Office and the beast

The recent post by Phil Barrett, Using the Microsoft Ribbon without anyone getting hurt, reminded me of my first experience using Microsoft Office 2007.

I was in remote New South Wales conducting field research (almost literally!) and had been given a laptop on which to conduct the research. It is always a joy not using your own equipment, but I was running usability tests on a working prototype and needed a machine with a server in a hurry, so I was given “the beast”!

The beast

The Beast

The beast doesn’t look quite so beast-like in this thumbnail, but let me explain…

The beast is an Acer Aspire Gemstone Blue 8930G. It has the byline “Wider than Wide!”, a more accurate description of the product would be “Heavy as Hell”. Light it isn’t.

(it feels like quite a liberty to call something with a 18.6″ screen and that is difficult/impossible to find computer bags for a laptop – maybe if I was a giant it would be both portable and fit on my lap!)

Besides the weight, there are a couple of other issues with the product (this is even before I got to using MS Office 2007):

  1. The laptop has a bizarre trackpad that provides no tactile feedback as to the edge of the trackpad area. This meant that my fingers kept on brushing the fingertip recognition scanner that is oh so handily placed just beside the trackpad. Brushing the scanner causes a “fingertip recognition has not been set up on this machine” message to come up every time – quite disrupting when you’re touch typing – grrr!
  2. Every second time I started the machine rather than the Windows environment I was placed in some Acer multimedia environment that enabled me to select between the different modes the machine can operate in. Unfortunately there was no obvious way (not to me anytime) of exiting the environment and booting into Windows – so I invariably ended up rebooting the machine and hoping that it would just magically boot into Windows rather than the multimedia environment (never will anyone have been so pleased to see Vista starting up!).

So to MS Office 2007…

Where did Save As go?

As the above description of the machine I was using suggests, I wasn’t exactly working at maximum speed anyway, but then I started using MS Office 2007.

I understand (or at least think I understand) the supposed logic of the MS Ribbon, i.e. exposing the most likely functions a user may require based on the task they are undertaking. But for a product like MS Word with such a variety of tasks is it really possible to do this? Can you really second-guess all the things a user may want to do at any point in time? It certainly failed me.

The task: I was updating my “on the road” notes and wanted to save the document I was working on with a new name, i.e. Save As.

word-2007

Where has the File menu gone? It took over 10 minutes before I managed to locate the feature (clue: you find it by clicking on the circular Office logo in the top left corner – intuitive eh!).

The combination of the Acer laptop and MS Word 2007 reduced my productivity considerably. What should have taken me 15 minutes, ended up taking around 45 and included much, much frustration.

I like Phil’s note that there are products you can buy that remove the Ribbon, personally I’ll be sticking to Word 2003.

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