Monday, August 10, 2009

Around the (MS) Office pool

Lavie and I must have used Microsoft Office 97 forever.  Years upon years.

It was the primary communication application we used at work.

Eventually we picked up a “Home and Student” version of Office 2003 a few years ago for our home systems.  Even Alvis used it in her Jr. High technology learning class.

That was long-after Office 2007 was released.  Both our places of work still hadn’t migrated to 2007.  Why bother? 2000/2003 was ubiquitous.

About a month ago, I finally got around to picking up another copy of “Home and Student” but this time it was the 2007 flavor.  Although we still are deploying 2003 SKUs at work, our newest leased systems are now tricking out with 2007. (Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats to the rescue!)

The church systems are running 2007 so we had to adapt, particularly as the presentations are built on PowerPoint and to ensure the smoothest compatibility when we do them at home, 2007 was the way to go.

Anyway, after a few weeks of bumbling around the “Ribbon” feature introduced in Office 2007, we pretty much had learned all the major navigational issues it caused and were back to doing what we do in Microsoft Office without much thought…though it does still feel weird when I go back to work and shift back to Office 2003.

Lavie remains less-than-impressed with the Ribbon feature.  I just added several of my common use icons up on the top bar by the Office Orb. Surprisingly (or not) Microsoft didn’t seem to offer a “classic” menu-bar option to revert back to the 2003 Office navigation.

Eventually (and it took me a while) I tracked down a utility that (kinda) does that trick.  There were others but this one seemed to be the cream that rose to the top.

RibbonCustomizer comes in both a free and a commercial version.  The free one just leaves out a lot of the customizing features and things power-users would find valuable.  However for most home users it more than fits the bill.

It doesn’t change the entire Ribbon back to Office 2003 format. What it does do very well is to simply add an additional tab to the Ribbon at the front. Click on that one and most all of the Office 2003 icon-bar items are comfortingly displayed for your quick and fast access. The “Classic UI” tab which is added can be placed at the front or end of the regular Ribbon tabs.


The primary file v1.1 is dated May 15th, 2007, but I chose to download and install the very recent (and alive) Beta Program version which was last updated May 24th, 2009. Paul’s blog is another good source of Office tool information.

It's very impressive and slick.  There are other products and tricks out there besides this one, but this has been the best one I’ve seen yet.

Lavie was overjoyed when she started playing with it.  Granted, the Ribbon is a powerful tool to accomplish a lot of things once you get familiar with it. On the other hand, we both have lost a lot of productivity in trying to figure out how to do some simple task that would have taken just a second in Office 2003; not that Office 2007 couldn’t do it, just we couldn’t find where the command-feature was located in the Ribbon!

I had no idea of the developmental culture and control programming behind the Ribbon.

PowerPoint to Video?

It seems pretty stable but a look in the forum-spam laden forum indicates that a few users have had some issues with the beta.  If that concerns you, go with the older stable version but expect some slower performance as the trade-off.

I hesitated to include this tool as I think it would be less than useful in most cases. What with the PowerPoint Viewer available free for the world.  That said, I guess there could be a need to convert a PowerPoint presenation into a video format.  If so then MakeUseOf blog has found the freeware tool to do it.

Lots of Homes & Students at the Office?

Really fascinating story into the real cost of Office and how most folks get around it at the retail level by snagging “Home and Student”.  Considering it allows for installation on up to three qualifying home systems at prices between $150 - $80 range, it’s easy to see why it is such a popular seller.  Only the government and large/enterprise customers can afford the volume licenses and/or regular seat prices for Office.

If it weren’t for “Home and Student” version I doubt we would be able to legally install Microsoft office on our home systems.

Curiously, soon after getting that H&S 2007 version, I was able to pick up a single license of Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise for $9.99 though our Employee Purchasing Program special offer at work.  Examination of that EULA (find tool to locate all MS product EULA’s here) allows me to install it at home on my desktop system as well as one qualifying “portable” device (my home laptop) under specific conditions.  That suite brings a slew of additional items to my home system that I really don’t need, however it’s a nice excuse to have it all available to play with anyway.

Finally, as we are only now just getting used to regular usage of Office 2007 features and capabilities it seems crazy to be thinking about Office 2010.  But, it is around the corner.

For probably the best source of information on Office 2010 and all the new adjustments that will require I submit the following locations:

And particularly the following in-depth coverage articles from Mr. Thurrott’s SuperSite.

OO Not Forgotten…

And yes…for you freeware fans (and Microsoft Office is one area I just can’t compromise with) there is the Excellent Open Source office productivity suite OpenOffice.  Also available in a handy  OpenOffice PortableApps version as well. And, alas, it looks like you OO fans will slowly be seeing a OO version of the “Ribbon” creeping its way into future versions.


--Claus V.

No comments: