Some random thoughts about Microsoft (1)

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I am currently not super busy at work. While this seems like good news in theory, I really hate it when I am not busy at work. Don’t get me wrong: I love being able to go home earlier and I love that I have virtually no night calls. That’s pretty liberating. But I am used to have a packed day, and I feel like I am doing something wrong if I don’t.

So what do I do when this happens? Well, I get busy. I do the things I always pushed back because there were more important tasks to do. And I think more about what are the innovations needed to help my business.

This still leaves some time to do little administrative things. I don’t mean paperwork in the office. I mean something like installing a newer version of Microsoft Office on my work laptop.

Now, Office is interesting. Besides the fact that this is the tool you gotta use when you work at a big corporation, I used to not like it much. As powerful as it is, Office always felt kinda clumsy. But this changed dramatically when Microsoft introduced the “Ribbon” user interface which I first used with Offcie 2007. Oh my god – what a change from the previous design!

Elegant. Clear. Quick. Nice job, Microsoft. Would be nice if the Mac versions got this treatment, too.
So I kept using Office 2007 till now and I did not really have reasons to complain. But when you have time at your hands, you also check out for updates on your companies list of productivity apps and look: there was Office 2010.

While I have never been willing to experiment a lot on my work PC, I thought I’d give it a shot and installed that monster. As always when I install larger software packages on my work PC, things are bumpy, but I guess that’s more due to the ineptness of our IT department and Microsoft cannot be blamed for that.

I do blame Microsoft, however, for the hideous change of design of Office 2010. The Ribbon was still there, of course, but somehow everything seemed to have been dipped into candy-cocaine happiness. The best way to illustrate this in my eyes are the icons of the Office apps:

Sick. When you know the icons, you know how the apps look like. Blerch! I could write a lot about that, but this has certainly been done better somewhere else and for the sake of this entry, it’s enough for you to know that I get diarrhea just looking at these.

Unhappy as I was, I of course considered returning to Office 2007. But as I scrolled through the list of apps I actually realized that we also had Office 2013 ready for download.

Ooops.

I guess it speaks to my satisfaction with Office 2007 that I apparently missed two updates. So I happily removed the disgusting Office 2010 and went to 2013.

Now, Office 2013 is strongly influenced by the flat design of Windows Phone. And I have to say that I truly respect the work Microsoft did with the design of Windows Phone. While I like iOS better (to a large part because Windows Phone seems well thought out on entry screens, but not so well as you click on tiles and dive into the system), I have the feeling I’d still prefer Windows Phone over Android which just feels messy (in all fairness, I might have to try out a non-tampered, pure version from Google, however).

I was looking forward to the more modern look of the apps and rightfully expected that they would appear sort of similar to their siblings on the iPad. And the do. The Ribbon is there, it works fine and Word, Excel and Powerpoint are pleasant to look at (though the whole suite seems more crash prone on my shitty HP laptop, but well…).

The biggest downside is Outlook. The flat design, at least as per default, just does not work. It’s confusing, has terrible contrasts and just feels like a huge pile of letters. Fortunately the whole suite is quite well customizable, so I was able to bend Outlook mostly to my will so it’s actually becoming useful.

That should not be like that, of course. I mean: wouldn’t it be nice if a new email client was actually designed to be pretty much readable from the start? But then again, while I like to shake my head in disbelief here, Office 2013 was a huge improvement over 2010. Office 2007 still felt better, but there are two things here: (1) I might be just so familiar with 2007 and 2013 will likely grow on me and (2) I love that 2013 has taken on a much flatter, more modern look.

And that’s already enough to make it work for me.
So: not bad, Microsoft. Maybe not perfect, but a “not bad” from someone who’d ridicule you in the past decades for anything you would do is actually quite an achievement.

Now: ridiculing will inevitably come in my next entry, I am afraid.

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