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MS Office oddity; is this progress?

I was just working on a machine with Office 2003 and was looking for some option to change.

I was surprised to find that the options dialog does not have a help button, nor does it respond to right clicking a subject. F1 brought me some sort of help window, but the subject was merely the options dialog, not the option I was on and not even the active tab.

Anybody have a thought on why we should consider this progress?

And while I am at it, can anyone explain why Office insists on saving to disk when I close my drawing? And then doesn't save anything? The drawing is an embedded ms word figure. I never had to save anything explicitly in office 2000.
This is a fresh install on a new PC. And I can't seem to find anything about it on Google.

Practical Geezer
Saturday, August 21, 2004

I've noticed this trend of user interfaces getting worse with each update in other softwares as well. It's not just MS...

Also the nasty trend of useful features being removed during a apparent rewrite, only to be restored  2 or 3 versions down the road for an upgrade fee...

unhappy camper
Saturday, August 21, 2004

I have seen a pattern in many programs over the years.

Version X is quite good but has a few nasty bugs.  Version Y fixes the bugs but also eliminates or significantly changes many of the features that I had come to depend on in Version X.

Art Vandelay
Saturday, August 21, 2004

It's an axiom of programming that after ten years of development software products reach their apex of usability.  MS Office has been around for more than 10 years, so expect each successive iteration to be less and less useful.   

muppet
Saturday, August 21, 2004

it's getting really old, now.  Why not, you know, get your own name?

muppet
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Gee, I never noticed this change!

If you hit the small “?” mark in the upper right, you now get a help screen. (before. you could then click on what option…and get help).

To be fair, the help screen that does come up has a very good explain of each individual options…but it certainly is a change in behavior (this change is due to building a help system that can work “on-line” or “off line”).

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
kallal@msn.com
http://www.attcanada.net/~kallal.msn

Albert D. Kallal
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Practical Geezer,

"the subject was merely the options dialog, not the option I was on and not even the active tab. Anybody have a thought on why we should consider this progress?"

We tend to make the help less context sensitive over time in our products too... All the context sensitve stuff is a bear to QA, and is an extemely tight coupling between the engineering, QA, and documentation groups...

Steve S
Saturday, August 21, 2004

"All the context sensitve stuff is a bear to QA, and is an extemely tight coupling between the engineering, QA, and documentation groups... "

Same here.

We used to have context sensitive help. But nobody reads the help file. (We had a mention of winning a free prize in the help file . Only one customer out of thousands has EVER mentioned it).

Now, instead, we put that time into making the UI clear enough so that no one needs the help file.  WE still have help, but we don't worry about making it "super". Its' there more for reference.

(We include a toll free tech support line if anyone has any problems. This creates a feedback loop: if our UI isn't clear, we find out about it quickly. Few people call with useability questions).


It's just cost/benefit analysis. A super help file is the wrong solution to the manual. it's like Ford making crappy cars and then having steller service centers. If they just make steller cars that don't need service centers (like Honda) it's cheaper and customers are happier.

Mr.Analogy (ISV owner)
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Thank you all - this has cleared my much muddled thinking on help, particularly the points about QAing context-sensitive help. Our own c/s help was a lulu to implement, but QA was pretty easy (click on <?>, click on button, read) as it's pretty small compared with, well, anything.

Now I'm told no-one is going to read it!

However - the discipline of writing a help file forced the reevaluation of some of our interface - if it could not be explained in a straightforward fashion in help, there was something cockeyed in the way we were going about the application. (Writing the help alongside the spec may save a lot of abortive code).

I agree systems should work without needing to provide distractions from the task at hand like help files.  Nonetheless, magazine reviewers like to see them there.

trollop
Sunday, August 22, 2004

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