I’ve used MS-Office since before there was an “office suite,” since the days of Word 1.0a for Windows. Yep, the days when you hoped Windows 3.0 would at least boot-up before crashing. And, I’m not ashamed to admit, I liked MS-Office. The programs did just what I needed them to do, and the wide-open architecture let me customize it to my heart’s content. I taught myself to make automated templates in Word, macro-laden spreadsheets in Excel, and a fully-functional, VBA-programmed database in Access that kept the UCLA Science & Engineering Library’s reserve system running when our computer system became one of the few genuine victims of the Y2K bug. For all its bugs and gotchas, I was an ardent advocate for MS-Office.
But, not anymore. Frankly, I hate the new version, Office 2007. They needlessly rearranged commands that had been in the same spot since the earliest days, leading me to waste valuable minutes poking around to find something I needed. The “ribbon” format is annoying as can be: toolbars were easily configurable, didn’t take up much screen space when in use, and could be detached and floated for better positioning. Ribbons are none of that. And the new document format? Just a trick to lock one into a proprietary format. I haven’t even bothered trying to learn the new programming language; it just isn’t worth my time.
While I have to use Office 2007 at work, I don’t at home. In fact, I don’t at all. I haven’t “upgraded” since Office 97. Why should I, since it met all my needs? But, it is 11 years old, and there are newer features I need. While I had considered buying a secondhand copy of Office 2003 (aka, “the last good version”), I couldn’t see spending money on an MS product that was going to be unsupported soon. So, I’ve made the switch to Open Office, which is free … and free of those damned ribbons.
The one regret I have is saying goodbye to Earl. You might recall the Office Assistants, animations that would appear (often unwanted) to offer help in some cute (to a Microsoft marketer) way. “Clippy,” an animated paperclip, was by far the most famous and most annoying. Whole web sites were devoted to calling for his death (or at least how to remove him).
In another shameful confession, however, I must admit to a certain fondness for Earl the Cat. Like the Warner Bros. cartoon characters he was clearly modeled on, Earl would engage in various amusing antics in tune with whatever commands I had given. He was my companion during late night, short deadline writing sessions and, no matter how many times that shark ate him when I closed the program, he was there waiting for me whenever I would start it again.
But his time has past, and there is no place for cartoon cats in the ultra-serious world of Open Office.
Farewell, Earl. And watch out for the shark.
Read Full Post »