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MS Office Moving Backwards

Office 2000:

Click the little question mark button on the top right-corner of a dialog, then click a control.  A nice little yellow box describing what the control does pops up.

Office 2003:

Click the question mark.  Everything resizes, the help file pops up, not even on the spot that describes the control.  Have to choose the dialog that I'm on from the hyperlinks.  Have to scroll down to the control that I'm on to see the description.

What's wrong with this picture?

When Microsoft comes out with Office 2005, are they going to go back to the old help system and claim it's new and improved??

Wayne
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Its the same with all Microsoft products. They are like kids with a painting. After kids paint, they dont leave the painting alone, even if the painting is good. They keep on adding paint tillt hey destroy it.

Look what they did to the toolbars, menu, windows explorer search etc. etc. etc.

Longhorn will mark the pinnacle of microsoft lunacy. Apparently, one of their "innovations" include transparent screens.

Karthik
Thursday, May 13, 2004

I completely agree..  Microsoft is going way overboard on this crap.  They seem to be breaking many of the most fundamental UI rules these days.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Actually, I don't know anybody who used the "What is" feature. I presume they decided to put it to better use.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Once a feature is released into the "wild", it is risky to make assumptions about how or whether it is used.

njkayaker
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Well, have a little sympathy for MS. They really, really need people to keep buying the Office upgrade every two years or so. And it's pretty unlikely that people will pay for the upgrade if there aren't some wizzy new features that the PC press can go on about.

I mean, they can't really say: "okay, Office has everything now, no need for us to keep selling it to you. We'll just release a couple of bug patches and then shut the Office division down."

Bill Tomlinson
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sooner or later, MS Office wil lose market share and dominant position to openoffice. It will happen. It must happen. It was piracy that made MS Office popular and Open Office can be legally pirated.

Karthik
Thursday, May 13, 2004

"okay, Office has everything now, no need for us to keep selling it to you. We'll just release a couple of bug patches and then shut the Office division down."

If they had any morals they would do that.

send money
Thursday, May 13, 2004

"Actually, I don't know anybody who used the "What is" feature. I presume they decided to put it to better use. "

In fact, that is precisely what happened.  Office Help team had good data indicating that the value most users got from the "What's This" help was far less than the cost of making it.  It's a cool feature, but not enough people used it. 

njkayaker, nobody at MS makes assumptions about how or whether a feature is used.  The Office Help team knows a lot about who uses what.  Don't forget, you are probably pretty far to the right side of the bell curve of computer users, so something you like might very well not be what the majority prefers.

andrewm
Thursday, May 13, 2004

"If they had any morals they would do that."

There's nothing immoral about releasing new versions every 2 years.  if the market doesn't need it, the market doesn't have to buy it.

Re: Help files in Office, I am convinced that the Help from Access 97 is the GOAT.

Norrick
Thursday, May 13, 2004

Galveston Orientation and Amnesia Test?
Glossary of Acronyms and Terms?
  I don't think it's any of these...

Go Away Troll?
  Uh...

God of All Things?
  Well, maybe, but that's serious hyperbole we're talking.

Goes Over All Terrain (vehicle)?
  A possibility if you stretch the bounds of metaphor...

Greatest of All Time?
  Ah! This must be what you meant! (I have to agree, btw.)

Martha
Thursday, May 13, 2004

My comment was primarily a reply to Stephan Jones.

Microsoft is a careful company but even they may make this mistake.

For example, their test population for the "clippy" nonsense did not reveal the large population that was completely annoyed by this "feature".

njkayaker
Thursday, May 13, 2004

So boss man asked me to scope out the work to implement a fairly involved feature.  I sent him back an ugly, though yet complete email containing an outline of the work.  So boss man replies, please use this MS Word template to create a document for this.

It has tables galore, with numbered lists in the tables.  Very sophisitcated.  So I start entering the work items in the tables.  BUT, the numbering didn't work properly. Each numbered item in the next table picked up from where the last one left off.  Not the desired format.  So, I farting around with numbering inside of tables for about 2 hours. 

I decide "screw it".  I deleted all the tables but 2, and copy and pasted my email into one of the table boxes.  Done.  Now coding...

hoser
Thursday, May 13, 2004

This took me less than two minutes:
http://www.radix.net/~philo/tables.gif

All the numbered lists shown are auto-numbering. Did you try creating numbered lists by typing 1. [Return] 2. ? That should create an auto-numbered list starting with 1.

(Word 2003)
Philo

Philo
Thursday, May 13, 2004

There's another thread lower down on the vagaries of Word numbering. Are you sure you didn't mean to post there,

If you know Word then you simply clck on bullets and numbering and tick the check box to restart numbering. If he is using an autonumber list in the field, then what you have to do is end the table, and then start a new one, and then reinsert the field. Of course if you don't know this it would take you hours.

I find that Word bullets and numbering often  takes longer than simply doing it manually, sometimes five or ten times longer. But some kind of mutant geek gene prevents me from simply typing the numbers in and using the space bar.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 13, 2004

OK Philo, you've asked for it. A rant on the vagaries of automumbering in Word.

First of all Philo's feature requires that autonumbering as you type be checked as an option. It is by default but is so annoying, as I will explain in a second, that many turn it off.

Incidentally to find the setting you must go to autocorrect on the Tools menu even though you're not correcting anything, and it's a format setting. You then find the check box for this feature on the AutoFormat tab (incidentally if you ever want to autoformat you don't find the autoformat on the same tools menu as the settings for autoformat but on the format menu, which is where you would expect it to be in the first place).

Now comes the fun. You type as Philo says, and not only does it create a numbered list it also suddenly indents this list, moving the start from whatever setting you had carefully placed it on to start at to the one that Windows decides is best. Well, I say Windows decides, but of course there is an option. Now to find that you go to format again and choose bullets and numbering (of course as you quite likely didn't choose that the first time you might not even know the setting existed, and you will probably not see it because of the Word feature of hiding all the menu items), and then setttings and then set the align space to zero..

A couple of more bits of fun. If you want to have a second line after the return then you cliick shift + return. To find that interesting piece of information out you go to help and look up "troubleshooting bullets and numbering" which must be about the only time in all of this sorry story that you find something where you expect it to be.

And lastly there is the fun if you have justified formatting for your bulleted or numbered list. If you want to leave a line space after each bulleted and numbered entry, then you have real fun with justified text, because the minute you hit shift + enter to create the line without a bullieted number in it, the three or four words on the last line expand to fill the whole line. If you turn off justified text, then the whole paragraph, and not that one line is turned off. There is a workaround, which only took me about three hours to find, and was found because I was banging keys at random in sheer frustration (this is known in MS speak as an interactive learning session). You hit enter so you get a number, type a random letter and hit enter again to get a second number. You then use the arrow key to go back to the line with the random letter and number and delete both of them, and then use the arrow key to go down to the next line, where the number has now renumbered itself.

Incidentally, if you want to put numbers on pages you don't go to format, where all the other numbers are, nor to tools where the automatic settings are, but to view and then Header and Footer, and finally to page numbers.  Getting rid of them is even more fun, but I'll leave you to look that up yourself.

The number of office hours wasted by Word's formatting idiosycncrtacies is more than that of all the worms and viruses put together, including the virus for Sars, Spanish flu, and the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 13, 2004

"This took me less than two minutes:"

Philo you are so efficient babe, are you not?

[Disclaimer: I don't work for Microsoft, Philo does]

Jason
Friday, May 14, 2004

Philo,

I shall email you the doc.  See what you can do with it...

hoser
Friday, May 14, 2004

hoser,

I agree that there are problems with how Word manages lists (see references in earlier discussion), but the real problem here is your boss' template.

You shouldn't need bulleted lists in tables. This formatting within formatting within formatting is the major cause of user confusion with Word, or any other word processor.

If you need a positive reason to move away from your boss' brain-damaged formatting, tell him that simplification will enhance document interoperability ... and any other buzzwords you can include :)

HeWhoMustBeConfused
Friday, May 14, 2004

>Help files in Office, I am convinced that the Help from Access 97 is the GOAT.

No idea what "is the GOAT" means, but I sure know that Access 97 help knocks the spots off subsequent versions. Help that actually helps is the only reason I keep A97 on my desktop and use other PCs to work with A2000, A2002 files.

Freddie boy
Friday, May 14, 2004

I don't think it's bulleted lists within tables, I think it's the autonumber word field.

The real problem is that you don't know what it is.

The way to approach MSWord is to have the attitude of a Bedouin in the desert waiting for rain.

Maybe it will rain this year, maybe not. If not make do. The document may be ready next week, Word willing.

Why do you thnk St. John's gospel begins, "In the beginning there was the Word."

Stephen Jones
Friday, May 14, 2004

>>Help files in Office, I am convinced that the Help from Access 97 is the GOAT.

>No idea what "is the GOAT" means, but I sure know that Access 97 help knocks the spots off subsequent versions.

No idea what "is the GOAT" or "knocks the spots off" means, but I sure know that Access 97 help really dances the tango in the moonlight while the monkeys are juggling tangerines.

Karl
Friday, May 14, 2004

> but I sure know that Access 97 help really dances the tango in the moonlight while the monkeys are juggling tangerines.

Or, as we say in Blighty, it's "the dog's bollocks" or even  "the mut's nuts"

Freddie boy
Friday, May 14, 2004

Stephen,

You're right, the numbering Office is eccentric, at best. It's even more fun when you're writing a book with outlined-numbered chapters in separate files. I did it for my thesis. I have no idea how, now, but I did it!

I'm amused that you had so much frustration finding the ENTER-ENTER-DELETE method of inserting lines in a numbered list. I've been doing that since Office '97. :)

But thanks to you, I now know about SHIFT-ENTER. SHIFT-ENTER! I had no idea!

As Philo points out, you can do great things with Word's numbering system. I've done remarkable things. But it's futzy and complicated and I'm finding that a regular user, even a really intelligent one with a science Ph.D., just doesn't want to be botherd by it and will do numbering manually manually.

Other avenues for masochistic fun can be found in custom auto-numbering for table and figure captions. That one gave me fits until I figured it out and made macros to insert my particular captions. It's even more exciting when writing a book! ;)

DaveF
Friday, May 14, 2004

Shift-Enter types a "manual line break" character. It's not a paragraph break at all, and shouldn't be used as such. (This is why you were having trouble with the justification.)

If you want numbering that doesn't break, use styles. Avoid using the "Bullets and Numbering" dialog directly from the Format menu, and never, EVER, use the bullets/numbering toolbar buttons. The other thread on this topic has some good links on this subject, which isn't simple at all.

Philo's method is just a good way to end up with spaghetti numbering. Don't use it unless this is a one-off document that nobody will ever edit.

Martha
Friday, May 14, 2004

Since I bet that nobody's going to find "the other thread" I'll just repost the links on Word numbering and why it's terminally broken:
http://www.word.mvps.org/FAQs/Numbering/WordsNumberingExplained.htm
http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/bullets/controlbullets.html
http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/numbering/OutlineNumbering.html
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/officexml/chapter/index.html

Chris Nahr
Friday, May 14, 2004

Of course it's always easier to do something from scratch in Word.  It's no surprise that Philio could whip out a document easily: that's because he wasn't given a template to start from.

I've seen Word templates that broke Word pretty badly, that no Word guru in the building could debug.  The solution is always "delete the template and start over".

Radius guy
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Yeah, the MVPs' advice for broken numbering is also "delete all numbered paragraphs and start over"...

Chris Nahr
Saturday, May 15, 2004

"The number of office hours wasted by Word's formatting idiosycncrtacies is more than that of all the worms and viruses put together, including the virus for Sars, Spanish flu, and the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. "

I could not agree more. In Word 6.1 (the last 16 bit version) and Word in Office 95, I was 100% at home with numbering etc, and these versions had context sensitive help that appeared when you pressed F1 etc.

Each subsequent version adds more complexity and gets worse. I suffered the exact same problem with the auto-numbering. I would prefer Word not to have any auto-numbering and to put numbers in myself. Believe it or not this would save time.

Also the help in later versions (97, 2000) is useless. You press F1 and get some animated paperclip. Or you get the index of some hideous document which is no use to anyone. You click on Index to search and the search terms are never there.

I've used MS software from 1979 and like it very much. But each time I use MS Word now, I feel increased levels of annoyance and stress.

Bill Rayer
Saturday, May 15, 2004

Another vote for Access 97's online help here -- at least, as long as GOAT means "greatest of all time" and isn't some truncation of "GOATSE".  (If you don't know what that is, be glad.  You do *not* need that visual in your life.)

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, May 16, 2004

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