June 01, 2006

chrome isn’t hell.

I take it back – hell isn’t chrome, and chrome isn’t hell.  And while it’s not quite heaven, over the few days that I’ve been running Beta 2 of Office 2007, I’ve grown more and more impressed with what they’ve done with the UI.

  • Even though it takes up an awful lot of real estate, the ribbon works.  I’ve been undoing years of Office muscle memory, and have been enjoying the relearning process along the way.

  • The task grouping works, and the information hierarchy of default tasks = big buttons also works.

  • The todo bar is fantastic – my inbox, my next appointment and my task list all in one view.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy, and this makes me happy.

  • Word has some particularly nice touches, including a constantly updating word count in the status bar.  And while you can pry my beloved TypePad from my cold dead hands, I’m actually composing this from Word’s built-in blogging client.   

There are a few things that I wish it had…

  • Outlook items (messages, contacts, appointments) get the ribbon, but not the main app.  I’m hoping they address this before release, but I have a feeling that we won’t be seeing major updates to that part of the UI before RTM.

  • The ribbon has great defaults, but I miss having some customization options.  Like making one of the actions in a group the default, in order to make its target icon that much bigger.  I love the big delete button on messages, but would also love a big “move to folder” button.  I recognize you can’t please everyone.

  • The blue theme is too blue, and the black theme is too black.  And is Vista really all that black?

And here are some things to look out for…

  • I’m running a late model ThinkPad with a 1GB of RAM, and the apps can get a bit pokey.   So installer beware.

  • For whatever reason, searchindexer.exe is a memory hog.  It installs a Control Panel item to configure it; I toned it down to only index my email, and that’s helped a ton. 

  • Make sure you’re paying attention to file formats when you’re saving your docs, otherwise your colleagues will be out luck trying to open your .docx, .pptx or .xlsx files.   You can set your preference to save in the older file format, but that’s not set by default.

You can get the beta for yourself here.