Saturday, January 20, 2007

To Vista or Not to Vista? How about Office 2007?

I am taking a break from posting technical information to share with you some personal perspectives on Windows Vista and Office 2007. Without question, law firms will be faced with a decision to upgrade to these two products in the near future, but some of you may need a reason or two.

Let me start by saying that Microsoft has come a long way and introduced a suite of products that are phenomenal. I've been using both products for months and have nothing negative about them. However, there is a learning curve - about a month for moderate computer users - to get used to the changes and benefit from them, so is it worth it?

On the subject of Windows Vista - it is a significant upgrade. To run vista you should have a high-end processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a seperate graphics processor (GPU) with at least 256 MB of RAM to properly display the beauty (strictly appearence) of the new operating system. I would do it just for the looks alone. There are however vast security, performance, and usability changes that don't need the pretty face to improve your computing experience. However, I would not rush.

However, the Microsoft Office 2007 System - in my view - is worth thinking about right away. Apart from the new interface, the largest change is the new file format (eg: *.DOCX, *.XLSX, *.PPTX) which incorporates XML, and is NOT backwards compatible with Office 2003 and its predecessors. Not to say that it cannot be opened by older versions, because it can - using a plug in. To me, that may be enough to justify the upgrade, but not necessarily because of the technology.

Let's set up a hypothetical situation. Imagine someone just e-mailed a Word 2007 document to a basic computer user in your office. The person double-clicks to open it and is surprised by an incompatibility message. At that point they would click on OK, follow the prompts to the Microsoft Website, possibly clear validation, trigger the ActiveX component, download the plugin, and finally have the document in ReadOnly format. From there, they try to make a change, hit save, are prompted to Save AS. Find a spot... and so on. Granted, that only happens once per user - but let's think about it for am moment. When I asked people about this process I was surprised when most people elected to click CANCEL on the initial prompt, never getting past it to open the document. After all, we're all trained not to install stuff that pop's up.

The point is, dealing with the backwards compatibility may be too much for most users that are interested in opening MS Word and writing a letter. It interferes with productivity and may create scenarios that are simply an annoyance. Of course your network administrators can assist you in preparing for these situations, but is it worth the hassle?

I say, download the Microsoft Office 2007 trial that fits your needs. It will install everything but MS Outlook parallel to your existing install. Check it out. Once you feel comfortable call your software provider, ask them for Open Volume licenses of Microsoft Office, and schedule a deployment. Prepare your staff, and just get it done. It's worth it.

According to Microsoft, after the initial 1 month adjustment period, you can see a 20% productivity increase in moderate computer users. How? Well, 8 years of studies revealed that users spend an enormous amount of time looking for things... not files.. but things. The save button, the table button, the font, the format, the spacing, etc... All the things that take a precious 4-5 seconds to locate. Well, Microsoft believes that by changing the interface they actually reduce that time. Think of all the money you can save....

//posted by KJ