Having spent most of the last decade turning its Office product into an overweight and horribly decelerating mish-mash of features requested by focus groups, Microsoft has now decided it will rescue users by offering them a new interface.
As the company admits in its latest sales pitch for the new version, codenamed Office 12: Word 1.0 only had about 100 commands, and you could go through the menus and see everything you could do. But Word 2003 has over 1,500 commands, many of which are harder to find.
Now why didnt they put that on the back of the upgrade boxes before people parted with money for all those improved versions?
Microsoft says it has researched user satisfaction on current products and people are generally very satisfied. Of course, thats probably because they gave up caring about such basic software when it became clear that the only mainstream alternative to MS Office lay somewhere between OpenOffice and a return to the green screen.
Lets not be bitter. There have been enhancements over the years customisation for instance - but I doubt there are many long-term users who really believe that the basic functions (i.e the ones used 98.5 percent of the time) are any better or faster than they were in the days where Word and Excel sat on Windows 3.1.
The new interface appears to have been cleaned up, and better still it looks as if the designers have finally grasped that users are not lobotomised after all. So gone are the paperclips to help us tie our shoelaces and childish puppies to bounce around the screen because we are ill-informed enough to dare press the help key.
But heres something to wish for. Please, Microsoft, stop moving default commands around the menus just to force us to use the customisation features, especially the word count script. Thats one as useful to journalists as the exit application button is for mainstream users. (hold on they must have moved that one.)