Mossberg rev Vista (Calls Unexciting); NYT (Pogue) rev Office

Discussion in 'Windows Vista General Discussion' started by Chad Harris, Jan 19, 2007.

  1. Chad Harris

    Chad Harris Guest

    (Mossberg skews the need for a new computer because Vista will run well on
    older computers in a way he doesn't characterize. He does nail features
    that Apple has had in since 2001and Vista adopted).

    January 18, 2007
    Vista: Worthy, Largely Unexciting
    By Walter S. Mossberg

    A new version of Microsoft Windows, the world's most popular and important
    computer operating system, will finally arrive for consumers on Jan. 30. It
    has taken the giant software maker more than five years to replace Windows
    XP with this new version, called Windows Vista -- an eternity by
    computer-industry reckoning. Many of the boldest plans for Vista were
    discarded in that lengthy process, and what's left is a worthy, but largely
    unexciting, product.

    Vista is much prettier than previous versions of Windows. Its icons look
    better, windows have translucent borders, and items in the taskbar and in
    folders can display little previews of what they contain. Security is
    supposedly vastly better; there are some new free, included programs; and
    fast, universal search is now built in. There are hundreds of other,
    smaller, improvements and additions throughout the system, including
    parental controls and even a slicker version of Solitaire.

    Vista's Flip 3D feature lets you scroll through images of currently running
    programs. The sidebar (right) contains miniapplications. The Windows Photo
    Gallery (left) is for organizing and editing photos.
    After months of testing Vista on multiple computers, new and old, I believe
    it is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has produced. However,
    while navigation has been improved, Vista isn't a breakthrough in ease of
    use. Overall, it works pretty much the same way as Windows XP. Windows
    hasn't been given nearly as radical an overhaul as Microsoft just applied to
    its other big product, Office.

    Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available
    in Apple's operating system, called Mac OS X, which came out in 2001 and
    received its last major upgrade in 2005. And Apple is about to leap ahead
    again with a new version of OS X, called Leopard, due this spring.

    There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full
    benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is
    called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you
    purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won't
    be able to use all of Vista's features without major hardware upgrades. They
    will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very

    In fact, in my tests, some elements of Vista could be maddeningly slow even
    on new, well-configured computers.

    Also, despite Vista's claimed security improvements, you will still have to
    run, and keep updating, security programs, which can be annoying and
    burdensome. Microsoft has thrown in one such program free, but you will have
    to buy at least one more. That means that, while Vista has eased some of the
    burden on users imposed by the Windows security crisis, it will still force
    you to spend more time managing the computer than I believe people should
    have to devote.

    Here's a quick guide to the highlights of the new operating system.

    Versions and Upgrading
    Vista comes in six versions, two of which are primarily aimed at consumers.
    One, called Home Premium, is the one most consumers will want. It contains
    the full Aero interface, and it includes the functionality of Windows Media
    Center and Windows Tablet edition, which have been discontinued as separate
    products. Home Premium costs $239, or $159 if you are upgrading from an
    earlier version of Windows. It will come preloaded on most midrange and some
    high-end consumer PCs.

    The other main consumer edition of Vista is the stripped-down version,
    called Home Basic. It includes the improved security and search but leaves
    out the new Aero interface and the Media Center and Tablet functions. It
    will be preloaded on low-price PCs. Home Basic will cost $199, or $100 for

    A third version, called Ultimate, will wrap up everything in Home Premium
    with some additional features from the business versions of Vista. This is
    for power users, and it is likely to be preloaded on high-end PCs. But some
    regular users may need Vista Ultimate if their companies have particular
    network configurations that make it impossible to connect to the company
    network from home with Home Basic or Home Premium. Vista Ultimate will cost
    $399, or $259 as an upgrade.

    Even if you buy the Home Premium or Ultimate editions, Vista will revert to
    the Basic features if it detects that your machine is too wimpy to run the
    new user interface.

    For most users who want Vista, I strongly recommend buying a new PC with the
    new operating system preloaded. I wouldn't even consider trying to upgrade a
    computer older than 18 months, and even some of them may be unsuitable
    candidates. Microsoft offers a free, downloadable Upgrade Advisor program
    that can tell you how ready your XP machine is. It's available at:

    If you bought a PC in the past few months, and it had a "Vista Capable"
    sticker on it, it should be able to run at least Home Basic. If it was
    labeled "Premium Ready," it should be able to handle Premium and probably

    Microsoft says that Home Basic can run on a PC with half a gigabyte of
    memory and that Premium and Ultimate will work on a PC with one gigabyte of
    memory. I strongly advise doubling those numbers. To get all the features of
    Vista, you should have two gigabytes of memory, far more than most people

    Even more important is your graphics card, a component most people know
    little about. Home Basic can run on almost any graphics system. But Premium
    and Ultimate will need a powerful, modern graphics system to run well.

    I tested Vista on three computers. On a new, top-of-the-line Hewlett-Packard
    laptop, with Vista preinstalled, it worked smoothly and quickly. It was a

    On a three-year-old H-P desktop, a Vista upgrade installed itself fine. But
    even though this computer had a full gigabyte of memory and what was once a
    high-end graphics card, Vista Ultimate reverted to the Basic user interface.
    And even then, it ran so slowly and unsteadily as to make the PC essentially

    The third machine was a new, small Dell XPS M1210 laptop. In general, Vista
    ran smoothly and well on this Dell, but some operations were annoyingly
    slow, including creating a new message in the built-in Windows Mail program.
    This surprised me, because the Dell had two gigabytes of memory and a fast

    Microsoft says Vista is much more secure than any other operating system.
    But this is hard to prove, especially at the beginning of its life, when few
    hackers and malefactors have access to it. One visible security feature asks
    for your permission before you do potentially dangerous tasks, like
    installing new software. This is a good thing, and it's been on the
    Macintosh for years. But unlike the Mac version, the Vista version of this
    permission feature doesn't necessarily require you to type in a password, so
    a stranger or a child using your PC could grant permission for something you
    yourself might not allow.

    Vista also has built-in parental controls so you can restrict what a child
    can do on the computer. This is also already on the Macintosh, though the
    Vista controls are more elaborate.

    Microsoft includes a free antispyware program in Vista, called Windows
    Defender. But PC Magazine regards it as inferior to paid programs like Spy
    Sweeper and Spy Doctor. So you may want to buy one of these. You should also
    buy an antivirus program, which isn't included.

    User Interface
    The new Aero interface is lovely, and it makes using a PC more pleasant and
    efficient. It apes some elements on the Macintosh but retains a distinct
    look and feel. Icons of folders look three dimensional, and they pop. Most
    file icons are thumbnails that show a tiny preview of the underlying

    Like the rest of Vista, the Start Menu has a prettier, more refined look.
    The old hourglass icon that appeared during delays has been replaced by a
    gleaming, spinning blue circle. The cutesy names for standard folders, like
    "My Pictures," have been changed to simpler ones, like "Pictures."

    As on the Mac, you can now drag favorite folders into a list at the left of
    open windows, so it's easy to get to them.

    A new feature called Flip 3D shows a 3D view of all the programs you're
    running and lets you scroll through them. It's like the Mac's excellent
    Exposé feature, though not quite as handy.

    Another new feature, called the Sidebar, is a vertical strip at the side of
    the screen that can contain tiny programs, called Gadgets, displaying things
    like favorite photos, news headlines, stock prices and the weather. Once
    again, this is awfully similar to a Macintosh feature called Dashboard,
    which displays tiny programs called Widgets.

    Some familiar Windows features have new names. The old Display control
    panel, where you chose screen savers and desktop pictures, is now called
    Personalization. The Add or Remove Programs control panel is now called
    Programs and Features.

    Like the Mac, Windows now has rapid, universal, built-in search, a very
    welcome thing. The main search box is contained at the bottom of the Start
    menu, and it works well. Other search boxes appear in every open window.

    You can also save searches as virtual folders, which will keep collecting
    files that meet your search criteria. This is another feature introduced
    earlier by Apple.

    Built-In Programs
    The Outlook Express email program has been given a face-lift and renamed
    Windows Mail. But it's pretty much the same, except for a new junk-mail
    filter. The Windows Address Book has been renamed Windows Contacts and,
    oddly, turned into a sort of file folder.

    The latest version of the Internet Explorer Web browser, with tabbed
    browsing, is included, though it's also available for Windows XP.

    As on the Mac, Windows now has a nice, centralized Calendar program. And
    there's a new photo-organizing program, Windows Photo Gallery, but it's
    inferior to Apple's iPhoto because it doesn't allow you to create photo
    books, or add music to slide shows. There's also a pretty rudimentary
    DVD-burning program.

    The familiar WordPad program can no longer open Microsoft Word files
    (ironically, Apple's free built-in word processor does).

    Gradually, all Windows computers will be Vista computers, and that's a good
    thing, if only for security reasons. But you may want to keep your older
    Windows XP box around awhile longer, until you can afford new hardware that
    can handle Vista.

    January 18, 2007
    State of the Art
    Purging Bloat to Fashion Sleek Software

    Life has a funny symmetry, don't you think? When you're born, you're short,
    toothless and bald. You spend the first part of your life gaining height,
    teeth and hair - and the last part losing them again.

    Believe it or not, Microsoft Office is following the same trajectory. (This
    might sound like the stretched analogy of the year, but bear with me.)

    Microsoft spent the first dozen years of Office's life piling on new
    features. Over time, the humble word processor called Word became a photo
    editor, a Web-design program and a dessert topping. Not one person in a
    hundred used those extra features. Still, we kept buying the upgrades,
    thanks to our innate fondness for unnecessary power (see also: S.U.V.'s).

    Eventually, however, Microsoft Office developed a reputation for bloat and
    complexity. It was fully grown: tall, hairy and toothy.

    So what did Microsoft do then? It began shrinking Microsoft Office. In fact,
    the chief sales point of Office 2007 (for Windows XP or Vista), which
    arrives on Jan. 30, is that it's simpler, it's more streamlined and its
    documents take up far less disk space.

    After a radical redesign, Word, Excel and PowerPoint are almost totally new
    programs. There are no more floating toolbars; very few tasks require
    opening dialog boxes, and even the menu bar itself is gone. (Evidently, even
    Microsoft saw the need for a major feature purge. "We had some options in
    there that literally did nothing," said Paul Coleman, a product manager.)

    Instead, almost the entire world of formatting options has been dug out of
    Office's guts and artfully arranged on a top-mounted strip of controls
    called the Ribbon.

    You no longer have to spend 20 minutes hunting through menus for Page
    Numbering or whatever. It's all right there on the Ribbon. What was once
    buried four layers deep is now arrayed before you in a big software

    Better yet, you can see how each formatting choice will affect your
    document - a font, style or color change, let's say, or a slide design in
    PowerPoint - just by pointing to a control without clicking. No Apply
    button, no thumbnail preview; your actual document changes temporarily and
    automatically. (Unfortunately, this doesn't work with chart styles in

    The bad news, of course, is that this Office bears very little resemblance
    to the one you may have spent years learning. Virtually everything has been
    moved around or renamed. Count on a couple of weeks of frustration as you
    play the free bonus game called Find the Feature.

    The game is so challenging because the Ribbon changes. Its controls change
    depending on which of the seven permanent tabs you click at the top of the
    screen (Home, Insert, View, and so on). Still other Ribbons appear only when
    needed - a graphics Ribbon appears, for example, when you click a picture in
    the document.

    You're stuck with the tabs Microsoft gives you. You can't rearrange them or
    hide the ones you never use. Even if you never create form letters or write
    academic dissertations, the Mailings and References tabs will be there on
    the Ribbon forever, wasting space.

    Nor is that the only loss of customization. Microsoft has also removed the
    ability to create custom toolbars stocked with the features, fonts or style
    sheets you use most. In Office 2007, the only thing you can customize is
    something called the Quick Access Bar: a tiny row of unlabeled icons,
    awkwardly jammed in above or below the Ribbon.

    The second big disruptive change is the new file format. Microsoft, to its
    credit, hasn't touched the standard Word, Excel and PowerPoint file formats
    for 10 years. You never had to worry that your colleagues' Macs or PCs
    wouldn't be able to open your documents.

    Now you do. The new file formats (.docx for Word, for example) are much more
    compact than the old ones, and they're also easier to recover from data
    corruption. But older versions of Office for Windows can't open them without
    a free converter (available at Office 2004 for
    Macintosh can't open them at all, although shareware and Web conversion
    utilities are available.

    Fortunately, you can easily instruct your copy of Office 2007 to save its
    documents in the older format. In these turbulent transitional times, that
    might be a good idea.

    The Ribbon reorg and new document formats are by far the most important
    changes in Office 2007. There are, of course, some other new features,
    especially in Word.

    Word has always let you define style sheets: memorized sets of formatting
    characteristics - for headings and captions, for example - that you can
    apply with one click. Now, however, there are sets of coordinated styles.
    One click on Elegant or Formal, for example, impressively reformats all
    styles in an entire document.

    What used to be called the File menu is still present in Word, Excel and
    PowerPoint, although it's now represented by the Office logo. Its submenus
    offer Quick Print, which prints one copy on your main printer - no dialog
    boxes required. Excellent; how often, really, does the average person switch

    Other improvements: A zoom in/zoom out slider appears at the bottom of the
    window. The spelling checker now flags right spelling/wrong usage errors, as
    in, "I need to loose 10 pounds." A Translation tool gives you instant, if
    imperfect, foreign-language translations.

    You can now export a document as a PDF file. You can write blog entries that
    you then post directly to Blogger, TypePad or WordPress servers. A Document
    Inspector window lets you purge hidden text, comments or other elements that
    might give away corporate secrets in a document you're about to transmit.

    Excel, the world's most popular spreadsheet, can now handle ridiculously
    large matrices of numbers (one million rows, 16,000 columns). Charts are
    fancier, and "conditional formatting" automatically applies color to cells
    whose numbers meet certain criteria. For example, cells in a
    temperature-tracking spreadsheet could show shades of blue for cold days, or
    reds and yellows for warmer ones.

    As for Outlook, Microsoft's flagship e-mail/calendar program, the most
    significant change is Instant Search, which lets you pluck one informational
    needle from the haystack of e-mail, attachments, calendar appointments,
    addresses and to-do items - fast. (The horribly sluggish Search from the old
    Outlook has, at long last, been taken out behind the barn and shot.)

    Outlook can now subscribe to R.S.S. newsfeeds (free bulletins from blogs and
    news Web sites). No longer must your e-mail Inbox be your to-do list; you
    can drag any message directly onto the real To Do list. And - praise be -
    attached documents appear right in the body of your e-mail messages, in
    their full scrolling majesty.

    In the beloved/behated slide-show program PowerPoint, in contrast, there's
    not much new apart from the Office-wide improvements. There is, however, a
    new tool for creating diagrams and flow charts, and slide libraries let you
    "publish" self-updating slides that you or others may want to use in other

    Now then: If Office over all is simpler to use, its version matrix is not.
    There are eight versions. All include Word, Excel and PowerPoint; they
    differ only in the extras.

    The $150 Home and Student edition, for example, also includes OneNote (a
    note-taking program). The Ultimate package ($680 - ouch) includes Access
    (database), Accounting Express, InfoPath (electronic forms), Groove
    (collaboration "workspaces"), Outlook and Publisher (page layout). You can
    also buy programs à la carte.

    Over all, Office 2007 is much more pleasant to use than previous versions.
    It seems to be the work of the New Microsoft, a company far more concerned
    with elegance, beauty and simplicity than the Old Microsoft. Little things
    like typography, choice of wording and on-screen feedback get more
    consideration in Office 2007 (and Windows Vista, which goes on sale to
    consumers the same day).

    Still, switching will be a headache for Office veterans for weeks. You may
    gain productivity once you've made peace with the Ribbon, but until then,
    you'll spend a lot of time stumbling through the new layout.

    Handy hint: Don't upgrade right before diving into an important project on
    deadline. In fact, for best results, don't buy until you've spent some time
    at watching the tutorials and downloading the free trial

    By then, you'll realize the truth about the new Microsoft Office: It may not
    be quite as big and hairy as it once was - but it's still got teeth.
    Chad Harris, Jan 19, 2007
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  2. Chad Harris

    Mike Guest

    Does he nail the features that Microsoft has had since 2001 that Apple
    adopted? No, or course not, being the Apple lover that he is.
    Deliberately misleading. He makes it sound as if OS X was complete and
    ready to use in 2001. OS X 10.0 was an incomplete, buggy mess. It didn't
    even have a DVD player. OS X wasn't useable for general users until 10.2 in
    late 2002.
    Complete cheerleading speculation. Macs aren't "ahead" in anything.
    Just like when OS X was released. You had a 3 year old, PPC 604 based Mac?
    Too bad, you were not supported.
    Just like when OS X was released. The vast majority of existing Macs
    couldn't run it all, let alone a "stripped down" version"

    There is no point in continuing. Mossberg is the John Dvorak of MacLand -
    a total buffoon.

    Mike, Jan 19, 2007
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  3. Chad Harris

    Kerry Brown Guest

    It's a reasonable comparison from a Mac user point of view. Put a Mac in
    front of a Windows user and you'd get a similar slightly skewed towards
    Windows comparison. One thing that stands out in his review that he doesn't
    seem to get is that the new HP notebook designed for Vista ran very well. He
    says "It was a pleasure". This is the only valid machine to compare Vista to
    OS X with. It's designed to run Vista. Macs are designed to run OS X. The
    other computers he talked about were designed for other OS'. As you mention
    the fact that they run Vista as well as they do says something about Vista.
    Take a Mac designed for OS 9 and see how well it runs OS X.
    Kerry Brown, Jan 20, 2007
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