Trying out new Windows software

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There’s lots of new software on its way to coming out for Windows – new versions of Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and, of course, the looming new version of Windows itself, Vista. I’ve decided it’s time to try out some of the new stuff for myself. Since I’ve been mostly a Mac user over the past couple of years, I’ve been at least somewhat out of touch with what’s happening on Windows, so this should be an interesting exercise.

Our local Microsoft rep got me set up on the beta program (thanks, Frank!), so I’ll have access to the latest and (hopefully) greatest releases.

It turns out that in order to take advantage of all the new eye-candy advanced graphics features in Vista I had to order a new system with a dedicated graphics card and lots of memory (my current office Windows system is several years old), so I can’t test Vista just yet.

In the meantime, though, I’ve installed the beta release of Office and IE 7. I’ll be trying to use them for several real-world tasks and reporting on how they work for me.

The first thing I notice is that the new Outlook doesn’t work for me. I don’t mean it’s poorly designed or has bad UI – it just never finishes opening my Inbox on the UW Imap server. I should ‘fess up at this point – I’ve totally bought into the Google Mail paradigm of keeping most everything in my Inbox and finding things through searching, with the predictable result of ending up with an inbox that’s got more than 10,000 messages in it at this point. So perhaps it’s no wonder that Outlook chokes on my mail – but I can’t be the only person working this way. Perhaps I don’t have enough memory on my computer for Outlook to handle it – this box only has 512 MB of RAM (a megabyte just ain’t what it use to be).

The next thing I notice is that the Word user interface looks very different than previous versions. Lots of other folks have written about the tabbed “Ribbon” interface, so I won’t attempt to describe it here – but I was sure shocked by the lack of a File menu – it takes a lot of chutzpah to do away with what is probably the most basic navigational mechanism common to GUIs since the original Mac was introduced (I thought it went back to the Xerox Star, but I can’t find any evidence of that). Time will tell if this is new interface style is a good idea, but I’m sure it will confuse lots of people at first.

The new Word supports blog posting, using the MetaWebLog and Atom publishing protocols, so I’m trying that out for the first time with this post. It was fairly easy to configure Word to publish to my Movable Type blog – assuming that this post actually works.

I’m working on writing a Research Bulletin for ECAR, so I’ll be trying to use the new Word for that – we’ll see how it goes. More later!

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