By Scott Tibbs, October 22, 2008
I've been using Microsoft Office 2007 for a couple months now, and it is quite a change from the previous versions. The biggest change is the lack of file menus, which many long-time users of Office have grown used to. That said, the ribbons are fairly convenient. If someone was learning to use Office for the first time, I think it would be easier to learn than the previous versions. Even as someone who has used the previous versions for a long time, it has not been too difficult to relearn where things are.
I do have two complaints. First, I am not a big fan of the "smart quotes", and had searched for several weeks for how to turn off the "autocorrect" option that transforms straight quotes into smart quotes. The problem is that, in both Word and Outlook, you have to turn that option off in two different places for it to work. If only one of those options is unchecked, the straight quotes will continue to be changed into smart quotes. That is simply annoying. Why is it necessary to change it in two places? That is just bad design, in my opinion.
The second annoying thing is that the background color for selected cells in Excel is extremely light. In previous versions of Excel, selected cells had a darker background color to distinguish them from other cells. This is not too much of a problem when you are only selecting one group of cells, but if you select multiple non-adjacent cells (as I often do) it is a significant annoyance. There is no option in Excel or Windows to change it back, either. This, also, is simply bad programming. I am not sure how this particular annoyance made it out of product testing.
There are some good things about Office 2007 as well. Outlook combines the file menus of previous versions with the ribbons of the new one, making it perfect for people learning the new platform. Word has placed the "word count" feature at the bottom of the window. If you're looking to write something of a specific length (as I do with my letters to the editor) it saves that one extra step of going to tools and word count, and the tally is always there. This is such a nice feature that I am surprised it took this long to find its way into Office.
Overall, it is a nice upgrade. Hopefully, future versions of Office will eliminate the annoying bugs in the current version. Allowing people to choose between the ribbons and file menus would also be nice.