Having recently played with Google Chrome and Zoho Docs I found myself taking notes to compare what these applications offer over the established ones I’m already using. When it came to Zoho Docs, however, I had to remind myself that I’m actually using an older version of Microsoft Word on a daily basis.
As a matter of fact, on my main PC I’m using Word 2000. This isn’t because I’m too cheap to use a later version. In fact I have several versions of Microsoft’s word processing program. But I use Word 2000 because I found this to have the easiest interface when using “tracked changes.”
For those who haven’t been cursed with the need to use this tool, tracked changes transforms the basic white background and black text into something that resembles a high school essay after an overzealous teacher has returned a “first draft.” Deleted text isn’t actually deleted but instead is merely struck out with a line through it. This “deleted” text is turned red and newly added text is blue–in addition to the black text from the original draft. With each new pass back and forth between those working on the document, the document can take on a colorful look that is anything but pretty.
For the record, I hate tracked changes, but when I’m working on very long pieces that require a lot of research it is a necessary tool. The bigger problem is the way the management of tracked changes morphed with later versions of Word. So much so that when I was using Word 2003 I couldn’t manage the tracked changes at all and reverted to Word 2000.
The bigger issue is that I go through this learning curve all too often. What I find annoying is that oftentimes engineers and designers are the ones who decide how I want to use my computer. I’ve ranted about engineers and designers previously, but I wonder if these people actually even used the tracked changes, or such features as printing an envelope. “Envelopes and labels” is an option under tools in Word 2000, but it is a step down the hierarchy with Word 2003 and fortunately I’ve never had to print an envelope from Word 2007.
These companies say they listen to users, and regularly have “usability” sessions to see how users adapt to these applications. Having seen the labs, and even video footage of actual sessions there is no doubt that these programs aren’t well tested. But what still seems lacking is the demand for such radical changes.
What really worries me, however, is that now with multiple browsers each “adding” new features that designers say “improve” the experience we will have to suffer through more of a learning curve. I fear that every year I’ll have to relearn how to print with Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, or there will be some “streamlined” way to spell check with Google Docs.
This isn’t to say that change is ever a bad thing. Moving forward is necessary as a whole, but I do hope that these digital improvements are really to improve and not just to sell a new version.