The Computer Blog

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Word 2008's Performance Not So Hot, Either

As I’ve used Office 2008 more (and I’ve spent most of my time in Word). I keep backtracking on my positive opinions about Office 2008. I still like the suite, but I’m coming to understand more and more the complaints I’m seeing from other users online.

Word’s 2008 performance is, as I’ve found out, not as good as it first appeared. Even though it is a Universal Binary application and written for Intel Mac’s, I’ve seen problems with the application redrawing screen lines even in small documents. In a moderately sized document, I’ve seen OS X’s spinning beach ball as I waited for Word to catch up to me. I’ve seen complaints about Office 2008’s lackluster performance on some online forums where some users think Office 2004 performed better. (And considering that 2004 has still has support for Visual Basic, some computer pundits consider Office 2004 a better multi-platform application than Office 2008.) At other times, the application seems almost schizophrenic, opening old documents with snap and scrolling through them with ease, like one would expect. How does all this effect my recommendation for the new suite? Well, if you’re using Office 2004 and happy with it, then stay with it. If you feel you like Office 2008’s interface better and can live without Visual Basic support, then go for 2008. If you’re wondering why I didn’t list better compatibility with Office 2007’s native .docx format, then you haven’t heard that despite the promise that Office 2008 would be compatible with Office 2007, opening files in .docx generated by one application or the other is not as transparent as it is supposed to be. In fact, keeping a copy of the Office .docx converter or NeoOffice around just to do translations isn’t a bad idea, though I honestly haven’t seen that kind of a problem myself, yet.

That’s really pretty sad. When I consider that and the flail of an operating system known as Vista, I have to ask: “Has Microsoft lost it?”

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Problematic PowerPoint 2008

While the only problem I’ve seen so far with Word 2008 is that the last line of a paragraph does not always properly redraw, the story is much worse when talking about PowerPoint 2008. I finally had a chance to try to use it last week, and it just was not a pretty experience. The application performed so sluggishly I was wishing for my copy of Office 2004, which I no longer had on my machine.

The job became to take a template file built in Office 2003 (for Windows) and make from that a presentation I could give to my co-workers. While PowerPoint 2008 imported it without a problem, screen redraws in PP 2008 became incredibly slow. By that I mean I even had to wait for the OS X spinning beachball to quit spinning. It made trying to build only a slide that incorporated only graphics in the title bar and text in the main body impossible. Such poor performance was not only unexpected but was intolerable. Luckily, I discovered I didn’t have to complete the presentation and was able to give up on it, which was a good thing. I doubt if I could have finished it using PP2008. I was going to have to flip back to my workplace’s PowerPoint 2003 to make it work.

In looking at other user comments elsewhere on the web, I’m not the only Mac user seeing this kind of lackluster performance out of PowerPoint 2008 and, in some cases, Office 2008 in general. Some folks have found that Office 2008 is conflicting with third party font managers, but I don’t have one of those, so that doesn’t explain the spinning beach balls in my case. It’s kind of hard to understand how Microsoft and the Mac Business Unit in particular missed this one.

Add to all this the revelation that data in Office 2008 files may not be seen by Office 2007, and one has to wonder just what the hell Microsoft has been doing with their time. It looks strongly like they need to be working a lot more on product quality and less on anti-piracy; if this keeps up, no one’s going to want their stuff even if they can get it for free.

Hopefully a timely patch from MS will solve the compatibility and speed problems for what could be at least a very good product.