Office XP's Improved Usability Proves Frustrating

With Microsoft's launch of Office XP today (click here for details), I thought I'd comment about some of the changes Microsoft has included in this latest release. Getting used to where Microsoft moved commonly used features is an expected price to pay to upgrade to Microsoft's latest and greatest. I now know to expect that the usability improvements Microsoft added to Office XP will result in a loss of usability until I get used to the new application behavior. And I guess that the three polar bears and two penguins just south of the North Pole—the only non-Office users left on the planet—will find the new UI easier to learn. But the application's behavior is really starting to annoy me. Here's my current litany of gripes:

  1. Outlook keeps making itself the default mail client. I don't want Outlook as my default mail client, and I've configured it not to be. However, I now have to remember to launch Outlook before I launch Eudora, so that Eudora prompts me to have it take over default mail duties. I realize that not many users run multiple mail clients, but you'd think Microsoft would have considered that situation.
  2. Outlook insists on using Microsoft Word as the email editor. Once again, I've told Outlook not to use Word, but the program chooses to ignore me (at least it remembers to send my email as plain text). This annoyance was minor until I realized that every time the Word editor window popped up, it lost the screen position I had configured Word to launch at. That is annoying for someone who spends as much time in a word processor as I do.
  3. Outlook now tries to make sure I can't launch a virus. I can't receive emails with .exe files, .vbs files, registry hacks, or anything that Outlook thinks is threatening. On the surface, that restriction sounds like a good idea, but I CAN'T TURN IT OFF! The feature is configurable through Policies, but I don't use Policies on my home or home office systems. I run a good anitvirus program (Sophos Sweep), which I update every month and add virus signatures in between updates when necessary. I don't need Outlook to baby-sit me. The folks at Microsoft must be used to this annoyance; they recently sent me an executable file with the attached message "Change the extension from .xex to .exe to run it."
  4. A clipboard that lets you store multiple scraps is a good idea. The feature worked well in Office 2000, popping up a selector box that let you chose the scrap you wanted. Now, instead of the box, a window opens on the right side of your document, and the document reformats itself because its window just got narrower.

I'm going to start searching the many Office sites to find ways to turn off all of Microsoft's "help." I'll let you know what I find.

On that same note, I receive a lot of email asking for registry hacks and system tips. You'll always find a tip further down this newsletter, but if you need your tip fix or have to find that registry hack right now, Windows 2000 Magazine sponsors a repository of hundreds of registry editing tips at the Web site linked below. As always, use caution whenever you make changes to the registry.

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