Sunday, 15 July 2007

New MS Office, new problem

I started my job recently. I was hired maybe because they need someone to help setup a simple database for them. And some do design work, but not so much because they have a studio that takes care of the all designing work. But actually it's paperwork – proposal and conceptual paper writing – that actually needs a lot of doing and someone to do them.

From the first day I found myself in an unfamiliar territory. It's not the job or the industry (agriculture entrepreneurship), but it's Microsoft Office.

I've being using OpenOffice for a few years now that MS Office seems so new and different. I had to reacquaint myself with it. I never thought something like this could but here I am trying to figure out how to get things done with Office.

OpenOffice is not a 1-to-1 substitute to Office. They are similar but do several things differently. For example, Office comes with a automatic spelling and grammar checker, while OpenOffice requires additional setup to get these features working. It's just a matter of finding the way how to do the things, by keeping in mind that there are differences between the two.

I often hear that people say OpenOffice is not easy to use and has a confusing interface. I have to disagree with this. Like Office, OpenOffice's interface (menu layouts and so on) can be customised. To get it to look exactly as Office would not be possible, and customising OpenOffice's looks require some patience and learning. But the key thing here is to learn.

I think people are too acustomed to Office that they think anything else is a bother. Why can't it work like Office?, they ask. I think they be asking, Can it work better than Office?

The answer is Yes, only if you're willing to learn. After all, isn't knowing how to use two different office productive suite an advantage?

Furthermore, OpenOffice uses open format standards and handles Microsoft format (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.) quite well. Microsoft uses their own (i.e. proprietary) formats which they own and control. If you've encountered the new Office 2007 file formats like .docx, we'll know what I mean.

We recently got a document from the Youth Ministry, in .docx. I had no idea what it was until we Googled it. Thanks to some geniuses at MS, previous versions of Office like our own 2003 do not recognise .docx. We had to convert it via an online file format converter, which consumed time and required an Internet access (our office is out of Telekom's Streamyx coverage so we had to settle for a slower, shared 3G connection).

This happened because .docx is the new default format for Word 2007. Most users don't bother to check it or probably ignored it and assumed that it would work the way .doc format does.

I'm sure we're not the only ones facing this .docx confusion. This is exactly the kind of potential problems with using proprietary file formats. When one company controls and restricts a crucial piece of technology, people will end up being at the company's mercy.

So, is proprietary developed format bad? Not necessarily. Take for example the ubiquitous PDF. It was developed by Adobe, and the company adopts an open approach where it shares a lot of the technical specifications with others. As a result, PDF use has become widespread and it's even hard to imagine working without it.


ieka said...

this is the same case as if u were using Nokia handphone for a long time and changing to others like motorola or sony ericson, u will say why it cant be like Nokia, why cant it be like this and that.

but if u learn that each handphone may look similiar features and design but works differently. once you know how to use them, u will think it is not bad at all.

Oftenly i will ask those questioned me "Why cant it work like Nok*a", by "i wonder too Why cant Nok*a works like this too?"
and that person will start to think themselves..ehhehe

rol said...

I'm glad you got what I mean. This is one of the challenges of technology, and a fact that all tech users must accept. There are times when you can't get things your way. Adapting and learning are important. But this up to the individuals.

But bad design is bad design, period. When designs don't work, users often blame themselves when it's actually the designers' and manufacturers' fault. That's why we need to learn to distinguish between good and bad design, so that we don't go blaming ourselves when it's not even our fault.

They say good design is invisible. When it works, it's such a pleasure that we don't even notice it. On the contrary, bad design will stand out like a sore thumb and drive us crazy they we'll be telling the world endlessly about it.

I do get that N*kia comparison you brought up. For one thing their keys are nicer to press. I haven't come across any other brands that provide nice keys like they do.

dzul said...

betul ka Rul? aku rasa tak dak apa beza pun nokia ngan yg lain :P. haha

ieka said...

adalah beza. cthnya sony ericson terkenal sbb ada middle controller. some nokia model ada juga, tapi tak function betul2 or tak tahu apa functionnya. i used to have sony ericson's, and my brother used nokia. sbb tu boleh compare.

kalau tgk betul2 nokia mmg byk designs cun2 tapi features dlm jarang update cun2, yg lain model acceptable la tapi features capacity dalam selalu ada enhancement. satu lagi (tak tahulah kalau diorang dah enhance ke belum) nokia yg model canggih2 kalau jatuh je selalu akan ada kerosakan 'dalaman'. yg tahan jatuh2 bila nokia biasa2 aje yg mcm model 3310 or currently the oldest nokia model in the market. tu boleh tahan kalau jatuh.

ntahla pendapat saya la..sorry tuan blog topic PC OS/application dah jadi topic HP plak:p

dzul said...

dah terlanjur ckp aku nak kongsi la satu perkara:

model low end sony ericcson kalau pakai joystick = bad X 3

aku pakai tak sampai setahun dah rosak. lepas tu bila browse menu handphone tu buat sakit tangan je. skrg buat kutip abuk :X

p/s ei rul, ari tu pegi kl rugi la tak buleh sembang lama2 lain kali aku pi time tak de kenduri ok kot?

rol said...

Saya tak tau sangat sebenarnya pasal telefon selain N*kia, tapi dulu saya ada M******a sebuah dan butang dia keras. Taklah keras kematu tapi tak selesa untuk tapi kesej panjang-panjang. Tapi banyak juga benda yang saya pasal telefon M******a saya, salah satunya semua mesej dihantar akan disimpan dalam Outbox, jadi saya dapat baca apa yang saya dah hantar kalau terlupa.

p/s dzul, datang ja, tapi kalau boleh bagitau awal-awal boleh kita planning.

(Hari tu kul 3 baru aku sampai kenduri satu lagi, kat Sri Gombak :P )

ieka said...

kesimpulannya semua ada baik buruk terpulang masing2.. kan :p

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