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back to article Was Microsoft's Office 2010 worth killing Clippy?

Microsoft Office earned $4.2 billion revenue in the first three months of 2010, only a little behind the Windows client at $4.4 billion, according to the company's most recent earnings release. The figures show the suite remains deeply embedded in the business world, despite the availability of free or much cheaper alternatives …

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Anonymous Coward

Question:

Are "lock-ins and document format changes/obfuscation" honestly put forth as "competing with free?" It seems to me that this is best classified as "desperately preventing competition." Unless my grasp of the English language fails me, "competition" would enable a) better price, b) better features, or c) increased convenience compared to other offering similar products.

It seems that Microsoft is not really doing any of these things, but rather is leveraging it’s existing near-monopolies in various areas in a combined fashion in order to maintain it’s near-monopolies in those same various areas. I suppose looked at through the right filers, the cross integration could be viewed as “increased convenience,” but I personally think that’s stretching it a little. The reason I make that statement has to do with changes like the Ribbon bar. The Ribbon bar could well be viewed as an “increased convenience” feature, if only the original features has remained an option. Instead, by making it a mandatory feature, they are locking new users into by getting them familiar with their interface in the hopes that they will then reject more traditional ones. For that matter, cross integration would things like Sharepoint could be viewed as competitive, if only others were even able to compete. Where are the APIs allowing the construction of a Sharepoint-like product by competitors?

I realise that antitrust, monopolies and competition are touchy areas, (especially amongst USians,) however I just can’t see Microsoft’s perpetual “mandatory changes” as anything other than lock in. If you upgrade one application to get a feature you want, you will be forced into upgrading them all; an expensive proposition to say the least.

Anyway, that was ranty and probably incoherent: I just wanted to bitch about the idea that Microsoft “competes with free.” They don’t. I’m going to get coffee now…hey, thanks for my coat…

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Anonymous Coward

One man and his PC does not equate to business reality

Anyone who thinks Excel Sparklines have any basis in the real world is getting paid to write crap, I love your penultimate sentence; missing whole words suggests a gin session the night before, I guess they don't pay you enough and can't afford a proof reader; explains the quality.

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Flame

HERESY!!!1!!

The acolytes of TUFTE will burn you!

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Free MS Office?

"Microsoft will be offering Office Starter, a basic edition of Office 2010 supported by advertising,"

Not a bad idea. It certainly puts a dent in the single biggest argument for OpenOffice. Being a Linux geek I'm not going to be switching back to MS Office anytime soon (or, probably, ever), but it's good to see Microsoft is realizing that their monopoly isn't secure enough to gouge people mercilessly anymore.

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Open Office kicks the pants off the MSOffice

Open Office kicks the pants off the MSOffice, having used both I have been delighted by the ability of OO to write 200 page technical reports on, something MSOffice (2000 and 1997 versions) more often than not cached and corrupted my report files....crap. Another bonus OO maintains a wonderful stability of formats across the versions, ODF compliance makes it a delight for document archival....also I have used Google Docs for lightweight work and its is really good for collaboration, it show great promise, much better than Sharepoint.

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Ribbon

... will be the main reason I won't upgrade to anything after Office2003. I hate that stupid interface, and I'm not alone in that one. If Office 2010 doesn't offer a magic "old style" mode, I'm not buying it either.

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Happy

Don't be so hasty

..we haven't rolled 2k10 out in the workplace yet but I've been doing 'development stuff' with it for a while and it is an improvement over 2k7. It's kinda like the whole Windows thing. XP->Vista->Win7 only here it's Office 2k7 that was the dog.

The ribbon is a PITA but in Office2k10 you can customise it down to one tab with just what you want on it. The end result is that it's similar in size and function to Office 2k3. They've also finally got Office 2k10 to respect your system settings for Clear Type so that's one abomination finally cast back into the nether regions of hell where it belongs. One or two features of 2k10 that sound lame (like built in screen capture) actually turn out to be quite handy.

It's still not a quantum leap and I still don't see the point for home use but if your employer currently foists Office on you then look forward to 2k10. I would actually class it as a worthy successor to Office 2k3 and hopefully it will blot out my memories of 2k7.

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Ribbon hated at university as well

Everyone that I know at university is hating Office 2007 because of the ribbon. Even I am having problems finding things. Ever since the ribbon scores of students here have turned into Office newbies and are hating it. I have seen productivity go right down. However, the university had to upgrade to Office 2007 because of their licensing deal with Microsoft. I write everything with limited formatting, then at home, I have Word 2003 and have been using that to format my documents while remembering to save things in Word 2003 format at uni.

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Sanity Restored

An add-on that allows you to get to most of the legacy layout that you can actually use!

http://www.ubit.ch/software/ubitmenu-languages/

Saved my sanity on so many occasions.

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WTF?

Rip off...

... of Classic Menu for Office 2007?

http://www.addintools.com/english/menuoffice/

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Stop

Heaven's above!

"Everyone that I know at university is hating Office 2007 because of the ribbon. Even I am having problems finding things. Ever since the ribbon scores of students here have turned into Office newbies and are hating it. I have seen productivity go right down."

It wouldn't be down to the subsidised beer and 20 minutes of lectures a day would it?! Given the quality of the English displayed in your diatribe, you may wish to stay at Uni a while longer!

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Re: Heaven's above

Well, I can see nothing wrong with the OP's English, but you, on the other hand, may want to reread your title....

(The Indomitable Gall is an English-language grad and an internal comms professional.)

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Problem is

In the enterprise this stuff has it's feet so far under the table it's generally only ever a question of "which version shall we run". Don't forget that no matter what business it is, in the enterprise there's normally always a "lorry load of shit written in VBA" kicking around somewhere.

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Jobs Horns

Bah, humbug!

I'm still using Office 97, and quite happy with it. And I'm sticking with XP. If it works, why should I pay Microsoft for the privilege of learning a whole new way of computing?

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Re: Bah, humbug

I'm using 2000 for the same reason, so I guess I bought my licence a year or two after you did.

As a developer though, I've evaluated all the versions since '95 and I'd have to say that although there have been few (if any) must have features in the last 15 years, there was a marked rise in implementation quality in the first half of that period. '95 was a fairly buggy implementation of the feature set, and '97 was a worthwhile upgrade just for the fixes. 2000 was less so but probably gets the nod. 2002 and 2003 are almost indistinguishable from one another and only marginally better than 2000. Neither made sense as an upgrade.

2007 was just a whole new kettle of fish and probably a retrograde step if you were an existing user. The saving grace on the user interface is that the 2003 commands are all still available if you know the (2003) keyboard shortcut, so you can probably ignore the ribbon altogether. Dunno how new users cope, mind.

Functionally, however it's OLE support is actually worse than 2003s and the exact bug set differs with the file format you choose. (MS had not fixed this in the 2010 beta, btw.) For long-time power users with documents exploiting OLE linking, that might be quite annoying.

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Gates Halo

Outlook and Excel

Outlook is the killer app in Office, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not sure where the "bewildering interface" comment comes from, but, for contrast, try using Lotus Notes, Outlook's major competitor--*then* you'll see bewildering (and utter shite). (And, for the Linux geeks, Outlook != Outlook Express, the default email client which shipped with XP.) If you don't have Exchange, Outlook is great; if you do have Exchange, then Outlook is its essential counterpart. OL 2010 seems pretty sweet, with a snappier UI and better Sharepoint integration, although I'm not sold on the ribbon. But hey, at least they brought back the File menu!

For other corporate number crunching types, Excel is the killer app. There are other spreadsheets that compete on 90% of the functionality, but when you need that extra 10%, you really need it.

All that said, I suspect that what's going to hook people into Office 2010 is the enhanced Sharepoint integration. I don't love Sharepoint, but there are plenty who do, and being able to publish and collaborate in a simpler fashion will definitely get some attention. I do appreciate that Microsoft seems to have put some serious effort into shrinking the office bloat and making the suite faster and easier to use, so I'll probably upgrade eventually.

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FAIL

LookOut?

Yep. No doubt about it. It's a killer alright.

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Happy

" If you don't have Exchange, Outlook is great"?

"If you don't have Exchange, Outlook is terrible..." TFTFY

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corrected for ya...

"If you don't have A LOCAL NETWORK Exchange, Outlook is terrible..." TFTFY

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FAIL

On what basis?

Oh right, it's made by Microsoft. Do you have any other actual criticism? No? I thought not.

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Linux

Outlook's not so great

Outlook has it's strong points, I'll admit, but without Exchange it's nothing more than just another mail client. If you do have Exchange it becomes invaluable, but there are better systems to do what Exchange does to.

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FAIL

Nothing to do with who makes it.

Simply as an IMAP/POP3 client, it's pretty poor versus other (including webmail) options. It's great as an exchange client. The rest of the suite is great, I've been testing it since it popped up on TechNet the other day, I even like the modified ribbon! Anyway, I thought that it was only mactards that were supposed to be tetchy about criticism, or does that extend to Microsoft fanbois too?

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ribbon

I must say hated the ribbon to start with but got used to it now, took me a week maybe. It all looks much better but prefer substance from design. Sharepoint love it, so that's probably the main advantage with office 2010. I am not convinced on the cloud yet, it has to be slower by design and what happens if no internet connection or very slow internet? No work? Thinking about it maybe we should use the cloud!!

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No cloud for me

Yes, I really want to use an office suite which *requires* me to have a 'net connection running (sapping power from my battery) to a server I hope is up, located in a country god-knows-where, where the LEOs (or a narky BOFH) can have access to my files based on *their* local laws, not mine.

Yeah, I *really* want that.

On the other hand, I admit I use MS Office 2003. Why? I regularly try out new versions of OO, but so far no version has given me "normal view" a-la MS Office. OO seems to be stuck in Layout view - which may be *your* cup of tea, but I only use Layout view when finalising (laying out) my documents, not when writing the bulk of it (when I don't care if my layout is exactly right). My requirements, YMMV, but it means OO is a non-starter for me.

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Worth Trying again?

From the view menu - click on Print layout. It's a toggle. Goes from a Layout View to a stream of consciousness view that is as wide as the OOo application window and shows no page breaks at all.

A conversion in the offing perhaps? :-)

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Bronze badge

I'll try again.

I will try OO again and look for the option you stated. However, from what you describe, it's still not the same view as what I like to use (which, from the sound of it, is halfway between the two views you describe).

Still, won't know until I try it. ^_^

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Ribbon rage

After many very happy years with nothing but Open Office, I was asked to submit something in Word, nothing but Word, and I mean .doc, not even .rtf, so I had to buy {shudder} Office for Home.

After going online for help to do anything for a few days, I mastered the basics and got my document off, then went back to OO with teas of gratitude. It's better, lighter, more intuitive, doesn't assume I want to do something that I probably don't -- a joy. I'll keep my cheapo MS Office 'suite' around for those who can't cope with something better, but it will turn into rust before I use it voluntarily. Upgrading? Office 2010? Ha ha ha ha ha ha etc.

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Joke

Nothing but Word?

You should have abandoned them in disgust, after sending them a well thought out email (wrapped up in asbestos for safety). There is no excuse for that sort of behaviour. Rape and murder are one thing, but forcing people to use Office? Whole new league of awfulness.

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Badgers

Erm

OO.o can save files in MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint '97 - 2003 format. Version 3.2 will even open Office 2007 stuff.

It works well, I constantly exchange files between sites with OO.o and MS Office.

So, why did you buy Office?

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Conversion

Because tables and graphics frequently do NOT play nicely. When you have to spend a day tinkering with an 80 page report just to get it correctly formatted, you eventually get beaten into submission. Don't get me wrong - I'm with the OP. Open Office is lighter, more intuitive (or familiar) and I'd gladly tell people that I submit my work according to open standards. Except that if I want to get paid, then there are times when compromise is necessary.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Just experienced!

No. But used to writing more than one line documents that might otherwise have been composed in crayon.

Try responding to an RFI / RFP where the potential customer on a 2 million pound deal has stipulated that your answers should be inserted in line in their request document. For some daft reason, they seem to react badly when the formatting is sloppy.

Damned inconsiderate of them of course - after all who do they think they are dictating how the information should be transmitted?

Oh yes - they're the ones spending the money!

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WTF?

Use 'Save As'

Open Office - Save As, then look at the Save File Type. You can save in the .DOC format.

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Stop

You seem to forget...

that "sloppy formatting" is not exclusive to MS Office <-> OpenOffice, but inherent and endemic between versions of MS Office, too.

'erself had a job app form to fill in a while back. All tables and fields, saved in .doc, but from what version of MSO we had no way to know. O2k7 made a _right_ dog's dinner of it. Totally and utterly unusable. OOo was close to bob-on.

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Unhappy

Bring back Office95

I've found numbered lists baffling since I moved off Office 95...

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Linux

Enthusiasm for Open Source

With the impending severe budgetary constraints being imposed on the Public Sector I suspect there will be a new found enthusiasm for freely available alternatives to MS Office / Windows.

You can split hairs about the differences or disadvantages but the fact is Ubuntu, Open Office, Firefox, Thunderbird etc enable users to be just as productive as when using proprietry software without the cost of the license fees.

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"There's little wrong with Office 2003"

LMFAO.

Excel and Access are the biggest software problems in our organisation. It's impossible to manage data properly with lots of cr@ppy spreadsheets and personal databases scattered around. And anyone whos has ever tried to debug a model for something created in a spreadsheet will surely agree that they are a bad bad idea.

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WTF?

That's a bit like saying...

Volvos are crap because there were 2000 road deaths in the UK last year.

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Coat

@Richie 1

"It's impossible to manage data properly with lots of cr@ppy spreadsheets and personal databases scattered around. "

True. The recent fun El Reg has had when the Welsh cops sent them their CRB database bing a nice case in point. However that is not *really* an Excel problem, it's a data *management* problem or rather its a data source problem. Of course teaching uses to build spread sheet models with up to date data would require a)education time and budget b) Users learning some *discipline* not something these "creative" thinking types take kindly to.

"And anyone whos has ever tried to debug a model for something created in a spreadsheet will surely agree that they are a bad bad idea."

Do you know you can *name* cells and regions? It's clumsy but can be done and meaningful names make quite a difference, *provided* people are willing to do so. A utility which allowed you to add separate names to a bunch of cells at the *same* time, then rename *all* references to them, would be pretty handy. Sounds like it *should* have been written years ago, but I've not seen it.

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2 Points

1. What's bewildering about Outlook's interface? Always been logical to me, over a whole bunch of other email clients.

2. I don't see mention of anything other than a single Excel feature being worthy of the upgrade. That good huh? Our org will be sticking with 2003 I suspect, despite having an OVS.

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I use Outlook despite Microsoft

I Quite agree on both counts. Outlook was the first MS product I used because I wanted to rather than because I had to. As other products (e.g. Excel, Access, Powerpoint) improved I found myself using them as well although I agree that 2003 is when they plateaued and really, not much useful has been added since Office97 , and NOTHING that I've seen, (save for Excel's extra rows..., and maybe Outlook's folder searches) in Office2007 seems very useful to me.

OpenOffice provides a fine substitute for the dreaded Word, and the along with the other components gives me at least 95% of what I'd use Excel, PowerPoint, ... for, but when it comes to a personal information manager nicely integrated with an email client, which BTW syncs to my mobile devices with cheap or free add on software... well, what's not to like?

As a unix / linux command line dinosaur I don't often defend Microsoft, but when it comes to Outlook, it's best-of-breed IMHO.

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OpenOffice IS very usable

As the owner of a small business who was reluctantly thinking of upgrading Office 2000, I have to say that the functionality of Open Office is perfectly adequate for my needs.

I'm not going to state that it is usable on a trading floor with high speed data add-ins - which probably don't exist - but for 95% of people the free option is perfectly workable.

Unfortunately MS Office seems to exclusively taught in schools.

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So teach OOo at home

Fairly sure that my daughter's schools use MS Office - but at home, my 9 year old is more than happy in Writer - she just sees it for what it is. A means of creating a document. She will leave school "Bi-lingual" in office products.

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Anonymous Coward

Office in schools

I work for a school district and I've been pushing OOo as a way to save money for years. To put this in perspective, we spend around $100k/year on Office licenses. That's $100k every year that could be spent on something else, but the higher ups in the district have the mentality that free software is inherently bad software and won't go for it.

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Licensing

Let's not forget Microsoft's Confuse 'n Screw department, also known as Licensing.

The mere thought of having to do the mental gymnastics necessary to work out how much an office full of Office is going to cost over time is enough to make me turn to Open Office.

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Anonymous Coward

I miss Links

Yes - the little cat.

Same purpose as Clippy, but the animations are really well done, and somehow he managed to be charming rather than annoying.

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Clippy

Killing Clippy is an entirely laudable objective, be it office 2010, or OO. Personally I use OO, but if I have to will use MS Office. Which seemed to get a heck of a lot harder with 2007. Where is the 'save as' option etc.

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Excel vs. OO Calc

I used to used Open Office Calc as a spreadsheet but have gone back to Excel. OpenOffice Calc has all the features that most users would need but the more I used OO, the more Excel showed itself to be a much better engineered product. In particular, the display of rounded small&large numbers was not as precise as excel and the performance of the product rapidly detererates with large data sets.

I want to use open source software but in this case it falls short when I need to get work done.

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customise menu dialog?

"the drag-and-drop Customize dialog in Office 2003 and earlier is better than the ugly Customize Ribbon dialog in Office 2010"

I haven't used said feature of 2007, but I find it hard to believe the customise menu dialog could be uglier. It is functional in 2003 (and I don't think it changed any since about 95/97), but pretty it ain't.

I was at a 2010 pre-launch roadshow a couple of weeks ago and if I found the 'Backstage'/File menu slighly confusing, then what are non-techies going to think? In all their extensive usability labs, did they not get anyone screaming "WHERE'D MY DOCUMENT GO!!!"

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Anonymous Coward

Painted into a corner

I work for a really large company - the kind that Microsoft are trying so hard to bring with them - and we have only just migrated to Office 2007 (with all the crap that entails).

I can understand the pressure that Microsoft must feel to keep pushing out new versions of office but the point made in the article is spot on. Most business & office users have no real need for the Office 2010 upgrade (or even the 2007 version) unless you just want prettier charts. The Office '97 product contained probably 99% of all the functions that business users need, and even included properly working versions of some functions (like styles) which have been ruined in the more recent versions.

All those little toys that the media get so excited about are mostly irrelevant to the people who actually buy & use the product as a job (rather than as a review subject. But fortunately those reviews only highlight how MS has reached the point where there is little of value which can be added to these products. They're just into fiddling with them now just for the sake of it. The endless 'performance and usability improvements' claimed are often more than offset by the increasing complexity, bloat, confusion, training, errors and transition effort required to move onto the new products.

Microsoft would probably do better to produce some vastly simplified versions of some of these products at a lower price point (Office 'lite') but which isn't a piece of shit like Works.

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