Productivity

A List Of Stuff Microsoft Should Fix In Office 2010

There’s plenty to like in Office 2010, but like any first-release product, it’s not perfect. Here’s some issues and bugs which Microsoft should fix ASAP.

I’ve been working with the final release version of Office 2010 (which goes out to business customers this week and to general users next month) for a few weeks now. It doesn’t represent as big a shift as Office 2007; we’ve all had time to get used to the Ribbon, and the new Backstage view, while helpful, is not such a radical shift.

I haven’t run into any showstopper bugs, but there are a few things that need fixing, and most of which could be fixed pretty easily. Here they are, in no particular order.

Online saving is a joke


The ability to save stuff to SkyDrive (and then use limited-function web apps to access it) has been heavily promoted, but in practice it’s abysmal. As often as not, it produces an incomprehensible error message like the one seen here. Even when it works, it takes ages — a minute or more in my experience — and often produces a ‘Not responding’ state that freezes Office while it waits. If Microsoft wants to pretend to be even vaguely competitive with Google Docs, Zoho and others, it needs to do much, much better than this.

Unresponsive installation

Previous versions of Office (even in the floppy disc era) would pop up messages telling you about the new features available. That was annoying, but it let you know something was happening. In line with Windows 7 era minimalism, Office 2010 offers nothing but a simple status bar — and one that didn’t move for more than 20 minutes during installation. That’s poor interface design, as after a while you start to suspect the whole process has crashed.

Inconsistent Backstage options

The point of the new Backstage interface (on the simplest level, a souped-up File menu) is, according to Microsoft, to “save, share, print, and publish your documents with just a few clicks” and without the need for complex dialogs. But that implementation is highly variable. In Word 2010, you can, for instance, specify nearly every aspect of how you want to print a document (from the paper orientation to the number of copies) from the Backstage view:

However, in Outlook 2010, anything other than choosing Memo or Table style requires an old-fashioned Print options dialog:

The end result isn’t an easier, more consistent interface — it’s a messy mixture of old and new.

Strange language settings


For no reason whatsoever that I can discern, my installation had the English language thesaurus switched off, but the French and Spanish thesauri turned on. (I don’t do editing in either language.) Yes, it wasn’t too hard to enable more appropriate languages, but why were those odd options set in the first place?

Overwriting template files

If you do an upgrade installation, Office creates new standard template files, while keeping old versions in the same directory with ‘Old’ added to the end (e.g. Normal.dotm becomes NormalOld.dotm). The end result? You have to do some fiddly file renaming if you want to restore existing macros, layouts and other settings.

Non-existent keyboard shortcuts

In Outlook 2007′s Calendar, I regularly made use of the shortcut Alt-V when making new entries to specify an all-day event (especially to note when I’m not in my home city). The 2010 interface still has this underlined, suggesting it’s available — but if you type that combination of keys, you get the Review tab instead.

I could understand if Alt-V was now being used for Review to create consistency with other applications, but that’s not the case. And in any event, why not set up an alternative shortcut for the all-day option? And if there’s no spare letters available, why not switch off the underline? (Right now, it seems the only way to access that feature via the keyboard is by tabbing to it.)

Got your own Office 2010 issues you’d like fixed? Share them in the comments.


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