Well, it is close to the day of Thanksgiving, and I suppose I should be grateful for all of the wonderful Microsoft software and hardware that I’ve been using for the past year or so. An update on things written about lately, with scores from 1-10, where 10 is the greatest.
Microsoft Office 2007
The components of this comprise the the usual suspects:
- OutLook 2007
- Word 2007
- Excel 2007
- Access 2007
- OneNote 2007
After using Word 2007, OutLook 2007 and OneNote 2007 for several months now, through the beta 2 Technical Refresh, I can say for sure that the winner is OneNote. OutLook remains a bloated pig, and in Word, the interface changes are radical enough that the more attractive page output does not necessarily justify the so-called ribbon interface. I’ve tried….really, I’ve tried to like the ribbon, but frankly there is a substantial learning curve there, which is going to be difficult to get people over. Score overall Office 2007 , Individual apps: OneNote , Outlook , Word . I’m reserving judgement on Access…since there is no Access runtime available. I’m looking forward to improvements in the Access security model, which is seriously screwed up with workgroup security in version 2003.
Desktop Search: X1 . A superb product with great support. Microsoft Desktop Search, by comparison, appears to be a typical version 1 from Microsoft. I had to remove it because it would periodically take over my machine and render it useless. It would be nice if OutLook didn’t have a permanent band under the toolbar that reminds me that I need to install MDS.
Desktop Video Conferencing: SightSpeed  No serious Microsoft alternative. Microsoft keeps talking about how they are now going to play in the unified messaging space…but they’ll be late to the party. Maybe in two years, when they have version 3?
Operating System: Windows Vista Enterprise . I used the first betas of these but when trying to install the RTM version, I managed to clobber my boot record, and crashed my workstation. I know…they say don’t beta test on a production machine, but how are you supposed to know how a new product integrates with your lifestyle if you don’t use it in context with your daily work? I didn’t mind Vista, and of course new machines will have it pre-installed, but I don’t think it is worth worrying about upgrades. In contrast, people should consider upgrades to Windows XP Service Pack 2, the latest and greatest Windows XP. It appears to be relatively stable, and secure.
The main hope with Vista is that finally you’ll be able to run more software without administrator rights on the desktop. And, I hope, be able to permanently disallow any changes to services. The idea that a spammer can download a worm or Trojan and actually run this on your machine without your knowledge is ridiculous…and it needs to be stopped by the operating system…Sorry Symantec and Trend.
Internet Explorer 7  Finally they have tabs! I prefer Firefox. 
All over the map. I like the Visual Studio 2005 Express editions.  I just wish I had more time to play with them. For database work in a Microsoft world, Access is ascendant…with SQL-Server on the back end. Access can’t compare to Visual FoxPro, but with third party support for VFP fading fast, and a commitment by Microsoft for only a final set of libraries to integrate VFP with the .NET technologies of Visual Studio, VFP is a tough call for any new development.
For web development, I’m still using Dreamweaver and the Macromedia Studio 8 suite.  I’ve got two applications in production that use ColdFusion as the middleware.  And I think Contribute, at about $75.00 a pop…is the best thing for people who need to update an existing web site on a regular basis.  It will be interesting to see how Adobe integrates the Macromedia applications…right now they have a confusing conglomeration with a lot of overlap.
On the Linux side, there are interesting things to look forward to: Eclipse, a newly open sourced Java, Ruby, Rails, PHP, and the solid mySQL and PostgresSQL back end databases.
I wish Microsoft would get back to writing software. What’s with MSNBC? What’s with the XBox? Why do they feel that they have to have a finger in every pie? They should focus on the office suite, a decent set of operating systems, and development tools.