Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Creeping Terror (Office 2007)

Office 2007 will be making its way on campus for the fall, like a creeping terror that can't be stopped: students will find it's the only version of Office for sale when they buy their computers.

I've been using the programs and generally like them. The "ribbon bar" feature makes it very easy to find things, and the dynamic formatting aspect is very nice. The latter lets you see how text will formated without applying the format -- you hold your mouse over the option and the text is changed. Really handy for formatting documents when you wonder how a particular point size, color, font, etc. will look.

However, I&TS isstill making plans on deploying the software to faculty and staff. You see, even though the setup is much more logical and lets you use features that you didn't know about previously, it has one disadvantage: it is different.

Now, my attitude when I come up with something new is "Hey! This is great! Let's figure out how this works!" But I know I'm a bit weird that way. Change is frustrating for a lot of people, so we can't just throw something like this at users and expect them to love all the new features. If you're working on a project, it can be very frustrating if the feature you need isn't where you expect it when you need it.

There are also question about compatibility. Old timers can remember when every word processor upgrade involved a new file format, but Word, PowerPoint, and Excel have had the same file formats for a dozen years, so people aren't used to this sort of change.

I&TS have pushed out patches to Office 2003 so Office 2007 files can be read. If a student sends a .docx file (Word 2007), it will convert automatically. You can save as 2007 or 2003.
(Except in Access. As usual for Access upgrades, all bets are off.)

We will be rolling out the software slowly, and will make sure we have plenty of instructional materials available, so you won't be overwhelmed.