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back to article Help us out here: What's the POINT of Microsoft Office 2013?

It was Verity Stob who identified the key challenge for Microsoft Office upgrades: "Name just ONE feature introduced into Word in the 21st century that the weak-willed upgrader regularly uses," asked the antiquarian. Fourteen revisions since the first Office that it may not be easy, because spell checking, grammar checking, …

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

It is rather revealing that MS didn't offer users with the option of reverting to the old style menus.

It's almost as if they knew people would prefer to stick with the old system...

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

The ribbon is a complete pain in the arse, the endless shuffling around of features from menu to menu that has dogged office in each iteration just makes the whole experience a trial. Excel 2013 just does my nut in.

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Facepalm

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

I'm convinced the ribbon is designed to punish those who predominantly use a keyboard. As an example, pre-ribbon to quickly accept an Outlook invite you'd press alt+c, the "c" being handily underlined in case you forget. Hitting enter sent the confirmation (or the arrows let you change the default behaviour).

In post-ribbon, I press alt (lo, the letters appear), then H (to select the "Meeting" tab, naturally the H is silent), then C, then E, S or D to edit, send, or don't send a response.

So from alt-C (with visual clue already there), enter. To alt <pause>, H, <pause>, C, <pause>, E, S, D. Thanks MS, it's now quicker for me to move off the keyboard and use the mouse.

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Stop

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

"I just like to have all controls I use visible"

Exactly - I don't understand why users cannot configure the toolbar how they want it. This is what I do on my CAD system - I know what commands I will need, where I will need them, I can make custom command buttons etc. That is what drives productivity for us.

Making the system guess what you will need and hiding the rest is insane.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

Im guessing none of you have found

Right click on ribbon --> customise the ribbon.

I have, and have removed a load of stuff i don't need, and replaced it with things i do. It's not rocket surgery.

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

The ribbon is a bit of pain on today's widescreen laptops. Wouldn't so much of an issue on an old 4:3 setup.

Vertical space is at a premium anyway.

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Happy

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

"customise the ribbon"

Correct - we never found it. After a couple of users had the ribbon a few years ago and got all frustrated we started using LibreOffice instead. Much calmer since then with the added bonus that I don't need to worry about licensing or the BSA when workstations get shifted around.

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

'Customise the ribbon' wasn't there in Office 2007 (when the ribbon debuted) it wasn't until Office 2010 that you could do it. By then of course, all the users who NEEDED to customise the ribbon had defected to OpenOffice or downgraded back to 2003 (and are probably still using it).

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Re: "customise the ribbon"

But that only appeared in Office 2010...

Office 2007 users were limited to "Customise the Quick Access Toolbar" (which was not actually terribly usable).

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

I don't know about Outlook because I haven't checked but certainly in Excel you can use all the old shortcuts as well as the new ones even though the options aren't displayed on the screen.

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Meh

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

@Fuzz - nope, this was a menu shortcut. It's gone. Asking on the MS forums results in an MVP telling you the convoluted option as if it were an obvious replacement.

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Happy

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

Rocket surgery! :D

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Paris Hilton

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

> Vertical space is at a premium anyway.

Especially when displaying a4 pages on widescreens (like 90% of the time) - why can't we move the ribbon to the side?!??

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qDr

Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible"

You can switch off the fancy loading screen in 2013. You have to untick that in the options. Along with numerous other "improvements" that appeared in Office 2007/2010.

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Re: option of reverting to the old style menus.

I concur that the Ribbon is a major PITA, but I expect trying to maintain both layouts would have been problematic for the programers. So that part makes sense to me from the MS point of view.

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FAIL

Re: option of reverting to the old style menus.

@tom 13: It shouldn't be about what makes sense from MS' point of view, but what makes sense to the user.

MS never really seem to have grasped this fundamental point...

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Re: "The ribbon makes more features visible" @Jaruzel

"...By then of course, all the users who NEEDED to customise the ribbon had defected to OpenOffice or upgraded back to 2003 (and are probably still using it)."

Fixed that for you.

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As I recollect

As I recollect there were a number of very good WP programmes out originally. Ami Pro seemed to be the easiest to use. Where MS scopred was that they refused to acknowledge any other format than their own. Others would open, or save in any number of formats, MS in only theirs. So, if you wanted to send a document to anyone who ran MS Office, then it had to be .doc format. So offices tended to go for MS whenever an update came around. It simply froze all the opposition out. It certainly wasn't better.

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Re: As I recollect

It certainly wasn't better.

You have to go back a bit further. If you wanted to avail yourself of Windows 3.x and required a Word Processor, Word 2 knocked the spots off everything else around at the time. Also Excel pissed on the opposition as a spreadsheet. The incumbent market leaders from the DOS days all missed the target by a mile with their early Windows offerings. Words (hah!) do not exist to describe how badly WordPerfect for Windows stunk when it turned up.

That's when MS took the high ground and they've defended it to the hilt ever since.

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Re: As I recollect

Indeed, I would say that there is very little in Word that I used on a regular basis that wasn't in Word for WIndows 2.

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Re: As I recollect

> If you wanted to avail yourself of Windows 3.x and required a Word Processor, Word 2 knocked the spots off everything else around at the time.

Of course, but that was because MS had special features in Windows that Word used and others could not. Or, indeed, had advised others of features (not used by Word) that it later did not implement.

See: Novell vs MS on WordPerfect.

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Linux

Re: As I recollect

> If you wanted to avail yourself of Windows 3.x

All blatant nonsense.

You can't re-write history. Some of us were actually there. Alleged msoffice supremacy was as much over hyped Lemming nonsense then as it is today.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: As I recollect

Sad, but true. WordPerfect 5.1 (also available on VMS in VT terminal form) was an excellent product. We stayed on DOS and VMS WP 5.1 until we were pretty much forced the windows route, and WordPerfect simply dropped the ball. They dropped the ball rather badly.

This is one of the few MS successes where they actually had a better product (Windows Word v. Windows WP)

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Libre Office does it for me...

It doesn't do as much as MSO, but it does enough, and I can live with the quirks. When I used MSO at work there's rarely (if ever) anything that couldn't be done with Libre Office...

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Re: Libre Office does it for me...

I just switched to Libre Office and I'm very happy with it so far. I actually like LO Calc better than Excel. In Calc, I can create a chart in one step; axis titles, chart title, data set, etc. - all entered on one screen.

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JDX
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Name just ONE feature introduced ... in the 21st century ... regularly uses,

Print to PDF?

Yes yes you could get add-ons or use OO but that's not the question. I use this all the time.

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Re: Name just ONE feature introduced ... in the 21st century ... regularly uses,

Yes but RedMon and GS, PDFCreator or any of the other add-ons also allow you to "print" PDFs from anywhere be it notepad, photo viewer, chrome or any application that has any printing ability for that matter not just new Office applications. I use it all the time too but just the add-on not the one built in Word 2010 since the add-on has better security and encryption options.

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Re: Name just ONE feature introduced ... in the 21st century ... regularly uses,

That shouldn't really be an application-level feature anyway — it should most naturally reside in the GDI (or whatever has supplanted it) according to my understanding of the Windows API as PDF documents are just another abstract canvas to paint to.

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Sil

For any demanding work ( 200+ document with tons of photos), big presentation, very large spreadsheet gdocs or libreoffice just don't cut it.

In addition it is so much easier to use office when all your customers, suppliers and partners are using it.

Re the 2013 version I didn't use it enough to make up my mind about upgrading, I'm waiting for the new business contact manager as the bcm 2010 isn't compatible with Outlook 2013 so I'm still using Outlook 2010. Btw BCM is quite the hidden gem, a great crm for small scale deployments.

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Re: "Btw BCM is quite the hidden gem, a great crm for small scale deployments."

One of my clients is using BCM2010. They were asking about the new Office last week as I deployed a brand new Dell PC with W7 Pro and Office 2010 H&B for them. Now I know to tell them to steer clear of Office 2013 for now at least.

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Libre office not good for big presentation?

Define your big.

I've been lecturing since using OpenOffice and later LibreOffice since 2005 and never had a problem. I became so sure of its stability I sometimes did not save for hours while working on the lectures and never had to regret it.

I especially like the possibility of using the projector as my second screen while on the first I see the hour, time since I started and the next slide.

The possibility of making your document or presentation as a PDF file was there in 2005, years before Microsoft copied it.

I absolutely see no reason to pay for MS Office. I uninstalled it from my work PC about 2007 even as I had a license and never looked back.

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Only one thing I use Office for

The only thing I use Office for is Word's document outline editor. It's efficient, it gets out of my way, and it lets me build my document from skeleton. A highly useful feature, in my opinion.

Does anyone know if OpenOffice or Libre Office have a document outline editor?

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Re: Only one thing I use Office for

I, too, have always liked the outline view in Word and I do miss it in OpenOffice which only has page layout and web views. OpenOffice's performance on Mac OS is still a bit meh, but it suffices for most things.

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PowerPoint is pretty good and gets better with each version

While I'm not a particular MS fan, our company does use it heavily and PowerPoint is a large part of that.

PowerPoint 2010 introduced much better transitions from 2007 and proper support for Quicktime video.

It also greatly improved the file format, 2010 PowerPoint embeds audio and video in one single, although often very large, file.

I've looked at the trial of PowerPoint 2013 and transition as again better. However, there is a still a gloss missing when compared to the [much cheaper] Keynote.

Of course, users still have the chance to make truly terrible presentations if they go font/animation-mad but it's a good step forward.

However, for the other Office Apps it is admittedly hard to see the benefits from 2003 or even earlier versions.

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The one feature that makes Office 2013 a sure bet

The ability to open the latest word doc format.

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Re: The ability to open the latest word doc format.

*That's* not hard. Office 2003 and LibreOffice both manage just fine.

Opening the latest format and seeing the page breaks in the same places that the original author saw them. Now *that's* almost impossible. Apparently WYSIWYG is for losers.

(Oh, and why do I care? Well, usually I don't but just occasionally a document needs to conform to some anal-retentive's rules about minimum font sizes and line spacings and maximum word and page counts. It's rather annoying for the "final copy" to be sent off, only to have it rejected because the recipient used a different version of Office.)

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Re: The ability to open the latest word doc format.

@Ken - OpenOffice can cope quite well with .docx but less well with .xlsx files. At least I've found charts to be read only objects.

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Re: The ability to open the latest word doc format.

send it as a PDF with fonts embedded :-)

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I can't think of a single use I have for an office suite that I would want anywhere near the cloud.

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I can

Writing fake email replies to obnoxious MP's declining to be involved in their latst expenses scam.

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Re: I can

You dog! I love it... :)

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The main benefit for me..

Upgrading to 2007 and above removed the pain-in-the-a*se 65,536 row limit in Excel! I was so happy with that I overlooked the upheaval with the ribbon. In fact I don't mind the ribbon these days, the one thing that really does my head in is applying custom cell borders in Excel. Otherwise I've come to quite like it.

The only thing I really noticed with 2007-2010 was improved SharePoint integration so I agree with the premise of the article, it is starting to get more and more difficult to see the point in upgrading.

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Re: The main benefit for me..

I really think there is something wrong with your work outlines. How long do you have to scroll through 65000+ rows? What the heck do you have in a single spreadsheet (and not linked into another one)?

With this amount of date, would a database not be a more adequate solution?

Just questions ...

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Re: The main benefit for me..

I regularly work with financial pricing data, e.g. foreign exchange where the price might move 100,000 times in a day. The source systems that store tick data for me only output in plain CSV format. You're right in that I could import that into a database, but unfortunately I don't have a database environment where I can dump in data for ad-hoc analysis. Our company doesn't let us use MS Access, and I don't have admin rights to install Oracle XE (for example). Sometimes it is just easier to use Excel!

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Meh

Worth the money? Depends

I've been using it for a month or so now, and while there aren't a huge number of staggering new features the changes they have made do make it a smoother and more pleasant experience. 2013 is definitely something that benefits a business buying fresh now or a subscription user (what they would prefer you to be anyway). Since businesses often skip a generation anyway the difference from say 2007 is far more enticing.

Here are some new bits not mentioned:

- Animation on cursor movement, selection boxes etc (sure eye candy but nice)

- Cleaned up visual style gives more document room (YMMV)

- Themes and styles cleaned up and made a bit more consistent across the suite

- Proper presenter mode on PowerPoint

- Better online template integration

- Better document navigation in Word

- Outlook has better meeting controls (although somebody in this thread didn't like it)

- A lot of annoying bits & pieces - inconsistencies cleaned up (for example social connector and Hotmail access in Outlook).

- PDF tools

- One big negative you can't publish your calendar to office.com you have to find another provider to sync to (I went with icalcx.com)

I'm sure there is lots of other cool stuff I've not played with (certainly Excel seems to have had some love lavished on it to make things easier). Is it enough to force you to upgrade maybe not but if you have a subscription you'll appreciate it.

P.S. Not part of core Office but Visio finally properly acts like an Office application - and definitely is a worthy upgrade.

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Re: Worth the money? Depends

I'd agree with the above, and add one more. I'm not saying this is worth the money (and I have no idea if OO/LO does this) but if you send an e-mail with text in it such as "I attach the..." and don't attach anything Outlook will check you meant to send it without an attachment. Which is surprisingly useful, and should cut down on e-mails called "this time with attachment".

...BUT...

Replying to e-mails embedded in the reading pane is an experiment too far, however,

Oh, also saying after a spell check "you're good to go" really grates.

WHY DOES IT SHOUT?

The cursor animation in e-mails (in the preview, not used the final release) also lags behind the letter being typed, which is really off-putting if you look at the screen and not the keys when typing.

Excel has an odd habit of perpetually rendering cell contents. So, you type =SUM(yada yada) it stays there, or appears in another cell while the cell you'd worked on shows the answer. When you scroll the spreadsheet it stays where it is. It even survives minimising the thing, only solution is to close the sheet and reopen. After saving when there are a lot of tabs it will freeze and show just the top left 10x10 grid until you click outside that grid.

And finally, why does it keep insisting on using US English? Windows must tell it my keyboard type, and my timezone, preferred language and location. But, no, first time I type "analyse" it is changed to "analyze" (which can't even be a word, given its etymology) so I have to go and find how to change the default dictionary.

...and reporting them as bugs is a pain, because it wants to send a screenshot. Yep, I'll do that, a lovely screenshot of that confidential spreadsheet I was working on...

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Re: Worth the money? Depends

I absolutely hate Office on the whole for years it's been in my humble opinion the worst pile of junk I've ever come across. Unfortunately for me it seemed to be the only product I could find that actually fit with what I need to use it for. I've tried Open Office a number of times and each time it just didn't work for me (It would really help if they added a full fledged email client). It might just be me... The learning curve to use it properly whilst doing my job may be too high... it may just be trying to use it whilst everyone else is using office around me. I can't remember precisely. It's about a year since I last tried it.

Despite having about 10 different software software development suites on my machine and two major graphics packages I've always been of the opinion that word processors are actually the most complicated pieces of software to use 'properly'. Most people seem unaware of half the things they can actually do for you. I'm probably still one of them.

For the time being I've never found an alternative I like to office. *However* I've been using Office 2013 for about 4-5 months or so. It is undeniably the best one they've released in a long time. I think what makes it better for me is the number of long term bugs that have been fixed in 2013. The irritation factor has definitely stepped down from 'I'm close to hanging myself here' putting a simple design document together too 'hey this is almost usable'. Even Outlook doesn't have that wrist slitting feel to it anymore.

It's definitely worth it for that. It does need a more beefy machine to work nicely though. I think it makes use of hardware acceleration in places.

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New versions of Word have mainly just jumbled up the icons and menus so I can't find anything anymore. Worse than pointless.

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Let me correct that for you

> ... Office Open XML was eventually standardised by ISO, a process that was opposed by advocates of OpenDocument, an alternative XML standard used by OpenOffice.

Open XML was opposed by all sorts of people :

People who value standard and interoperability rather than locked down walled gardens.

People who put a value of quality - seriously, have people looked at what's in Open XML ?

And by no means least, those that value a proper standard setting process vs a process that demonstrated it's available to be bought by anyone with enough money. Seriously, the whole debacle really, really devalued the standards bodies involved to the extent that standards bodies (and the standards they set) are now less respected.

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