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Why your business shouldn't move to Office 2010 and Outlook just yet

Continuing his series on Microsoft Office 2010, our expert looks at more reasons why enterprises may want to wait to move to the latest version of it and apps such as Outlook.

As I noted in Part 1 of this series, I'm not a big fan of Microsoft Office. It is a business-standard product that has a huge market share, but you should be aware of certain features before pushing it out to users. In my previous tip, I looked at Office 2010's user interface, Excel and Word. Here, I'll examine changes to Outlook, considerations for user training, deployment issues and what still needs to be fixed.

I've found the following Outlook features to be very annoying:

  • The AutoComplete list has to be imported from 2007 to 2010. This list is not saved in a file with the .NK2 extension, as in Outlook 2007. If you want to import the AutoComplete list from another computer, as I did when I installed Office 2010 on a new laptop, you have to import it. I followed the online help article "Import AutoComplete List from another computer." This is not a simple task -- there's even a video to show you how to do it! End result: I got about half of my AutoComplete list imported.
  • Favorites have to be rebuilt. Shouldn't these come across in any migration?
  • Address Book Search requires too many clicks. This was my all-time favorite feature in Outlook 2007 -- just type in a name, and it searched address books for the entry. Outlook 2010 stuck this on the Home tab way to the right, and there was no window to enter a name to search. More mouse clicks. I was able to add this to the Quick Access Toolbar (Figure 1). But those icons are pretty tiny and difficult to distinguish.
  • Outlook folder options are reorganized. Right-click on a folder to copy, rename or create it. Someone, no doubt, decided to reorder these options based on some efficiency study. But look at Figures 2 and 3. Note that in Outlook 2007 (Figure 2), the Empty Deleted Items Folder was near the top. In Outlook 2010 (Figure 3), it is farther down the list and right above "Remove from Favorite Folders."

Several times now, I have accidentally hit the “Remove from Favorites” option when I intended to just empty the Deleted Items folder. You can, of course, restore it by going to the Folder List and add it back to Favorites, but if your users are like me and work from the Favorites view 90% of the time, losing the deleted items folder could cause a panic. Dear Microsoft: Move it back!

User training
Training users on new versions of software is always costly and time-consuming, but it's part of the cost to upgrade. Training can include formal classes, an FAQ website or a cheat sheet on where to find things. For example, formal classes may be needed to teach PowerPivot to Excel users, while a cheat sheet may be sufficient for Outlook users.

Remember, any time a user gets aggravated, a help desk ticket is logged. Problematic features can increase the number of help desk tickets and associated costs.

What still needs to be fixed
Despite the nice features, Microsoft has still ignored some problems that, in my opinion, need to be addressed.

I consider myself an advanced user of Word, but I find it frustrating. Formatting, headers and outlining are incredibly annoying to use or even to turn off. The outlining feature is just plain broken. Success in using automatic outlining depends on how creative you are. Pasting graphs, screenshots or Excel tables is an adventure every time. Style templates routinely crash pre-2010 versions of Word. Some specifics include:

  • Headers and auto outlining work fine until you need to do something like insert or demote a header. The workaround is often a cut/paste process, but that can lose the formatting unless you grab text below the header. Sometimes you have to manually create the header.
  • Change is hard. Let's say you have a document with several pages at the end for appendices -- header Level 1 and a new page for each. Just try to delete or add a new appendix page in front of or after an existing one. I recently tried to use Word 2010 to add one new page with a Level 1 header. It took me 30 minutes.
  • Paste a graphic, such as table or screenshot, and see what happens. Heaven forbid you should do this at the start of a document and expect to later put text ahead of it. Try changing the position of a graphic. Yes, formatting options for text/picture orientation can help. This is somewhat better now than in earlier versions, but not by much.

One wonderful improvement would be to provide the old WordPerfect feature that I believe was called "reveal codes," which exposes the formatting commands in editable text. Word tries to do this, but it is not very usable. Editing the formatting would fix some of the formatting issues discussed here.

I wish Microsoft would quit fiddling with the menu!

When was the last upgrade?
If your organization has finally deployed Office 2007, it may not be a good time to push 2010. Training users on new software is costly, time-consuming and frustrating to users. Give them some time to adjust. I heard one report from a company that had finished pushing out Office 2007 about 18 months ago. It is already moving to Office 2010 "to stay ahead of the curve." Each organization is different, so you'll have to decide what fits your users.

Whether you are using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or a third-party product to deploy Office 2010, getting it humming takes time. You may need custom scripts, special labs for testing and to run a pilot. If this has not been planned for, it will delay the rollout. One colleague said his company took nearly a year to get the deployment working, but it has gone very smoothly.

Again, this is certainly not a complete list, and your mileage will vary depending on your usage of the Office products. Take time to look at both the risks and benefits. Don't underestimate the time required to test the deployment. I've heard of companies taking six months or more to get kinks ironed out. This should be done prior to the actual rollout, so if you are planning an Office 2010 upgrade, the deployment development could start immediately.

In Part 3 of this series, I'll review some cool features of Office 2010 that might entice you to deploy it sooner rather than later.

Gary Olsen
is a solution architect in Hewlett-Packard's Technology Services organization and lives in Roswell, Ga. He has worked in the IT industry since 1981 and holds an M.S. in computer-aided manufacturing from Brigham Young University. Olsen has authored numerous technical articles for TechTarget, Redmond Magazine and TechNetmagazine, and he has presented numerous times at the HP Technology Forum. He is a Microsoft MVP for Directory Services and is the founder and president of the Atlanta Active Directory Users Group.

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