More thoughts on the Office 2007 UI

Anil Dash says that the Office UI is “brave”.  I agree that it’s a pretty ballsy move, but I’m afraid that whether history will look back on it as brave or foolish is yet to be determined.  I’m a pretty pro-Microsoft guy, and it’s taken me a while to start coming around.  But like Rory points out in a post titled “Pardon me, Microsoft, while I help save Microsoft“, many folks aren’t willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. (I know it’s painful, but read Rory’s whole post.  Skip a couple of the historical references if you must, but he makes some very good points. And Rory: seriously it’s over 3500 words, couldn’t you cut it back a bit?).

Office 2007 UI Is Growing On Me..

The Office 2007 UI Is Growing On Me, slowly…  I’ve complained in the past, and I’m still not so sure I’ll ever be totally assimilated.  But the ribbon bar UI is starting to grow on me.  I’ve forced myself to use Word 2007 for a couple of drafts and papers, and it’s not so bad. 

My biggest pain points come in when I start down any of my old Word 2003 ALT-key navigation trees.  I used to do things like hit ALT-E, then arrow down to Paste Special.  Now Word 2007 just mocks me by telling me “Office 2003 access key: ALT, E, Continue Typing the Office 2003 menu key sequence, or press escape to cancel”.  Even if I dutifully hit the appropriate arrow keys, it doesn’t give me my paste special dialog.  I have to remember the hotkey from the menu.  Was it P, or S, or maybe E? (It’s S if you’re wondering)

Now, when I hit the brick wall with my learned behavior, it is pretty easy to find what I need, but it breaks my concentration.  I’m not sure how long it’ll take before I un-learn all those old behaviors, but so far my ALT-key + arrows habit is alive and well.

In a related note, I’ve started reading Jensen Harris’ Office UI Blog, to help understand the new UI.  In a recent post Jensen talks about their exclusion/inclusion of the “Spelling Check is Complete” dialog.  Instead of requiring a click, I think they should just fade something similar to toast into the middle of the screen, and then let it fade away.  If a dialog is meant for one-directional communication, don’t make me click it to get rid of it.  And if you’re going to keep the dialog:

Does it cancel all my changes?  Is it the same as OK?

Motorola Q – Crippled Bluetooth, The never ending saga…

I blogged about my troubles with bluetooth profiles on the Motorola Q here and here.  I have received yet another response from Verizon, and this one contradicts the last.  Here’s the text:

Thank you for contacting our Verizon Wireless website.  We are happy to further assist you with your question the Motorola Q device. 

We apologize for the confusion. Per our website and the Motorola website, the Motorola Q does have the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile. The Serial Port Profile is needed to allow the device to sync, via Microsoft ActiveSync, with a computer, which this device does support.

If you are unable to use your Pharos GPS device, have you checked with Pharos to see if their equipment can be used with a device running Windows Mobile 5.0 – Smartphone Edition or with Windows Mobile 5.0 – PocketPC Phone Edition? The Motorola Q uses Windows Mobile 5.0 – Smartphone Edition. Pharos would need to provide information on using their devices with Windows Mobile 5.0 – Smartphone Edition.

If you have further questions or concerns, please write to us again through  We appreciate your business and thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless.

This, while truthful, manages to deflect on two separate fronts.  On one front, they’re saying that Pharos needs to provide support for connecting to a Smartphone.  While I don’t agree that it should be this way, I can accept that that is their position.  On the other front, they’re indicating that claiming support for SPP is true because the device provides SPP services when it’s connected to a computer for ActiveSync over Bluetooth.  Again, truthful, but not quite in the spirit of the whole industry standard Bluetooth support.

Like I’ve said before, Verizon is free to do what it wants with these devices, but they’re devaluing several brands in doing so.  Devices that have hardware and software that it capable of interop are being crippled in the name of business. Verizon is trying to make a couple extra bucks, but they’re doing so at the expense of the Motorola™, Bluetooth™, and Windows Mobile™ brands.  I’d even argue that if Verizon would change it’s tune to allow open interop, from SPP to DUN to OBEX and beyond, the extra goodwill that they would gain in the marketplace would make up for any speculated lost revenue.  My 2 cents anyway…

Updated Info: HOW-TO: Use a Bluetooth GPS with the Motorola Q

How to use open SealedMedia’s Unsealer under IE 7.0 / Vista

Ok, this it limited interest so it’s not going out over the RSS feed, but  it might be helpful to someone Googleing for a solution.

SealedMedia makes a product that allows content producers to “Seal” their content, and then you have to use their “Unsealer” to access it.  It’s DRM, and it doesn’t appear to like IE 7.0.  I was trying to open a HBS case study for school, and was having no luck since I’m running Vista on my tablet.  Well, the following hacks make it work, use at your own risk, since they involve registry edits.

First, download and import the Internet Explorer 6 .reg file from  (Direct link)

Next make the following changes in your registry:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftInternet Explorer]

REG FILE HERE: iever.reg (.3 KB)

Now you should be able to download and install the Unsealer from

It seems to crash IE when you close a sealed document, but other than that it’s working fine.  At least fine enough to read a document or get a printout.

To undo these changes, you can use this file from the fiddlertool website, and this file to undo the version edit: iever_undo.reg (.3 KB)

Use at your own risk.  These hacks work to the best of my knowledge, but have not been thoroughly tested and may crash your computer and/or cause loss of data.

Should Microsoft Offer Windows Starter Edition Everywhere?

Ed Bott thinks that Microsoft “should sell Windows XP Starter Edition everywhere” in order to help alleviate the problem of Windows 98 & ME going out of support. 

I think they should take it one step further and give it away. Include an automated, credit card purchased, upgrade to XP Home edition for a reasonable fee (With an option to have a CD mailed for folks on dialup) .  By giving Starter Edition away, you help out the security of the internet, you allow people on limited incomes to use your products, and you give the “free software” people something to chew on.  Microsoft has always provided deep discounts to college students, in a “get em hooked” kind of marketing scheme.  Giving away Starter Edition would provide the same benefit in the general population, it would offer some insulation against the free software movement, and it would be good PR.

Robert Scoble is an Edge Case…

I was pretty much unplugged when the news came out this weekend.  I lost one day driving my family back from Michigan (if you follow Live Local’s Streetside project, check out what I saw on the drive), and I had a lot of schoolwork, so reading feeds was backburnered.  But I heard the news anyway.  From my wife.  My wife is not a blogger. She doesn’t knowingly use RSS.  I’m pretty sure that she doesn’t even read my blog (correct me if I’m wrong 😉 ).  My wife normally gets her news by typing “” into the address bar and then poking around.  She was catching up with the news on Sunday morning, and she started reading me the story about Robert.

My reaction?  I was not surprised in the least.  I was more shocked that my wife knew the news before me.

The significance of this should not be downplayed.  The Scobleizer’s fame has hit the mainstream.

This is obviously great news for, and bad news for Microsoft. The bad news for Microsoft is complicated.  First, they’ve lost a dedicated employee.  Second, they’ve lost an influencer.  Dave Winer put it best when he said “A person like Scoble can have enormous influence just by adopting some very simple ideas”.  The most important reason that this is bad for Microsoft is that it highlights the fact that Microsoft is not the kind of place that someone like Scoble would want to stay.  Robert seems like he’s driven to change the world for the better, and the fact that he left Microsoft carries a message, right or wrong, that Microsoft isn’t as much of a “Change the world” kinda of place as it used to be.

But back to the inflammatory headline I used to draw you in…  Robert, regardless of how you feel about the label, you are an edge case, leading edge.  You’re an early adopter, and you have a pretty decent track record for picking the technologies that will make it to the mainstream, although I think I’d side with Chris Pirillo on the Second Life debate.  The fact that you are going to PodTech makes me really think about their business model, and consider the fact that it might take off.  I’ve written a couple of times about what I think the new media model should be, but I was thinking about how big media could get onboard.  Seeing a company like PodTech gathering steam makes me believe that it might be possible for the little guys to disrupt the hold that big media has on entertainment and information.  It’s going to be interesting…

Motorola Q – Verizon Confirms Crippled Bluetooth

Well, it looks like Verizon definitely did disable the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile for the shipping version of the Motorola Q.  After several back and forth emails trying to convince tech support that I actually knew how to pair a Bluetooth device, I received the following:

We apologzie for any inconvenience.  Currently, Verizon Wireless does not support the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile on the Motorola Q.  We understand and apologize for any frustration regarding this but we are only able to provide information regarding products or services that we are currently offering. We are unable to disclose any unconfirmed information because it would be subject to change and could raise expectations that may not be met. If you would like to receive e-mail updates regarding new products and services, please click on “Sign up for email updates” from the “Support” tab located at the top of our homepage. {emphasis mine}

So, don’t plan on using your new Motorola Q from Verizon with and SPP devices like Bluetooth GPS receivers.

Like I said in my previous post, I’m still very happy with the phone.  I also think that Verizon has screwed up a bit in the fact that the Serial Port profile is (as of this writing) still listed as being supported on Verizon’s website.  This is probably a case of the PDF not being updated after business decisions were made to disable certain Bluetooth profiles, but the fact remains that Verizon is presenting false information about the capabilities of this product on its website.

I asked Verizon if they had any additional information to add, such as the rational for disabling SPP, or time frames for when it might be supported. I’ll update this post if I receive a reply.

Updated Info: HOW-TO: Use a Bluetooth GPS with the Motorola Q

Google Office Taking Shape…

A little over a year ago I blogged some ideas about a Google Office product. Well, they’re doing it piecemeal, but the suite appears to be taking shape.

Writely                        ~= Word

Google Spreadsheets  ~= Excel & Access

Gmail                         ~= Outlook

Google Page Creator  ~= Powerpoint / Frontpage

This is a small problem for Microsoft right now, but it’s a real problem 10 years from now.  When I entered the workforce 13 years ago, Word Perfect was the norm, and Microsoft Word was starting to gain some ground.  It wasn’t the norm because the features were great, it was the norm because people needed to create documents.  WYSIWYG editors took hold as technology caught up, and word processor has stayed pretty much the same ever since, with most updates seeming to only change the UI to match the Windows flavor of the day.

The real problem is that web-based word processors, spreadsheets, etc. are good enough.  Beyond good enough, they offer data protection, collaboration, and the possibility to integrate with search in ways that make research easier and more productive.

In response to the Google announcement, Robert Scoble Wrote ‘If I was a Microsoft product manager over on Office I’d send every blogger a free copy and say “please compare to Google Office.” I’d love to see the blog hype if we did that.’  I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I’ve tried both, and nothing in the Office Beta has made me a believer yet.  In a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy, I really don’t like the ribbon bar.  I’m sure it’s great, but if there was a compatibility mode, I’d turn it on right now.  I like knowing where things are.  That consistency has kept me from really giving competitors like a fair shakedown.  By making such drastic changes to Office, you’ve lowered my perceived cost to switch. 

I’d wager that 95% of the people who use office don’t use 95% of the features (I know, the ribbon bar is supposed to address the usage models, I say blah…).  Office has been good enough for most of us since Office 95.  I’m sure there are power-users who will fawn over the new formatting options, but they aren’t going to pay the bills.  Students, and this is Microsoft’s biggest problem, Students are going to think Writely and Google Spreadsheets are good enough for writing papers & analyzing lab data.  Entire colleges might decide to save their student’s some licensing costs (to offset skyrocketing tuition) by standardizing on a Google Office Suite.  The “My computer crashed” late-paper excuse disappears, since the data is stored in the ether, across multiply-redundant Google data centers.  (Aside: Imagine how easy it would be for Google to mine the data for plagiarism. Bonus reason for school administrators to get onboard…)  These students will graduate comfortable and confident with how Google handles their data.  After graduating, these students will work their way up into management, get advanced degrees, and eventually, they’ll be deciding how to manage companies’ data, and Google will now seem to be a reasonable option.

Like I said, the clock is ticking on the desktop office suite as a cash cow…