I’ve actually ranted about the decline of Microsoft Office 2002 in the past, but I thought I’d quickly throw something up that I hate about Microsoft Word 2002. You know, it’s weird but the more useability “improvements” they throw into a well-established piece software, the less useable the software becomes to me. Sometimes it’s ok to just “leave well enough alone” and just fix bugs or improve the efficiency/speed of an application.

Now on to my specific rant…

While File > New used to just simply bring me up a new, blank document (which is generally all that I EVER want to do when going File > New), Word 2002 now has this “enhancement” where a “New Document” task pane slides in on the right of my current document and presents many many many options (open previously opened documents, open a blank document, open a blank web page, generate a new document from a template). I then have to click the one I want and I get a new window with the appropriate document created.

I could deal with the new task pane thing except for two facts:

1) This task pane is shown all the time at startup by default and to disable it, you have to de-select an option from Word’s dizzying Tools > Options dialog.

2) Once the new document type is selected, the task pane remains present on the old window AND in the new window. Now how often do you want to open up more than one new document at a time? This means I actually have to close the damn pane twice once I open a new document.

Thankfully, I did eventually figure out a way around this. Tools > Customize presents you with a way to customize your toolbar menus. Under the Commands tab, choose category “File”. In the right-hand side list there are three commands: “New…”, “New”, and “New >”. The Description button allows you to find out what each does. The one I was after is simply called “New” (which opens a blank document in the default template), so I dragged that command to the top of my File menu.

It showed up as “New Blank Document” in the menu, but thankfully you can right-click the commands in any menu and rename them (including their keyboard shortcuts) so all is now well-and-good in Microsoft Office land… for now…

I think a general rule for any new software “enhancement” is that it should be possible to completely disable it. Of course with huge, complex and integrated features, such a general rule may not be applicable, but certainly it should be considered. Options to disable/tweak the new features can be added to the already bloated Tools > Options dialog, but another possibility is that every option to do with a new feature be present in a Options context submenu when right-clicking on that feature/window/widget/whatever. In this case, I would be able to right-click the task pane and deselect Options > Show at Startup and then check Options > Automatically Close After Selection.

Another (perhaps better) possibility is that Microsoft implement all of its user interface functionality in terms of a declarative scripting language that is bound to certain functions and allow users to edit that script. In this case, I would be able to navigate to the script that controls File > New and just short-circuit it to open up a plain old, Blank Document instead of invoking the New Document Task Pane. I know Office is heavily embedded with Visual Basic and I could just as easily write a one-line macro myself, save it as a template, save the template document into the proper directory and then “install” the macro into a menu using Tools > Customize. But if the work was already half done for me (in terms of readable user-interface script), it would make things that much easier. Maybe such a feature already exists in Office and I just don’t know about it? Maybe XAML will eventually bring this into being?

Anyway, the general thing I’m finding is that there are ways to do pretty much anything you want to do in Office applications, but it’s a matter of digging around and figure out how they are actually accomplished that takes the time and effort. If I hadn’t written up this blog entry, I would have never thought to look into Tools > Customize…

§93 · May 19, 2005 · Software, Technology · · [Print]

Leave a Comment to “The Bloating of Microsoft Word”

  1. Jan says:

    I agree that there should be a way of reverting to an older version. Or when you install a new upgraded version that you can get a list of the new features that you can approve or not. Like the search feature on Windows. I used to be able to go right into the search, but now I have to go through three or four menus each time just to get to the search itself.