Sunday, March 11, 2007

Exploring Word 2007

While Outlook 2007 is quite similar to Outlook 2003 (and thus getting up to speed was almost effortless), Word 2007 is significantly different from its predecessors. If you consider yourself a quick study of PC applications in general and a power user of earlier versions of Word, you will still find "ramping up" to your former competence a real challenge. Here are some of my initial findings.

  • The format painter didn’t seem to work when I tried to apply a margin setting to a bullet. The source bullet was under a level one heading and more deeply indented; the destination text-and-bullet were under a deeper level heading. I couldn’t undent (or move the bullet margin leftwards) even with the usual tool. Moreover, since I hadn’t yet figured out how to recover my “normal” (now “draft”) view of documents, I couldn’t fix the problem.
  • Microsoft obviously spent a lot of effort changing the user interface. In some cases, the changes are an improvement. In others, I have to say it seems like change for change sake. Once you've mastered the old interface, it becomes the "devil you know" and awkward or not, you know how to use the tool.
  • It is curious that Word offers no bundled help for those familiar with the earlier product. In fact, the "Help" icon itself is reduced to a small "?" in the upper right hand side, as though you probably don't need it anyway since the interface is deemed to be so self explanatory.
  • An example of "new interface" versus old feature is "Word Count." How do you determine your word count? Searching HELP for “Word Count” returns you lots of results (no surprise there), but getting a simple answer to how to count words didn’t come easy. There was lots of information about the Word Home page, counting words in a selection, counting words as you type – but finding how to perform the old standby of counting words in the document isn’t obvious. Answer: you can’t do this anymore, and you don’t need to: The information is at the bottom left of the screen as you type. Still, it would be nice to know that the old word count facility has been replaced and is no longer needed. Then when you catch on, the word count is always on the lower left-hand side of the window. Nice touch, but if you're not expecting you may miss it. Besides, getting reading level analyses used to be part of the "word count" facility; how do you do that? Go back to the HELP system to find out.
  • “Normal” views have disappeared, and I couldn't find where they'd gone until I went to a Word discussion group and learn that “Normal” is now “Draft.” Looking in Help for “Normal view” doesn’t get you anywhere. Instead, I went to a Word discussion group and learned that draft view is the new name for Normal and that you can set the styles view through Word Options (Alt, T, O, A), and then scroll to the 'Display' part of Advanced settings here (as in earlier versions of Word) you can set a width greater than zero.
  • I went to HELP and looked for "style window, " and received 100 hints (none of which seemed relevant). This seemed to be a pattern with HELP; if you try to find information about a feature whose name is new in Word 2007, you get no guidance. Working on your own, I think it will take a very long time to acquire a deep understanding of the new Word.
  • Here's a peculiarity of earlier MS Word that thankfully has been fixed.: Whenever you printed a Word document in the past --nothing else but print, mind you-- and exited the document, you used to get the message "Do you want to save the changes?" My very first reaction, that took a long time to get over was "Huh? I don't think I made any changes, but I guess I'd better save it anyway in case I did." The message comes because you've inadvertently associated a printer to the document. If this warning were such a great idea, then why don't the other Office suite tools, such as PowerPoint and Excel, work the same way and give that message too?
  • One big complaint I've had with Word from the DOS days was its limited table model. WordPerfect (and HTML) always allowed you to merge table cells horizontally as well as vertically. Word did not; it would "fake" a horizontal merge, but exporting that or looking closely showed that it wasn't a merged cell. Can you now merge cells vertically in Word? Yes. I exported a table to HTML and inspected it with Dreamweaver to confirm this. I wonder if (and hope that) PowerPoint's and Excel's tables will work the same way.

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