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Twelve Things I Hate About Microsoft Office

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Tom Bunzel makes a good part of his living using, teaching, and writing about MS Office, and he has some definite opinions on the product suite. In this article, he offers some of his pet peeves, many of which readers may also share. If he seems a bit worked up about some of these issues, it's because, like you, he's used many different versions of the product for almost a decade.

Because I make a living (at least partially) using Microsoft Office, I have a grudging admiration for the scope of the product.

But like my colleague Owen Linzmayer (and his great article about the ten things he hates about OS X), I have issues, and I thought it might be time to vent. While I do have more access to people in Redmond than most, I still find it hard to get actual explanations of things I don’t quite understand. (Sound familiar?)

1. Who You Gonna Call?

I know that when software is developed, it is done so according to the logic of the developer, and sometimes his/her thought processes do not coincide with the way an end user may think. With the growing complexity of the Microsoft Office product line, this is exacerbated exponentially, leading to inevitable disconnects (pun intended). Remember "Ghostbusters"—who you gonna call?

I know that if you are a "partner" or some other paid subscriber, you may actually get to talk to someone who knows stuff, but I still remember reading a 20-digit error message to someone at the MS Help desk awhile back and asking if that helped isolate the problem. The answer was a terse "No."

There is always the Knowledge Base, and I admit that I have gotten some workable answers and results. But many issues are similar to what I recently experienced with InfoPath—which is a typical experience with an Office product when you "don’t get it."

To try the product, I paid for the limited trial evaluation and loaded it promptly. But no matter how hard I tried, I could not get it to properly open a form and allow me to "publish" it. It told me something about my templates were not installed properly.

I checked the error message in the Knowledge Base, but the "fix" did not work.

There was no documentation or help, and no one to call. The sleeve listed a web site for feedback—http://www.moseval.com—that site never responded.

Figure 1

Figure 1 This is the error message I got when I tried to access a web site listed on the Eval copy of InfoPath.

I am convinced that this is a simple issue that happens to many new InfoPath users and has to do with my not having a SharePoint or Windows Server location to which to post forms, but it is completely overlooked by the geniuses who created the product.

I suspect that InfoPath forms are similar to publishing Forms in Outlook libraries—and has to do with file locations (see the next section). But no one is around to provide a simple cogent explanation. So my InfoPath went back on the shelf.

Most of my friends who use Office call me if they run into problems. There is no phone number in Redmond (or India) where you can speak to a human and get a direct answer to a simple question.

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