You’d think that after using Microsoft software for my whole career, right back to when edlin was considered a good text editor, I’d know a thing or two about Microsoft Word. Why then am I reading the help files trying to figure out how to do things I used to be able to do easily. The new Office 2007 programs look awfully sharp but they have changed so drastically from the previous versions that I can barely use them. Its as if the English language changed overnight – I know there is a way to say what I want to say, and I can probably figure it out but first I have to decode the dictionary. Even the backwards compatibility features that accept the Office 2003 access keys are hard to use. While appreciated, I never bothered to remember the key sequences and always looked at the menus to see what the codes were as I typed. They new version gives me the tantalizing clue that I’ve got it partly right while I rack my brain for the code difference between similar sounding menu items.
Stepping out of my own frustration, I can see that there is some logic in the change. New users will be able to do some pretty amazing things with little training. (Be on the lookout for astoundingly pretty presentations that have no content.) If you are starting from scratch, you will have to figure it out as you go in any case and that is how most of us learn – by trial and error rather than reading the manual. I just though I had learned that already.
While we can collectively bemoan Microsoft for making life so easy and difficult all at the same time, product managers take note. If you have a product that has a life longer than your career, becareful how you “innovate” with it. People get really attached to the products they use and don’t always appreciate change. Remember “New” Coke? New is not always better. Perhaps, if enough of us complain, Microsoft will release Word Classic and we can all get back to work.