Syzygy

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I hate MS more and more...

I used to be fairly positive towards Microsoft in the past: sure, OS X is a much nicer experience, indie applications for the Mac are polished to a much higher degree than on Windows, and the free (!) IDE in XCode is quite good, but Windows has to deal with backwards-compatibility, it is *the* platform for PC gaming, and sometimes Microsoft Research churns out some cool stuff.

Still, I find myself more and more annoyed by Microsoft's UI design sense (or lack thereof). Perhaps I have merely become spoiled by living on a Mac or become more observant due to reading Siracusa's rants (exhibit A, exhibit B). Yes, Apple doesn't listen to its own UI guidelines - everyone (well, anyone in the "know") admits that - but sometimes this gives us good things. (And sometimes, horrible abominations), but at least it has the good sense to make sure at least one engineer brings key interfaces up to new UI standards. (Yes, I'm talking about the control panel UI crap shown here.)

I feel like Microsoft has become a company with no guiding vision - some people work on cool things, some people work on the behemoths known as Windows and Office, but there's no one there with the bullwhip making sure things are consistent. Just look at the Office UI - for something that is the de facto office productivity suite, you'd think they wouldn't just up and change the interface on us. (but that's what Office 2007 did). And then when they released the next update for OS X, you'd think they'd fix things or add functionality, but instead they removed VBA scripting. And if the Ribbon is such a GREAT UI idea, why isn't it in Office 2008? Yes, I hate the Ribbon, but it's super-annoying when I'll work on something at school, transfer the file to home, and suddenly wonder why everything behaves differently. Formatting titles in Excel charts used to be so easy! I do like the fact that Office 2008 UI behaves more traditionally, but what I don't like is the formatting palette that is clearly an Inspector Tool wannabe. Do the people at the Mac BU not know how to make OS X native apps, do they just don't care, or are they hideously understaffed? (maybe all 3?)

One would think that Office 2008 would run faster than Office 2004 on an Intel Mac (because 2008 is a Universal Binary and 2004 is PPC-only and requires Rosetta). Nevertheless, I find that Office 2007 running on emulated Windows XP using half the memory and one core still runs rings around both "native" Office versions. (at least as far as computation in Excel is concerned.) Any version of Excel still seems to be faster than the Numbers app in iWork, though...

I already use Keynote for presentations, and Pages / LaTeX for word processing - can someone please make me a good/fast spreadsheet app so that I can put Office out of its misery?

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