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Last week David Pogue, the "technology columnist" for the NYTimes did one of his usual slap-dash reviews of the newest iteration of Microsoft Office.  In it, Mr. Pogue wrote:

The programs have a new design that matches the clean, rectangular lines of Windows 8’s Start screen. No drop shadows, shaded toolbars or rounded corners on buttons or boxes.

Speaking of touch screens — and Microsoft has been speaking of them incessantly lately — a new Touch Mode is supposed to spread out Office’s buttons and menu items, so that you can more easily hit them with a finger. It’s not much spreading, though. You’ll still wish you had a mouse.

He continues on rhapsodizing about all the different things you can click -- and my reaction was the same as the reaction I usually have: I'm a secretary; I do real work; I do not want to have to take my hands off my keyboard and my eyes off my work to grab the damned mouse.

But this time, instead of just bitching to the Mister or a friend, I decided to write to Mr. Pogue.

The response was insulting dismissiveness.  Our email exchange is below the flip.

On March 9th I sent this email to Mr. Pogue:

Mr. Pogue -- I have always wanted to see an analysis of Office software not from the view of a "tech writer" or corporate executive, but from someone like me: a real secretary, who does real work.

I don't want to have to "click" (or touch, fer gawd's sake) -- I need to be able to reach everything quickly by hotkeys.  Taking my hands off the keyboard and my eyes off a manuscripts or the document on my screen means it takes me 15 or 30 seconds to find my back to where I was.

I shouldn't have to navigate through three layers of menus to get to the same interface that does the actual work which was in office 2000, or Office 2003 -- but is buried in 2010.  The "File" tab is particularly egregious in how it ate up the print functions -- when I hit ctrl-P I should immediatly be at the print interface, able to, at a keystroke or two, change printers (do I need the faster black & white printer, or the color one, or do I want to print to a pdf?), change paper trays, print selected pages -- instead I have letters popping up everywhere when I touch the alt key -- so I have to stop and either grab the mouse and click through a few extra layers, or stop and try and figure out how the hell I get to the layer I need to do what has to be done.

And the "make new document" monstrosity?  Please -- please -- let me get rid of all of those useless to me templates.  I have my own templates and don't appreciate being forced into a menu where Microsoft dances what it thinks are whiz-bang cookie-cutter templates.  (On a side note, as someone who has been forced to sift through hundreds of resumes generated by the Word resume template -- they are really bad templates.  I got to the point where I didn't consider anyone for a clerical position who relied on Microsoft's template).

And Microsoft really lost me when, in Office 2010 I lost the ability to assign my own hotkeys to the menus, and the items in the menu.

Something is very wrong when as a user I'm told "you'll get used to it in a couple of weeks" -- an "improved" program that I've been using for 20 years shouldn't have a learning curve at all, let alone that steep of one.  Something is even more wrong when Microsoft's "experts'" answer is that "you'll just have to do a macro to accomplish what you used to be able to accomplish easily".

Why can Microsoft not offer a real "professional" version of Office -- stripped down of the fancy buttons designed to woo head honchos and IT departments (curved or shadowed or blocky -- I don't give a flying fart) -- fully customizable menus and with the guts of the interface on the first level.

If I could dump Office I would in a heartbeat; however, I'm forced to use it because it's what most of my clients use (I own and operate a business support services operation catering to lawyers). I don't want "touch mode" -- I want -- no, I need -- keyboard mode.

This morning I found this email "reply" in my inbox:
I think you're probably giving Office short shrift, Franki. You can still make up your own keyboard shortcuts, your own templates, etc.--nothing has changed.

Good luck!

Yes, stupid secretary; trust me; you are just imagining it.

So I wrote back...

Oh, dear.  I will charitably assume you have problems reading carefully, rather than that you are merely a shill for Microsoft.

Please note that what I stated was " I lost the ability to assign my own hotkeys to the menus, and the items in the menu".  And that would include assigning my own hotkeys to any menu I create.

As an example: In Word2003 (and all previous iterations of Word, which I have been using since the early 1990s) I used the hotkey alt-n to return to "normal" style; the "insert" menu was alt-i.

In Word10 "alt-n" is the "Insert" menu -- I can not change the hotkey for the Insert menu to "alt-i" and retain my useage of alt-n.  Instead, I had to find a new hotkey for "normal".  Can't be ctrl-n -- that's make a new document with normal.docm (yes, has to be docm because I have to macro everything -- but I'm running out of hotkeys....)  So now I use alt-ctrl-n for "normal".

Or how about the "File" menu and its intersection with the print functions, which you also avoid mentioning.  Let's go through the difference between printing the current page in Word2003 and Word2010.

In Word2003, it was ctrl-p, alt-e, enter.

In Word 2010, it is ctrl-p, alt-p, alt-a, arrow down to "print current page", alt-p, alt-p.  From 3 keystrokes to 7 -- more than double.  I haven't figured out a way around it yet.  It may not exist -- just as there is no way to unload all those damned office templates (I've tried erasing them, but like zombie economics they refuse to die).

And I can't change a single thing about that damned "File" menu and it's damned "backstage" concept, including kill it.  So yes, Mr. Pogue, everything has changed.  Rather like if a car manufacturer had suddenly decided that the clutch should be on the right, the brake on the left, and the gas in the middle -- and the driver should sit on the right side of the car because that's how they do it in England and isn't that more hip and cool?

So, nothing has changed?  If so, why is it that Word is so bloated it now takes over a minute for the program to open?

I am not a novice at this, Mr. Pogue.  And I don't need "good luck" -- I need software companies, and people like you, to listen to the secretaries instead of believing the hype of marketing and programming departments.

And once again we have a beautiful example of either Mr. Pogue's inability to read, or inability to take the quarter-century of experience of a mere secretary seriously:
Yes, it's perfectly possible to reassign keyboard shortcuts in Word 2010.

A quick Google found this:

Of course, the link does not lead to information on how to change the hotkeys for menus, but how to do a standard hotkey assignment.  Tell me, could my previous email lead any less condescending person to the conclusion that I didn't know how to accomplish such a basic task?

So I sent back the following:

Again, you did not read what I typed: My issue is with the MENU shortcuts.  That is, when I am working, when I type alt-n, it brings up the Insert MENU.  I can not change that.  In Word 2003 and previous iterations, I could change the shortcut key to ANY MENU by adding an ampersand in front of the letter.  One went into Tools:Customize.  While that box was open, one could right-click on any MENU, a box would pop up, one of the choices of which was name.  One would then change the name, and/or put an ampersand in front of the letter one wanted to use as the hotkey for that MENU.  Thus, if I had a different use for alt-n (as I did), I could change the Insert menu from I&nsert to &Insert, and the hotkey would change from alt-n to alt-i for the MENU.

Perhaps that is a feature you did not realize existed in previous versions of Word which now has been eliminated.

And, again, you have totally disregarded my explanation of the problems with the print interface, the make new document interface, and how the bloat of these "improvements" have slowed down the loading of the program.

But enough of your mansplaining.  I believe this exchange deserves posting on Daily Kos.

So, as promised, Mr. Pogue, here it is.

Originally posted to Franklin's Tower on Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 09:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Sluts and Sex, Body, and Gender.

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