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Under the Hood of Office 12 348

An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet has posted an FAQ on Office 12, plus a quick preview of Office 12 pre-Beta 1. From the review: Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1 drastically revamps the interface layouts of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. More than a year before the final product will hit the shelves, a pre-beta version of Microsoft Office 12.0 is revealing radical interface changes and user paradigm shifts that recall the overly ambitious Microsoft Office 97 update of the past."
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Under the Hood of Office 12

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  • Clippy? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pichu0102 ( 916292 ) <> on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:04AM (#13612703) Homepage Journal
    Clippy? What have they done to you, Clippy? Clippy? Clippy? CLIPPY! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:04AM (#13612704)

    ...or the appearance of innovation, anyway.

    Interesting tightrope Microsoft is being forced to walk here...if they don't change things enough, they still have OpenOffice and StarOffice nipping at their heels, but if they change too much, they risk alienating their established user base.

    The real question is: Just how much can you improve an office suite, before it's 'good enough'? Many Office users (my employers included) feel Office 2003 is just fine, and have no plans whatsoever for Office 12. Other offices I've seen have standardized on Offive XP, or even Office 2000, and steadfastly refuse to upgrade. When these holdouts finally do upgrade, it's only because they are having issues with using documents from other facilities that are in the new format (non-backward-compatible by design...thank you so much, Bill), and when they do, they commonly skip at least one release.

    The bottom line is that the strategy of staying out ahead of competitors like OpenOffice and StarOffice is becoming increasing untenable as the office suite becomes more and more complex and capable, and closer and closer to the ideal of 'good enough' for the average user.

    • by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:17AM (#13612793)
      I think you're right. Moreover, now is a good time for users to consider OOo because there is going to be these interface changes to Office 12. As long as you're learning something new it might as well be something that isn't costing you an arm and a leg, no? Add to that the fact that it's open and there's a huge opportunity for OOo.
      • by utnow ( 808790 ) <> on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:40AM (#13613611) Homepage
        I installed OOo a few days ago for the express purpose of never having to deal with office again. I REALLY REALLY wanted it to be good. Sadly, I uninstalled it less than 5 minutes later. It's come a long way, but side-by-side with Office... well you get what you pay for.

        And to head all of the jokes about bugs that I'm paying for, I'm saying that Office is better.
        • by MarkWatson ( 189759 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @11:52AM (#13614223) Homepage
          Hello utnow,

          Only tried it for 5 minutes? That does not seem like long enough for a good evaluation.

          I'm an author (nothing good on TV, so might as well write :-) and I wrote two published books with OOo.

          Yes, I do own Office licences for Windows and OS X, but I find that OOo just stays out of my way so I can get my work done.

          I also very much like the drawing program for technical figures.

          Give it another try :-)

          • If it takes you more than five minutes to find out how to do something simple, it's not worth trying anymore. I can imagine he wiped it off after five minutes. OOo has come a long way but is not nearly as 'good' as MS Office, I'm ashamed to admit.
            • by fupeg ( 653970 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @05:12PM (#13616974)
              Well then by that standard, Chris Capossela, one of Microsoft's VPs, would say that MS Office is not worth trying anymore:
              "When we asked people what would you like us to do in the next version of Office, nine times out of 10 people have named something that is already in the product"
              So it sounds like 90% of Office users haven't been able to find how to do something even after years of using MS Office. Maybe they should all wipe MS Office off their computers and maybe MS Office is not nearly as good as you'd like to think.
        • "well you get what you pay for."

          So only apps that cost you money are worth using? On the other side, do you have any idea much money and man hours have been put into that Free product?

          I've yelled till I was blue in the face that if you need 100% MS Office compatiblity don't even bother with But if that's not the case then its a pretty dam good Office suite. Certainly capable of handling 95% of the tasks that users need. Sure there is that 5% that have built their lives around certain MS Office only
        • Well, now that you've somehow achieved a +5 Informative rating without actually being informative (opinion w/ no fact or details), would you mind elaborating a bit on what shortcomings you found? I'm not being critical (except maybe of the mods), just curious.
    • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:19AM (#13612804) Homepage
      feel Office 2003 is just fine, and have no plans whatsoever for Office 12. Other offices I've seen have standardized on Offive XP, or even Office 2000, and steadfastly refuse to upgrade.

      Indeed. I used to work for an extremely large company in Australia - they are still standardised on Office 97 on Windows NT.

      They see no business motive to change - and frankly, I think they're taking the right approach. If they wait long enough, they will be able to "jump sideways" as it were to a completely open solution, with no loss in functionality and vastly improved management.
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:31AM (#13612907) Homepage Journal
      Office really is way past good enough for most users. My office uses Office 2000 and really doesn't see a big need to jump to Office XP or 2003. Office 12? Big harry deal. I wonder if Microsoft will have to start droping the price.

      What I really wonder is why no big PC companies like Dell, IBM, or Gateway are including OpenOffice with their PCs?
      Seems like a brain dead way to give your customers a free office suit. I guess the answer is they are all hoping to sell you MS Office.
      Maybe Gateway/Emachine should think about it.

    • The chief reason why Office is no longer attractive to enterprises is bcos of it's closed formats. It's not possible to manipulate an Office document without using the application, and that's pricey, bloated and proprietary - besides being locked down to the platform.

      Companies around me have stuck with Office 97 for docs and use the Mozilla range for mail and internet. IE and OE are too buggy and bloated - and more easily replaced than Office. In a year's time, Open Office 2 should stabilise and remove the
    • You will probably see more changes to how people collaborate on documents and how they are stored than any actual changes to the editing and formatting functionality.
    • by Zemplar ( 764598 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:35AM (#13612940) Journal
      "The real question is: Just how much can you improve an office suite, before it's 'good enough'? Many Office users (my employers included) feel Office 2003 is just fine"

      I can tell you that there is great room to improve Excel, good as it is. Many statistical functions in Excel need work in addition to addressing the poor memory limits - and I don't mean a marginal bump as is common with most Excel upgrades. Someday I'd also like to be able to address more than 65,536 rows and 256 columns.

      Threading in Excel is poor! Admittedly this is not an issue for your average user.

      So basically Microsoft will only marginally update Office for power users needing an extra speed or function fix and totally rework the GUI for the newbies to gawk at. Unfortunately this is a good business move if your business is to simply make as much money as possible from upgrades.
      • Same-named files (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Grincho ( 115321 )
        Not to mention that you can't open two files of the same name, at least in the Mac version. They should be ashamed.

      • Many statistical functions in Excel need work in addition to addressing the poor memory limits - and I don't mean a marginal bump as is common with most Excel upgrades. Someday I'd also like to be able to address more than 65,536 rows and 256 columns.

        Or maybe you should try to use the right tool for the right job. That much data in one spreadsheet? Say hello to mister Relational Database! Statistical functions? Enter SPSS or similar programs that are explicitly intended to handle such stuff.

        Threading in Exc
      • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @11:57AM (#13614271)
        I really think that most Excel "power users" should be looking for a better tool. The spreadsheet is a poor tool for large numbers of rows and complex functions. It's impossible to audit and figure out what it is actually doing. I think large spreadsheets are dangerous tools.

        I know it's easier to use a tool that you already know than to learn a new tool but it's time for spreadsheet users to grow up. You really need a relational database.

    • The real question is: Just how much can you improve an office suite, before it's 'good enough'?

      In terms of features, Office already has too much. Their reportedly biggest problem is that users are unable to find features already present. For you and me which probably consider ourselves powerusers this is of little relevance, I certainly haven't felt that problem (nor do we feel it in most "designed-by-geeks" OSS software, not that all OSS software is like that). If this new interface is something the averag
    • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:52AM (#13613135)
      Oh, but it's really easy to make people upgrade. You break the files compatibility just a tiny bit, nobody will notice, except for the companies that want EVERYTHING to work (pretty much everybody) so they will have to upgrade since they cannot have a mix of versions. Bill you are a genious! We need the latest Word because of its features -- bullshit! We need it to be compatible with other people's Word. That's why Massachussetts did a smart thing by switching to an open format.
    • The real question is: Just how much can you improve an office suite, before it's 'good enough'? Many Office users (my employers included) feel Office 2003 is just fine, and have no plans whatsoever for Office 12.

      The real question is, how many people said that about Office 97 then upgraded to Office 2000, or Office XP, or Office 2003?

    • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:24AM (#13613454)
      I still install Office 97 on every Windows computer I own. There are no license key or registration "phone home" issues to deal with and it's a pretty lean word processor compared to the others out there today. Honestly, I can't tell you what features have been added to Office in the last 8 years that would be of any use to me.
      • that and the fact that office97 programs start up faster than notepad. on a modern computer, it's so fast that it opens before you finish clicking the second time on the icon. and just about every function most people want is in 97. and you can pick up a copy on ebay very cheap [] .

        though, unless you absolutely need it, it's best to stay away from office altogether. it'll only add to your problems. even if OO and other FOSS programs aren't as good, they won't change the file fo
  • The dorky paper-clip cartoon is really dead; Office Assistant suggestions will no longer glibly interrupt your tasks.

    RIP Clippy
    • Re:RIP (Score:5, Funny)

      by Alranor ( 472986 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:15AM (#13612780)
      Personally I don't want clippy to RIP.

      I want it to suffer eternal torment in the fires of silicon hell, where daemons will flay it continally until the end of time.

      "It looks like you're trying to inflict agonies beyond belief on me, would you like so.... aaargh, no, no, stop with the poker! Anything but the poker, pleeeaase!"

      But that's just me.
    • RIP Clippy

      Shouldn't that be RITITBFOH* Clippy?

      *Rest in torment in the burning fires of Hell
  • UI changes..? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chicane-UK ( 455253 )
    Aren't 'heavy revamps' of the front end what users of Microsoft products have been complaining about for god knows how long? Microsoft get it to a stage where everyone is used to it then completely redo it!
    • Re:UI changes..? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Sounds like good news. If you have a choice between re-training your work force to learn MS Office 12 or re-training them to use OpenOffice 2.0, what are you more likely to do? Of course, this assumes that OpenOffice supports all of the features that you need.
      • You also assume that OpenOffice will be as easy to train for as MS Office 12.

        Almost everything added to MS Office over the last 10 years or so has been an attempt to make the software easier to use and to reduce training costs. But at the same time, there's a lot of old fundemental UI problems which they have refused to fix because of training considerations. (Such as the modal super-tabbed dialogs from 1994).

        Meanwhile, OpenOffice 1.x (haven't seen 2.0) strongly resembles your average 1995 menu-heavy Window
      • If you're the average user... You'll chose the "prettiest" one.

        And I'm not even trying to be funny here.

  • hrm... (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by xao gypsie ( 641755 )
    More than a year before the final product
    Why do I get the feeling that we won't actually see this product until after I have my masters 2008?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:06AM (#13612722)
    Nothing will ever top Office 97 for what it brought the table when it came out. They made it too good - several versions later and most people probably can't tell the difference, except for Outlook, which has changed more than the other apps in the suite. Is it possible that we don't need new versions of Office coming out every couple years anymore?
    • Personally I left office 97 for 2000 and never looked back. We are still using office 2000 company wide with no end in sight.

      Sadly my reason for upgrading was a microsoft trick, somehow a computer prebundled with office 2000 absolutly REFUSED to install 97 (tried and tried some more). In retrospect I shoulda reinstalled computer from scratch, but the upgrade was good anyways.
    • Nothing will ever top Office 97 for what it brought the table when it came out

      Nothing will ever top from the old MS-DOS days! Billy G and the crew should give it up. Long live!

    • These days, if people have to run MS Office, I suggest 2003 though, just for Outlook 2003. As for the rest, I couldn't really care, but I think Outlook in former versions were just too insecure and having too few safety nets.

      Just search for the section titled Outlook 2003 Security here [] and you might be shocked by the stuff former editions didn't have. The executable attachment blocks and address book protections can be invaluable in new virus outbreaks.

      Of course, a virus shouldn't even *get there* if the us
  • by coolGuyZak ( 844482 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:06AM (#13612724)
    You'll be able to make changes to attributes such as font style and watch your document transform in real time

    This has got to be the most innovative thing to come out of Microsoft in years.

  • Whooosh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Coimhad fearg fhear ( 916390 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:07AM (#13612728)
    As long as the new version of Office allows you to use that cool "Whoooshing" noise between slides in Powerpoint I'll be happy.
    Not that I ever use Powerpoint, honest...
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:09AM (#13612746)
    The radical change that M$ is introducing in Office 12 will call for training. I vividly remember what effect Office 95 had on our users.

    The trouble here is that more of technology pundits will not see this requirement as an additional cost burden at all! So when it comes to comparing Office 12 to StarOffice/, assumptions will be made that those using M$ products already have the training.

    StarOffice/ programmers could capitalize on this, save companies the trouble or burden of training. This is not to mention licensing costs not forgetting closed and changing formats.

    • Screenshots (Score:5, Informative)

      by neosake ( 655724 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:20AM (#13612812) Homepage
      Definitely, check out these screenshots, I mean I haven't tried it but this ribbon thingy doesn't strike me as intuitive as the menu paradigm we're used to.

      Microsoft's Screenshot []
      Zdnet series of screenshots []

      Plus it takes loads of screen real-estate.

      • Re:Screenshots (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ilyaaohell ( 866922 )
        Please explain to me how having the most useful features GIVEN to you on the top of the screen for the specific task you're doing is LESS intuitive than a system of pull-down menus and submenus where you go looking for (and often don't find) the feature you need.

        Just because you memorized where things can be located within the menus does not mean that this is more intuitive than just being shown the possible tasks in a graphically organized, dynamic manner.

        And incase nobody has seen this yet, here is video []
      • Re:Screenshots (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eyegone ( 644831 )

        It looks like this is going to be almost unusable on anything less that a 1280x1024 screen. As a laptop user, I dread this.
  • Where is office 11 ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gopal.V ( 532678 )
    I remember seeing an Office 10 somewhere on a Mac or something - but I've never run into an Office 11. Maybe they just thought that since they are already too late, they'll just skip a release ? :)

    There's good news but, Clippy is dead !!. But a ghost of the demon remains ...

    What's new in Office 12

    * Tabbed browsing
    * Missing menus
    * Clippy replaced with a Ghost
    * Shortcuts change for no reason
    * Task oriented design

    Translated as :

    * Ripoff off Firefox
    * Bye bye familiarity
    * Transparency showoffs
    * Alt keys are teh
    • Task oriented design

      There is a section in almost any HCI book you pick up explaining why Task Oriented Interface are a bad idea outside bespoke software for a particular workflow, and yet MS keeps putting them into general purpose tools and marketing them as a feature. Sometimes I wonder if their customers just count the number of ticks in boxes when evaluating their products, without reading the words next to the ticks.

    • Office XP == Office 10
      Office 2003 == Office 11
    • by coolGuyZak ( 844482 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:47AM (#13613069)
      Paraphrasing/compiling the parent:

      New feature -> Translated as:

      1. Tabbed browsing -> Ripoff off Firefox
      2. Missing menus -> Bye bye familiarity
      3. Clippy replaced with a Ghost -> Transparency showoffs
      4. Shortcuts change for no reason -> Alt keys are teh suck
      5. Task oriented design -> All users are idiots

      And now appraoched in turn:

      1. A couple things about this one:
        • Firefox was not the first application to feature tabbed browsing.
        • User interfaces are "ripped off" all the time. When someone comes out with a good idea, others copy it. This is a good thing, as it allows evolutionary development. Say the first person to come out with the button had patented (and enforced) it. We'd all be screwed.
      2. Sometimes familarity has to be sacrificed for the sake of advancement. This will irritate more than a few users though.
      3. Mostly, yeh. But I can see if having its uses. Personally, I'd rather have smart tags similar to the ones in VS2005. They're hot.
      4. True, but when I lose mouse support, it would be nice if my computer is still usable :)
      5. Even if all users are idiots, that doesn't mean that they are second-class computer citizens. As a matter of fact, since "All users are idiots" it would make sense to tailor the interface to them.
        A mental exercise: Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that "not all users are idiots". Changing from a "functionality based" system to a "task based" system still has benefits:
        • Users can learn the interface faster, as it makes more sense to them.
        • Users can access the interface faster, because all of the tools they need for a particular task are grouped together.
        • The interface has the potential to becomes less cluttered, as only tools pertinent to your task are displayed.

      Before anyone tries to "call me out", I am not a MS shill or apologist. (May be a KDE apologist, though).

    • Some people might switch to just to keep the old macros alive but still read the new .doc files.

      Until rips off MS Office once Version 12 has become familiar to users.
  • yawn (Score:2, Interesting)

    I've seen the videos, I've seen the screen shots, I've read the hype. I'm not impressed. Word and Word Perfect were always crap and they have gotten worse. Someone need to start OVER and rethink what a word processor needs to do. Basics like multi level numbering are impossible to teach users how to do. These apps are truly dinosaurs and we need a new killer app word processor suitable for writing books, html and pdf documentation including table of contents, indexes, appendices and normal stuff you fi
    • These apps are truly dinosaurs and we need a new killer app word processor suitable for writing books, html and pdf documentation including table of contents, indexes, appendices and normal stuff you find in documents.

      That is what docbook does, right? I mean, I haven't ever got docbook to do anything worthwhile, but I've been told that if it did work, that is what it would do.
    • I think what you want is to learn to use LateX. if you want stuff that is powerful like that, there is no substitute for your own personal design.
  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:19AM (#13612801) Journal
    Office 12 might contain a ton of features, but the crucial one is this:

    An open, documented format - and I mean 100% open, not like the 65% shared source initiative from MS that means zilch to devleopers.

    MS has to realise that the data in the document which I put in is much more valuable than the format in which it's stored. If I'm forced to use only MS tools to manipulate data in Office docs, it's not too exciting.

    Recently, I searched for ways to update a VSS store from a remote location using a web interface. I learnt that the small 3rd party app needed to achieve this was ridiculously expensive, and crucially MS didn't have this component for it's own software. I'm now looking to change from VSS rather than getting a plug-in. More enterprise users would move away from Office if it sticks to proprietary patented stuff in the new version.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:20AM (#13612815)
    Old versions of Office have entire books devoted to their bugs []. When we moved from Office 98 to Office 2004, we noticed that most of the bugs were still in the program even though it was 3 versions later.

    Is Office 12 just a UI rearrangement of the same defective code?
    • can you tell me where I can buy copies of Office 98 and 2004? I seem to have missed those ones.

      • Re:Hey dude, (Score:3, Informative)

        by michaelyery ( 832967 )
        actually, office 98 and 2004 are for mac. 98 is about the same as office 97 for windows, and office 2004 is the equal to office 2003.
      • Re:Hey dude, (Score:3, Informative)

        by Maserati ( 8679 )
        Those are available, amongst other places, from Apple's online store. Well, 2004 is - 98 is looooong since dead and would only run in Classic mode anyway. 2004 is a pretty nice office suite.

        Office 98 = Office 97 for Mac OS 9
        Office 2004 = Office XP for Mac OS X

        the comparisons are in feature sets and document formats, I don't believe there's much code in common.
    • Probably. They never like to re-write entire programs. This sounds like just a new interface with menu items burried in wizards.

      So instead of people just sitting down and typing, it'll first ask you "where do you want to go today" and there will be only options.
  • Beta software is for testing. That being the case, isn't "pre-beta" vaporware? What exactly are they testing???
    • Didn't a pre-Beta used to be cfalled an Alpha release?
    • In large scale deployments, beta is usually reserved for a very structured testing plan. Pre-Beta means that the software isn't ready for this type of testing plan, but it may be good for marketing to start pushing buzz words. Things like screen shots and non-functioning UI are often used as pre-beta examples... Vaporware should be reserved for theoretical programs in which no code is produced. Vaporware also has a stigma of "it will never be produced" around it; I don't think it applys here.
  • the next version of OpenOffice clones MS Office a great deal instead of making its own effort to make things easy and clear for people in new ways. Instead of innovating we'll end up copying.

    Except someone to change's new suite to look like MS Office's new suite as what happened with GimpShop.

  • The new Office is amazing, check out a 40 minute video of it here []. The video is about 600mb, so I fully expect their servers to catch on fire once it gets slashdotted, but have at it.
  • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:36AM (#13612946)
    What will it cost?
    Microsoft hasn't yet specified.

    Translation: prepared to be raked over the coals for failing to upgrade from Office 97 for all these years. You don't think those dinosaur ads pay for themselves do you?
  • by Fox_1 ( 128616 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:43AM (#13613022)
    While the more visual and tabbed layout may reduce mouse clicks, it eats up more screen real estate than Office 2003 does. Visually, Office 12.0 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.
    I'm one of those guys with dual 19 inch moniters running at greater then 1280 by 720 resolution and I still don't have enough desktop area. It's a shame they are adding more onscreen buttons/tabs/menus to the interface, making the word processor more mouse dependant. They are also screwing with the shortcuts, messing up the Alt+ shortcuts. It is their software though, not mine, so they can do whatever they want, and I'll keep on with Open Office.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:46AM (#13613060) Homepage
    Isn't Microsoft's argument against switching to alternative office suites the alleged re-training costs to get workers up to speed on the new interface.

    Well, if Office 12 has "radical interface changes" it appears to me that if it's going to require re-training, businesses might as well switch to an alternative now and save a fortune.
  • Undo past save? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JPyObjC Dude ( 772176 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @09:50AM (#13613109)
    I personally will not install any Beta microsoft product so I cannot verify.

    Does anybody know if they finally have undo past savepoints.

    Because of my experience with MSO (been using since Excel 4.0) is that it is best to save the document ALL the time else the app will crash and you will loose hours of work. BUT when you save, you loose the undo history :[

    MSO up to now has never had this feature (bad programmers BAD).

    BTW - OOo has this feature in 2.0 :]

    God I love open source

  • OPEN OFFICE 2.x (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kefaa ( 76147 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:00AM (#13613225)
    For years, I have heard that the differences between MS Office and Open Office were so significant that the cost of retraining was not worth transitioning.

    Where are those people today? The same ones that argued that it was not cost effective to retrain, will be arguing this is an incremental change or significant but worth the effort. I can hardly wait for Laura DiDio's "How Office 12 will make your company 12 times more productive" press release disguised as a "research paper."

    As several prior posters have said, if you are going to take the upgrade hit, why not take it to open office? It will certainly be less expensive in both licensing and training. And it will support OpenDocument formats, something MS has said they will not do.

    At least until the MS PR machine starts rolling.

    Open Office Home page []
  • The keystone of the new user interface is a "ribbon" of frequently used commands that offers different options, depending on the task a user is performing.

    In other words, we get a UI that never stays the same, and I'll be forever searching for the damn option I want because it can't stay put. And they say microsoft doesn't innovate.

    There have also been rumours of some new products, such as Excel server software

    Whoa. That's brilliant. It can be more like a database, and store all sorts of worksheets and rows
  • We can't look under the hood because the hood is sealed shut. Right?
  • by StoryMan ( 130421 ) * on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:16AM (#13613379)
    Office 12's innovations paves the way for Office 13's "return to the Office design that users have to love."

    Two years from now, whoever is in charge in Office will stand up at some flashy Microsoft presentation and explain how they "ignored users" and "goofed" by changing too much in Office 12. He'll talk about "lessons learned" and how "grateful Microsoft is to the user community for their active support of Microsoft Office."

    And then he'll push a couple buttons, curtains will raise, and some huge screen will blast "Office 13" and show videos about how all these new innovations have been replaced by the stuff that users wanted -- namely, a return to the regular menu.

    I don't know -- after ten, fifteen years of Microsoft, I'm extremely, extremely weary of all this technological hullabaloo. It's a lot of noise about nothing except money -- big money -- and users -- myself included -- fall for it time and time again.

    And yes, I've gradually moved over to Linux solutions. They're fine -- sometimes more complesxs than I'd like -- but I've come to understand that Microsoft -- and perhaps Google, too, but I don't know yet -- really don't understand technology. They understand technology, yeah, but they don't understand the fundamental fact that more and more people have an antagonistic response to technology. We like technology, sure, but goddammit make technology that makes things easier -- not complex in a different way.

    I wish someone at these companies would begin to acknowledge the odd technological antagonism that more technology breeds. Just because you *can* do something doesn't mean you *should* -- create a new version of Word, implement X or Y, etc. etc.

    I dunno. Whatever. It doesn't matter.
  • by Murgatroyd ( 41421 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @10:55AM (#13613751)
    My favorite part of the FAQ:
    Will Office 12 require Windows Vista?
    No. Although there were some initial plans to more tightly couple the new products, they will work independently of one another. There may be some features that "light up" only when a user is running Vista, however.
    Like... oh, maybe, "Save Document"?
  • User Interfaces (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Bayko ( 632961 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2005 @11:23AM (#13613972)
    The problem with complex applications and complex menus like Microsoft Office and Open Office is that functionality gets lost deep in the menu structure. Microsoft developers have realised this, and have tried to address it in several ways (Clippy, duplicating functionality in many unrelated, inconsistant places). Open software developers have also tried (removing options, rearranging menus without reducing their complexity), but I think all have have missed the point of GUIs.

    The key breakthrough that dropdown menus provided when they were introduced was simply that all the available functions (or function categories, at least) are visible, or at lease findable, you don't need to remember any text command (like a command line) or wierd control key combinations. It greatly simplifies things, but a GUI dropdown menu is no more effective in that way than the original Lotus 1-2-3 text interface - a '/' would bring up a top screen menu, which you could select in a similar fashion with keyboard only, no mouse. In fact, it had some advantages until Microsoft added the ALT-key method for accessing GUI menus.

    The fundamental problem is that when menus get too complex, the options are no longer easily visible. You now have to remember where to activate a particular function - and you're back to memorizing things instead of having them in front of you, so you're back to the idea of commands. Only the command is a series of menu clicks, instead of keystrokes or words.

    The problem isn't the use of menus, but the over use of them. The entire reason for the existance of GUIs is to allow direct manipulation of objects. The opportunity for ease of use from this is still only touched upon in many ways - especially by those who don't see any farther than stuffing menus full of functionality (similarly, if you've ever looked at the configuration options of a complex open-source project like NetBeans or KDE or Gnome, you'll see huge trees of incomprehensible options, often in a uniform structure that gives you no clue as to where to find the one you're looking for - you have to read, explore, read, explore until you stumble across the one you want). That functionality should go into direct manipulation of visible objects, not menus.

    For example, in a word processor, mini icons representing paragraphs could be displayed in a margin. To change properties like interparagraph spacing, indent, style or following style, you'd click on the icon to open a control panel - instead of cursor somewhere into the text, then up to the menu bar and click on Format / Paragraph / Indents and Spacing. Another icon or option lets you select the paragraph style, or edit the style (some of this is already done, with a ruler control up top, with drag-and-drop tabs - good idea). The manipulation now takes place at the paragraph you're interested in itself, not far away in some abstraft menu tree.

    Direct manipulation is the most overlooked, but by far the most powerful ease-of-use tool. The Macintosh and applications that run on it, go furthest by a wide margin in using direct manipulation, which is why users consider it so vastly easier to use, yet without loss of power. This is the real magic of GUIs and key to ease of use - it's not in "simplifying options", but providing those options in an absolutely direct and intuitive fashion.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton