hard to find it.”…

Office has become a case study for feature creep — the phenomenon in which a simple technology becomes complicated and unmanageable through the addition of new features. Office, which once had 100 commands neatly organized into menus, ballooned to contain some 1,500 commands located in scores of menus, toolbars and dialog boxes…

With Office 12, due next year, the company plans to do away with a system that depends on people remembering which series of menus lead to a particular command. Instead, users will see a “ribbon” of different commands above their document, with the options changing depending on the task… When editing in Word, for example, the ribbon presents only those choices that have directly to do with formatting content. And even then, the goal is not to present every possible option, but rather the couple dozen choices that represent the majority of the clicks people typically make.

Here’s a quick summary from FAQ: Looking into Office 12 by Ina Fried, CNET News.com:

The radical revamp could help the company as it seeks to stave off competition from OpenOffice and others, but it also risks alienating those who like things the way they are.

For a bit more detail on Office 12 (the pre-Beta test version, which of course could change between now and next Spring), see the CNET Review of Office 12 Pre-Beta 1:

Rejoice if you’ve raged for eight years against Clippy. The dorky paper-clip cartoon is really dead; Office Assistant suggestions will no longer glibly interrupt your tasks… You may moan to hear that the Alt keyboard shortcuts will change; luckily, shortcuts using the Ctrl button will stay the same. While the more visual and tabbed layout may reduce mouse clicks, it eats up more screen real estate than Office 2003 does. Visually, Office 12 will look dramatically different, though just marginally more attractive than its predecessor. Icons and charts appear less flat, but our jaws didn’t drop at first sight.

As for me, I’m sticking with OpenOffice.org on my Mac for a while longer (with hopes that a native Mac version comes out soon, replacing the one I use now, which uses the X Window interface). I will continue to search for an excellent Mac text editor for blogging and HTML page editing.

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