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Pointless Revisions

Finally, if I am paying (presumably) for a new, improved version, why should the burden be on me to survive the process? I understand that the publisher needs a new product to market—but that's not enough of a reason to foist a new version on users, requiring that they "survive" the upgrade process.

We've seen this treatment as part of the product cycle many times—and this article isn't even about Vista. Let's stick to Office 2007, where Microsoft itself admits that getting the benefit of the new features means that you have endure some hardship.

By the way, if you talk to real-world office workers who need to experience this sort of survival, they'll tell you that it isn't pretty. I used to work for a law firm that went through several upgrades, one from a dedicated word processor to the first set of PCs with Microsoft Word, which inarguably introduced many benefits and new features. No matter how much a company tells information workers that management will understand the adjustment period, try telling an attorney who needs to file a motion at 5:00 p.m. that you can't find the macro recorder to generate a new pleading page. Not a pleasant experience.

Other new "features" in the various Office 2007 programs are really just the removal of (or changes to) stuff you already know how to use. For example, the "new" table tools in Excel 2007 come at the expense of the old data form, which many users counted on to add information to a database. It's still there, but now hidden within options that you need to add to the Quick Access toolbar. Similarly, accessing the macro recorder in Word requires enabling the Developer tab in the Ribbon.

For no extra charge, Word inserts an extra space between lines unless you figure out how to turn off this "feature," and for no apparent reason Word occasionally turns your document into a read-only file.

In PowerPoint, videos you encoded that worked fine in earlier versions no longer work; this is mainly a codec issue in Vista and Media Player, but for the end user who needs to re-encode videos, it doesn't matter which Microsoft product is the culprit.

The big problem is that users don't know about these issues until they actually need to accomplish important tasks, and then they're delayed by trying to find solutions or workarounds. That's why survival is the operative term.

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