We May Now Discuss Excel 12

I found this at Ed Bott’s blog: No more veil of secrecy over Office 12.

Josh at Windows Connected says he heard from Microsoft that it’s now OK to write about Office 12 Beta 1 client applications.

I checked in with Frank Shaw at Waggener-Edstrom, Microsoft’s PR agency, and he confirms that it’s true. Anyone on the Office 12 beta program is free to write about and publicly discuss any of the client applications in the suite. (Server components of Office 12 are still under NDA, however.)

That’s certainly good news. Excel 12 has some great new features, but it also has some serious problems. My biggest gripe is the inability to modify the user interface. In other words, no more menu modifications and no more toolbars. I’m hoping that they will do something about this problem in Beta 2, but I’m not holding my breath.

But the real problem with Office 12 is that it will require massive re-training. Even experienced users should plan on weeks or months to feel comfortable with the new UI and get up to speed. But even then, many of the things we do very efficiently today will become less efficient with Excel 12.

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13 thoughts on “We May Now Discuss Excel 12

  1. John
    I totally agree on the interface thing, they better hope the functionality improvements are utterly compelling to push customers over that huge retraining barrier.

    Personally it seems to me they are more intent on cross product consistency within Office than productivity within any one app.

    As many Excel users use Excel almost exclusively thats misguided. I can only assume the people running the project are Word/Outlook (and powerpoint of course!) types with no real comprehension of how Excel is used in the real world.

    Now might be a good time to revisit the alternative spreadsheets section of your site as there could be some interest in that area!


  2. Can somebody elaborate on:

    “no more menu modifications and no more toolbars”

    especially regarding adding menus (or their XL 12 equivalent) through VBA?


  3. Surely the product must be backwards compatible to support menus and toolbars made in prior versions? If it isn’t then I, for one, can not afford to upgrade, simply for the effect it will have on my users.

  4. Thanks John. I hope that those of you that spend time on the beta will find time to post something here from time time.

    And I’ll definitely buy your “migrating to Excel 12? book. (You are writing one ?)

    Best wishes Harald

  5. Jokes about old dogs and new tricks aside, I don’t think retraining will be the largest burden of Office 12. After a couple days with the Beta, I’d internalized how the interface worked. I couldn’t always find what I was looking for, but neither can I in legacy versions of Office.

    The biggest problem will be the customizability of menus and commandbars. The backwards compatibility consists of dumping all of the customizations into a single Add-Ins tab, where things are all kind of mushed together. The Ribbon-Tab-Chunk interface, which admittedly is no dumber than menus and submenus and sub-submenus, is completely invisible to VBA. It can be changed via XML, but it is not straightforward to a VBA jockey such as myself how this will play out in practice. I suspect that it will be a more tortuous process to effect customizations than in 2003. You will be able finally to control and create task panes, but this also seems like it will take superhuman (well, superVBA) powers.

    Anyway, Jensen Harris’ blog has reams of information about the new UI:

  6. Jon, I think it’s premature to write off the ability to customize the ribbon from VBA. It’s a bit like the charting – too much isn’t yet there (in beta1) for us to form an opinion. Let’s wait until beta 2 and later to see what we end up with.

    As for the custom task panes, if you want a full DIY solution, you can only create them using ActiveX controls (i.e. VB6/.Net, not VBA). However, I have written a COM Addin that I’ll make public on my site that will allow us to show standard VBA userforms as Task Panes.

  7. Stephen –

    Perhaps you’re right about the ribbon customization, but all I remember hearing about in the context of changing the ribbon was XML (and I was really trying to pay attention).

    I know you’ve been working on the task pane issue, and I figured you’d have something for us at some point. I know I’ll be sure to check it out.

  8. FWIW, I asked for clarification from MS in a beta-participants-only forum. The response from a MS employee was to the effect “The NDA is still in effect…”

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