Monday, February 27, 2006

Feature Bloat

Microsoft Office 12 is around the corner.
Yes, that's right, yet another version of Office. For those of us in the corporate world still running some legacy apps that link into Office, that means another round of testing. For the home user, it means another glut of useless features.
Office 12 promises to be the first complete re-design of the user interface, using a context sensitive "ribbon" to access drop down commands rather than the old menu system. There are also enhancements to visual productivity, collaboration and management of documents.
The new Office will include some server-side components as well, to hand document rights management and work flow.
All I see, unfortunantly, is a huge learning curve for my end users, and an increase in features that they won't use or won't know about.
For home users, I haven't been recommending office since after Office 97. Anyone today that just needs the 'normal' home user office products is just as well off with Openoffice, which is free, compared to the nearly $300 that Micro$oft wants for office.
I've been using OpenOffice for years now, across several versions. It's my main Word Processor / Spreadsheet / Presentation software of choice. I don't even have Office loaded on my laptop anymore (thereby saving the company a little change, anyway!) and haven't had an issue reading anything that anyone sends me. And I can send documents and spreadsheets out in Office formats, so no big deal there.
Users and corporations will continue to buy Office, and be forced into upgrades by Microsoft. It's their bread and butter. But for home users, there are free products out there that do the job just as well for much less.
For my main writing machine, I have an old laptop running DOS 6.5 and VDE (Visual Display Editor). I can go from power-off to writing in 15 seconds. I get everything I need, including spell-check. It looks old and goofy, but I find it priceless. I'm writing more, because I don't have to wait for Windows to boot (or shut down when I'm done), Word to load, and document to load. I put the current document I'm working on in the autoexec.bat command line, and I'm there on boot. I don't need to draw, or insert tables, or link to anything, or open web pages. I just need to write, and that's what it does well.
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