- Release Date: 31 May, 2001
- Availability: This item is not stocked or has been discontinued.
- Third Party Used Price: $160.98
Customer Rating: 3.03 of 5 (109 total reviews)
- what it is
Office XP itself was a fine upgrade - endlessly configurable (you don't like the clip? Kill the clip! Hate spell-on-the-fly? Turn it off), well-suited to file- and data-sharing, more stable, quicker internet data connections, still more refinements and improvements (like programmable smart tags) to Excel and Word, a much-improved set of add-ons in Project, Publisher, and Visio. And the upgrade process was easy. If you had trouble you either had some horribly complex project to switch or you waded in without paying attention to instructions. It was a very smooth transition.
The Developer version added (still adds, since you can buy it now) added developer editions of SQL Server and Exchange, plus Source Safe, Code Librarian, and various other useful and sometimes well-buried stuff. I'm not sure why Office Developer isn't just folded into a slightly downpriced MSDN Professional, but then Microsoft still hasn't matured on the level of licensing and packaging. The Office suite is, however, a mature product that has been improving enormously since the 2000 release. If only Redmond would lose their fascination with Byzantine licensing and Rubik's Cube bundling (cool! We can sell it this way, and THIS way, and THAT way, and for these people we can probably get them to pay for THIS THAT way ...), people might stop complaining and realize the products are much-improved.
2003 continues the march onward in quality. If you're considering XP Developer, you're likely better off looking at an MSDN package to get the same tools.
I've been using this software for about three months now and have installed it on seven or eight different machines that I maintain, and honestly, the best I can say is that the actual upgrade process is very smooth--this Office suite comes on one CD instead of two, it scans for previous versions, offers full installation options, and explains very clearly what it is doing. When I upgraded to Office 2000, the software took upwards of an hour; with XP, the upgrades took from ten to forty minutes, depending on the speed of the machine I was upgrading to.
You will first notice how nice everything looks and the new "Smart Pane," which is supposed to be a window with what Office thinks you will want to do. The contents of this pane include your most recently used documents and options to create new documents.
The menus look a lot like the DHTML effects common on many web sites--menu options are "highlighted" when you mouse over them. A few other things have changed, but the changes are mostly cosmetic.
The Smart Pane, which is really more of a "pain" than a "pane," is obtrusive to me--I am what is called a "power user," i.e., I use MS Office for about four hours a day, rely on it, and am very familiar with it. When I open an application, I want wide, open space. I often close the Smart Pane without using its features, instead opening documents the way I have for years-either by opening them from the Work menu I added or by clicking to them. This Smart Pane is supposed to close when you open something, but sometimes it doesn't, meaning I have to click to close it.
Worse, the Smart Pane automatically opens when you want to do something it thinks requires many options. For example, if I want to modify a style in Word, the Smart Pane appears and offers me myriad options for editing my styles. This whole process of opening the Smart Pane slows everything down (I'm running a Pentium III 933 mHz with 128 mb RAM and a 7200 rpm ultra ATA hard drive with relatively few applications installed; got to keep it clean!!).
Editing styles provides a good example of how bloated the software is. You may recall from Office 2000 that all the styles were either built in or created by the user. Now, however, XP creates new styles based on what it finds in your document. For example, if you have a italicized one of your Heading 1s, XP will show the regular Heading 1 style and the Heading 1 style with italics. Imagine how many such styles you might have in your document; with these new additions, XP has easily doubled or tripled the number of styles I must wade through to get the one I want.
XP slows down every machine it's loaded on. My oldest machine, a Dell Pentium 75 running Win 98, was still chugging along quite nicely, even with Office 2000 installed. Now, however, after I've installed XP on it, it moves so slowly that it's almost laughable-clicked buttons bubble up comically. The worst part is that the computer is much, much slower, even if I'm not using any of the XP applications. I guess there's too much XP stuff now running in the background.
I have a few gripes with Word, many related to printing problems, but one is particularly laughable, typical of Microsoft. Now, when Word crashes, it politely tells you that it has done so and offers to send a report of the problem to Bill. It swears that it won't send any personal data. The first few times I saw this, I thought, sure, why not, send it, maybe it'll help. Hah! Each time, without fail, my computer froze! So, instead of having just one program crash, I ended up with a frozen machine. Remember, I'm primarily using a new, major name machine with little other software installed. Learned not to do that real quick!
There is one change I do like in Word. Since I do a lot of editing for a living, I find the new style of showing comments much better than the previous method. In Office 2000, comments were shown as "sticky notes" that appeared when you moused over them. Now, however, the comments appear as neat rounded squares in the margin. They look good on the screen and they print out well for others to read.
Another major reason I upgraded was because of a fatal flaw in FrontPage 2000. I have detailed more of this problem in my review of FP2002, but essentially, FP2000 could not publish my web site because it was too large. I was hoping that the bundled FP2002 would have fixed that bug. It did, but it has other compatibility issues that MS hasn't been able to resolve with most web hosts.
My relatively low rating is for the upgrade, not for the overall quality of the product. The product, which crashes at least as frequently as Office 2000, seems to be no more functional than its predecessor, meaning that the upgrade is necessary only for those who want to have the latest thing. The best news is that I've learned how to take advantage of MS's support discussion groups. The answers and workarounds I found in those groups were a thousand times more helpful than MS's pitiful Help or canned tech support messages. Again: Don't pay for support-go to their support groups for help first.
In short, this is something of a "non-upgrade," and will most likely cause more problems than it will fix.
Well, actually I like Excel and hate Word. The other programs included I have little or no use for.
I use Excel all the time for engineering calculations, including writing VBA macros to automate things that I can't do easily in the cells. It's very useful, like having a calculator that remembers everything you've done, writes it down, but allows you to change inputs and recalculate everything automatically. Unfortunately, there is a bug in the help files, so I can't get Visual Basic help anymore. The IT guys at work fixed the regular help but never could get the macro help to work again. Very annoying.
Word is terrible compared to WordPerfect. What I used to be able to do with a couple of keystrokes, now takes minutes of navigation thru menus and dialog boxes. Outline formatting, numbered lists, etc. are especially frustrating in Word because nothing is obvious. You shouldn't have to get a college degree in word processing in order to learn to write a specification and get the formatting correct. One annoyance is that paragraph formatting is hidden in a selectable little space at the end of the paragraph, so if you try to delete the last few words by hitting shift-end and delete, you will delete numbering, formatting, etc. of that paragraph. Also, the thesaurus that came with WordPerfect was much better.
In general, Microsoft Office tries to be everything for every possible user, automates many tasks to do things that it thinks I want to do even though I don't, and makes it hard to figure out how to undo them.
I am using WordPerfect wherever possible and trying StarOffice.