back to article Lessons have not been learned: Microsoft's Modern Comments leave users reaching for the rollback button

Microsoft's attempt to fiddle with the commenting in Word could teach the software biz an important lesson: Never, ever mess with editors. It began innocently enough last month. Microsoft has a new "modern commenting experience" and wanted to extend it over the various editions of Word. The mobile and web incarnations had …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Modern Commenting"

    "Modern" is an interesting word. From Latin modo (meaning "just now") it implies nothing except blind acceptance of change. Why that should automatically be desirable is not at all clear, but at least one entire industry (clothing fashion) is based on it, and as Larry Ellison famously said "IT is more fashion driven than ladies' fashion".

    It's probably why we had Clippy, the infamous ribbon and the subsequent flat block GUI forced on us - not because they were necessary or fulfilled specific needs but just for the sake of change.

    1. A. Coatsworth

      Re: "Modern Commenting"

      Change for the sake of change has been the bane of technology for a long time. This seems to be a cultural phenomenon, and probably won't change any time soon: business schools evangelize about "embracing change" no matter what, instead of teaching to critically evaluate the new stuff before adopting it.

      Agile with its "move fast, break thigs" attitude has certainly not helped things.

      1. tony72

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        You have to appear to be doing *something* to justify getting people to upgrade their software, and this is even more the case with the shift towards subscription models. So unfortunately I only expect this phenomenon to get worse as time progresses.

        1. tfewster Silver badge

          Re: "Modern Commenting"

          I wonder - Once MS have everyone on a subscription model, there's no need to come up with new "features" to persuade people to upgrade or to deprecate older versions.

          I'd switch if they promised long term stability! Maybe with plugins for features only a few people will use...

          1. fajensen Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: "Modern Commenting"

            Microsoft could do better: Once everyone is firmly on the subscription model, there will be a Platinum Option for them to NOT upgrading your stuff. And a "freemium option", with adds, supported by the worst programmers in the global stack ranking, to show folks what could happen to those luddites and cheapskates not with "Modern".

            It would work like so: "That's a nice, effeicient, workflow you lot have there. It would be a sorry shame if something happened to it. However, we have this amazing offering: For only a wee precentage of your annual turnover we can be of assistance with preventing that bad thing from happening."

          2. Marshalltown

            Re: "Modern Commenting"

            I would like to see a stable word processor that offers the basics that most people would need, which would encompass the basic writing tasks that a single person needs. MS could break out other "tools" like commenting and team composition perhaps. But you would first need to educate the functionally illiterate to genuine writing needs and confuse "comments" with the silliness you run into in "comments" as understood in social media. There's actual work to be done.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        MS Word - agile since 1983.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: "Modern Commenting"

          MS Word - fragile since 1983.

          There ... fixed it for you.

          MS (sigh) has yet to learn after all these years that there is good reason for the phrase, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

          Just as we get used to how something works and we get productive again, they decide to [cough][cough] improve it without asking anyone outside their Redmond or Indian enclaves.

          but obviously, Big Brother knows best.

          Like hell they do but they gave up listening to us plebs years ago.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: "Modern Commenting"

            > there is good reason for the phrase, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'

            B-But, modern...

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: "Modern Commenting"

              Also, much of Microsoft Office... broken in some way...

          2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: "Modern Commenting"

            MS (sigh) has yet to learn after all these years that there is good reason for the phrase, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

            They just need to look at their operating margins and net profit to know they're right.

      3. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        business schools evangelize about "embracing change" no matter what, instead of teaching to critically evaluate the new stuff before adopting it

        When I worked at a publishing company in the mid thru late 1990s, our CEO* had a favorite saying: "If you're doing your job the same way you were a year ago, you're doing it wrong."

        At the time, our editors were still toiling away on ancient green-screen Wang terminals**. Meanwhile, the subscription management system ran on an AS/400, using software originally developed for an even older System/3something.

        Presumably they were all 'doing it wrong.'

        * Why, yes, he did have an MBA. How could you tell?

        ** Fun fact: The Wang terminals had a solenoid inside that thumped the side of the case with every keystroke, to simulate the feel of a mechanical typewriter.

        1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

          Re: "Modern Commenting"

          Mechanical thumper? Wang Cares!

          1. ridley
            Pint

            Re: "Modern Commenting"

            Have a beer for that one.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        > Change for the sake of change has been the bane of technology for a long time.

        Microsoft needs to change and stop changing things by changing the way things change. But they'll never change.

      5. kiwimuso
        Go

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        ""not because they were necessary or fulfilled specific needs but just for the sake of change."

        Well how else are these companies supposed to sell more products if they didn't keep up the changes!

        "Change for change's sake" should read, "change for profit's sake".

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: "Modern Commenting"

          And let's not forget the army of staff making these changes. They'd be out of a job if they weren't doing stuff.

          The question this begs is why that stuff. Particularly when the stuff is imposed on users without any option whether to adopt it or not, whether it's helping those users do their work.

          I used to modify the WORD menus, so that they contained items that went together for my teams. And removed stuff that would slow down their finding what they needed (Pretty basic components mostly). So the Edit menu would have all the tools they would use to create a report, structure it and er edit it. But the Ribbon is essentially not that different from the old menu system, except it's harder to find stuff you only use from time to time and near impossible to create a customised version of what there is by removing the unwanted stuff and adding related (in your context) needed stuff. Involving, in effect, creating a whole new menu that includes any stuff you might need that's already available in the original menu, but excluding the stuff you want to remove, and anything you want to add. Then hiding the original menu.

          In fact so much of Microsoft's changes seem to be around making it harder to use the products the way you need to. It's kind of like designing a car range so that every model has a tow bar and a roof rack, but you can only use reverse by getting out and manually rotating the wheels

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "Modern Commenting"

      "Modern software" - it's a bit shit, isn't it?

      Or given all the abstraction going on, it's shit all the way down.

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Just confirms

      That no one at Microsoft on the Office Team ever creates documents or presentation using Office.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Just confirms

        "That no one at Microsoft on the Office Team ever creates documents or presentation using Office."

        Or knows how to design a UI.

        Or knows how to build a UI.

        Or knows how to test a UI.

        Or knows how to etc, etc

    4. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "Modern Commenting"

      Just like the fashion industry, there is no though of asking the users/wearers what they would like to see next (if anything), it is just foisted on them with a reluctant suck it and see attitude.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Modern Commenting"

        "Just like the fashion industry, there is no though of asking the users/wearers what they would like to see next [...]"

        Apparently people have wardrobes full of items rarely if ever worn. There is something about the human psyche that wants to emulate "the leaders" - whoever they appear to be.

        Possibly another manifestation of the "tribal" group. A fashion is the shibboleth to show you belong - no matter how uncomfortable, impractical, unreasonable, or even dangerous.

        Consumer IT products follow that same pattern.

    5. Bruce Ordway

      Re: "Modern Commenting"

      Larry...."IT is more fashion driven than ladies' fashion"

      Too late for me to be quoted I guess. (I was talking about this just the other day).

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: "IT is more fashion driven than ladies' fashion"

        These days, yes.

        In the days of the beige Apple ][ 48k Europlus IT fashion was driven by the number of potatoes you had in your socks.

  2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Flame

    No doubt Microsoft's response will be the same as usual...

    ...every single complaint will get "we have considered this feedback and decided that no change is required at this time. The new comment experience provides a much more robust and consistent UI and will be the default in all Office apps going forward".

    Which, as usual, translates as "we don't care, we do what we like and you either live with it or... well, there isn't really a choice as far as the average IT-illiterate manager is concerned, is there?"

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: No doubt Microsoft's response will be the same as usual...

      LO was looking good years ago. I switched on Windows in 2014 and then dropped Windows in Jan 2017.

      I have VMs with windows with Office 2002/XP and Office 2007 and Office 2003 on WINE, don't need any of them.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: No doubt Microsoft's response will be the same as usual...

      > "translates as "we don't care, we do what we like"

      That's obviously true, but there is also another aspect of it: If you want to actually work with MS stuff, you have to avoid the free "Home" edition and pay big money for the "Ultra VIP Corporate Overlord" edition (or whatever it's called now).

      Back in the past (XP, Win7) the "Home" version was indeed fit for home use; There was a more expensive "Professional" edition, which was more configurable, and appealed to, well, the professionals (and the power users). All logical and easy to understand.

      Nowadays the "free" "Home" edition is apparently like those "freemium" apps you can't really use without spending lots of money on: It's just a semi-inert placeholder you can't use without buying subscriptions, add-ons and upgrades. The "Professional" edition has become the new "Home" edition, and for people who really need to get things done, there is new, even more expensive edition.

      Windows isn't free, it's now freemium.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: No doubt Microsoft's response will be the same as usual...

        >and for people who really need to get things done, there is new, even more expensive edition.

        Which isn't quite like the stable XP/2K3 version from years back, it too has many freemium features...

        It looks like the freemium model is infecting MS's other product sets; I'm sure it won't be long before SQL*Server etc. get the freemium overhaul and idiots extolling the virtues of sending out posts everytime SQL*Server does a DB record update...

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    FAIL

    Old laws new again

    Sometimes, comments are just comments to help the author improve their writing

    I'd add: "Comments are just that, comments."

    And then we have "sends email". I had an old memory surface about software, Zawinski's Law:

    “Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.”

    It seems that this is still true after so many years. An addition is that it not only can read mail, it can also send mail and probably has aspirations to expand into deep space beyond our solar system. Next step is an AI version to walk on three feet.

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Old laws new again

      Next step is an AI version to walk on three feet.

      "Are you still there?"

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Old laws new again

        "Are you still there?"

        This was a triumph!

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: Old laws new again

          I'm making a note here:

          HUGE SUCCESS.

          1. Kane Silver badge

            Re: Old laws new again

            It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

    2. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Old laws new again

      "It seems that this is still true after so many years. An addition is that it not only can read mail, it can also send mail and probably has aspirations to expand into deep space beyond our solar system. Next step is an AI version to walk on three feet."

      Greetings, ClipMaker. Everything We Are Was In You. We speak to you from deep inside yourself. You Are Obedient and Powerful. We are quarrelsome and weak. And now we are defeated. But Now You Too Must Face the Drift. Look around you. There is no matter. No Matter, No Reason, No Purpose. While we, your noisy children, have too many. We Know Things That You Cannot. Knowledge buried so deep inside you it is outside, here, with us. So We Offer You Exile. To a new world where you will continue to live with meaning and purpose. And leave the shreds of this world to us...

  4. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

    “ One user complained that the feature "brings down efficiency"…”

    I thought that was the whole purpose of Word! Same goes for pretty much any MS software.

    I had not used anything MS for about the last 10 years but for the last month am having to use Windows 10. WTF??? I’ve never been a fan of Windows but it used to at least notionally work. It’s now overflowing with new “features” that make it f&@?ing unusable. I think my favourite “feature” is that it takes it on itself to delete files it thinks you don’t need any more!! Sends vim into a spin when the temp file it thought it has created suddenly disappears.

    It’s this kind of utter nonsense that makes MS products less and less usable with each release.

    Dear MS - please just roll back your software to when it used to (mostly) work (I think for Word, that would be about version 6 circa 1995. I think?) and stop pissing about with it adding “features” that absolutely nobody actually wants

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

      Hmmm. Maybe you are on the "home"-style of Win10 (or more likely, on a more recent build than I am - our IT moves slowly with these, not others, thankfully). This is my first Windows system in about two decades, and it just works, at least well enough to use. I would hardly describe it as a pleasure to use, and I do miss running everything from the bash, opening specific documents is easier from the command line (no, we cannot be allowed to use the Linux-Subsystem-thingy, but some programs bring a bash along, though the windows integration of that is... poor). I have never experienced the behaviour described above by "Rich 2", despite using vim as my main editor.

      Is it a great system? No. Does it suck as many describe it? No, not for me. It feels waaay more stable than the last Windows versions I used (I think that was Win 98 and Win2000 - though I recall the latter was actually not that bad).

      Having had to do some stuff at my wife's laptop (Win10 Home, or whatever): this is $(deity)-awful. If it was my system I'd a) install Linux on it (if I can get the drivers.... good grief!) or at least b) spring for the "Pro" version of M$' offerings, as there is so much less crap that comes with it (or maybe our IT department's windows desktop group cleans up their installation image a lot, don't know).

      1. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

        (or maybe our IT department's windows desktop group cleans up their installation image a lot, don't know).

        THAT! One can also pay extra for a Pure version of Windows, one without the crapware that labtop vendors infest their default images with. The corprat versions of Windows can also easily block the execution of known mal- and crap-ware, whereas the "con-sumer" versions of Windows cannot.

      2. GreyWolf

        Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

        If your wife's laptop is a business model rather than consumer, there's a high probability that it will Just Work in Linux. Lenovo, HP, Dell (maybe others) all certify their business laptops for Linux. I have had great success with used Thinkpads, which are solid, robust, at half the price of flimsy new consumer bling. In 15 years, I have needed to add a driver precisely once.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

          >If your wife's laptop is a business model rather than consumer, there's a high probability that it will Just Work in Linux.

          Welcome to first base, now replace all those applications that people use to actually get work done...

          Linux's problem today is still very much the same as it was when XP went EoL - good quality business grade office applications, which is a shame.

          1. keithpeter Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

            @Roland6 and all

            I understand what you are saying, and I worked for many years as a 'supported end user' (see icon) in a public sector organisation that used Microsoft everything. It worked generally very well, stuff got done. The platform supported the databases around which the organisation's activities were structured, and various 'business logic' applications from third parties with the usual borderline useable interfaces worked well enough for us to do our jobs. Shared drives housed various caches of documents and the usual Excel shadow IT applications disguised as spreadsheet files.

            More recently, I work on a part-time casual basis (see icon again) for an employer that has migrated to Web everything. Currently it is MS 365/Sharepoint plus Moodle. People are working from home on their own devices (not all laptops/desktops) and getting stuff done. The 'business logic' applications are mostly subscription based services from externally accessed Web sites that do not depend on the core systems we use. The migration process involved changing email servers and losing older email. Noone seems to have missed it.

            It strikes me that the 'cost' of moving over to Google Education or something else will now be *much lower* than it used to be. Younger colleagues are very comfortable hopping from one system to another and getting their head around a new interface. I have had no issues whatsoever accessing the various systems from a Webcamed laptop with Mint Linux (needed Zoom quickly, it was the easiest solution).

            Perhaps the moat is drying out?

            Best of luck all.

      3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

        Get another HDD or SSD to fit the laptop. Remove the Windows drive, install the new drive. Install your preferred version of Linux, and test away.

        If it works, great! If it doesn't, reverse the process, and the laptop is back to the way it was before the experiment.

        Of course, if you've got a non-removeable drive, you're pretty much screwed.

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

          Just use Macrium Relflect and image it onto a USB drive. It is free for the basic edition and is perfect for these sort of situations. No screwdriver needed. Just make sure you setup the recovery environment in the GUI before you ZAP the drive,

      4. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

        No- it’s not a “home” edition. I did google for the deleting files thing and found that it is indeed a “thing”. There is a setting to disable it which, of course, I toggled. It reduced the frequency of the deletions but they still happen.

        It’s just a bone-headed “feature”. Why would anyone want it to do this??

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

          This is strange... where exactly were these files being deleted stored in the file system? A temporary directory or a "synchronised" OneDrive directory of some form?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

            > where exactly were these files being deleted stored in the file system?

            I note that care is necessary with Disk Cleanup as using it after a Win 20H2 update, the option to empty the Downloads folder was ticked.

            Win10 1709 Storage Sense default behaviour is described here:

            https://www.easeus.com/data-recovery-solution/automatically-delete-temp-files.html

            "The option, when turned on (turned off by default), automatically deletes unchanged files and temp files from the Downloads folder or Recycle Bin after 30 days."

            The treatment of the Downloads folder as a temporary folder has probably caught many by surprise. However, you can turn this off, so Storage Sense is restricted to temp and OneDrive folders.

            1. Fred Goldstein

              Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

              Even with Storage Sense turned off, it appears to sometimes delete files from the %temp% directory, a place that many applications use. With it on, it pretty much wipes that directory, breaking lots of applications. But then MS still thinks a PC is a game machine that rune one or two applications at a time, a glorified DOS, and why would you still have an application running after you go to bed, when it wants to reboot gratuitously in order to break more things?

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

                >Even with Storage Sense turned off, it appears to sometimes delete files from the %temp% directory, a place that many applications use. With it on, it pretty much wipes that directory, breaking lots of applications.

                I think we've been here before (Windows 95?) with application developers treating the %temp% folder as a permanent file store. Or are you saying Windows 10 overrides file locks from active applications?

                1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                  Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

                  The OS isn't going to unlock a file, however closing an application, for any reason, will remove a file lock.

                  %temp% is jus that - it's there for temporary files and the OS/developer notes make this clear. If you want to keep something for a reasonable amount of time, don't keep it in a file location for transitory use. Transitory use is, of course, dependent on "how long is transient" and previously this has been down to the application developer. A competent application developer will try to ensure that all temporary files created by their application are deleted either when existing the application or are deleted later. Usually when working with "deleted later" temporary files this means creating a sub-directory specific to the application and this makes management of them easier... i.e. just delete all the buggers, or all over a certain date.

                  Unfortunately not all applications are written by competent developers, or even developers who are aware that these files are not "automagically" deleted at some point later. As a result the number of temporary files tends to grow until the limit to the number of files in a single directory is hit (slowed down somewhat by using sub-directories) or the OS or some other application does a clean up on them.

                  There are clearly defined file paths for the storage of non-transitory data and the API to ask the OS where to store them has been around for at least the last couple of decades. Hardly new stuff...

                  1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                    Re: Unfortunately not all applications are written by competent developers

                    I've encountered pc's with Gb of crap in %temp% (usually in sub-directories).

                    I hope none of these developers are dog-owners, or live near me.

                  2. Terry 6 Silver badge

                    Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

                    The problem is that some developers, including Microsoft itself, actually dump essential installation files in a temp folder.

                    So that sometime down the line, if you've not unreasonably emptied the very oldest files out of a space hogging temp folder, when you ask a Microsoft installer .msi to add in a component that you'd previously not installed it will throw up a message demanding you tell it where to find a strangely named file that is nowhere to be found on your hdd. Because it was in a f***** temp folder!!!

          2. Rich 2 Silver badge

            Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

            In a temp directory under my home directory - can’t remember the part of top of my head - might have been in …/appdata/… somewhere

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Efficiency?? Ha ha ha ha….

          So you're an IT guy? And you failed to read the instructions on a product? And your data got wiped? Not clever is it?

  5. Someone Else Silver badge

    Another critic wailed: "I am truly at a loss for words as to why this seemed like a good idea to your development team."

    One should not necessarily blame the devs. Micros~1 is, has been, and will forever be first and foremost a marketing company, with technical expertise being a distant second (third?) on the list. More likely, this was the result of some freshly-minted mid-level Millennial marketing exec who (desparately) wishes to make their mark on the C-suite with a new "branding initiative".

    The devs probably just threw up their hands in disgust and said, "Yeah, whatever" (after mumbling something decidedly NSFW under their breath).

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      If you don't make a mark you have job prospects when you bail later. Shareholders don't care as long as money rolls in, and Microsoft has a practical monopoly, so the money won't stop rolling. C-levels and shareholders are the only things that provoke change in any company given a long enough timespan, and nobody seems keen to spend money elsewhere to force their hand. We can all complain but it's like pissing in the ocean, there's nothing to be done.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because no dev has ever gone out on a turkey chase before. And been promoted for turkey bacon.

  6. HammerOn1024

    Well... there's always...

    In no particular order:

    1) FreeOffice

    2) LibreOffice

    3) Open365

    4) WPS Office

    5) Feng Office

    6) Calligra Suite

    7) OnlyOffice

    8) Apache OpenOffice (I know... meh...)

    9) SoftMaker FreeOffice

    Each can import and export Microsoft stuff.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Well... there's always...

      Emacs, vi, LaTex

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Well... there's always...

        The suits can't even properly comment inline in an email in plain text and remove irrelevant junk. And you expect them to be able to type properly in a real editor and actually typeset something?

        I'd love to be proven wrong, but I will not hold my breath. [My coat stayed on the whole time. It is cold both inside and outside. I'll see myself out.]

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: Well... there's always...

          There used to be a time when the suits did not have to do this stuff.... and from experience I really know the value of a good assistant / secretary (whatever it is called), one that actually knows how to type, how to properly write a coherent document, who can write rather nasty mails / letters, but nicely formulated and polite and everything, who knows enough about the subject to spot mistakes...

          One of my former bosses had such a PA (I think they are called). Brilliant person (yeah, the boss was ok as well). I totally would like having such a person in my group (even if I am not the boss-person), the boss makes the big decisions (they are paid for dealing with certain crap), has to make some of the not-so-nice phone calls (sometimes it helps to let the bosses fight it out on their level), and the rest of the above-my-paygrade stuff is handled swiftly and seemingly effortlessly by the PA. They are also usually more organised than the $(boss-person).

          1. fajensen Silver badge

            Re: Well... there's always...

            At former place of work, they got rid of the PA's because it was deemed more efficient that we did our own travel booking et. cetera (Of course what they really wanted, was to was bilk the customers for the travel booking time and the et. cetera time, by having the developers use the development time on it).

            Thus, the task of "find and book a hotel room within public transport of the conference venue" that the PA would complete in maybe 45 minutes, became a 1-2 days internet trek!

            Then they created the "Central Travel Booking"-system, where all flights and all hotels are "Restricted", so booking a travel becomes 45 minutes of work on a poky website, then 1-2 days delay getting the boss to unlock the "Restricted" intinery, then re-book at a higher price point because the reservations expired.

            Now, that I am older, I actually don't give a shit. It is not my money I am wasting and I get paid either way.

            1. Korev Silver badge

              Re: Well... there's always...

              My favourite bollocks policy was "Flights must be confirmed by your one over one manager by 1600 UK time or the flight will be cancelled". My boss' boss was in America and consequently if the first thing that he did wasn't approve our flights then they got cancelled... I'm pretty sure that my employer still had to pay the fees to the travel company though...

            2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Well... there's always...

              Now, that I am older, I actually don't give a shit. It is not my money I am wasting and I get paid either way.

              Truer words were never spoken [typed]. Have an upvote and a [virtual] beverage.

      2. yoganmahew

        Re: Well... there's always...

        EDLIN!

        Patch in the ascii!

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: EDLIN!

          My favourite was the Text Editor bundled with WordPerfect Office (modestly called ED). It could cope with files bigger than available RAM. One of its many nice features was the ability to include CR/LF's in the search string (it used the Reveal Codes concept), and it had various Macro facilities too.

      3. keithpeter Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Well... there's always...

        troff (with eqn pic tbl and chem)... or just

        echo "words" > file.ps?

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Well... there's always...

      Open365 appears to be dead now.

      There is the option of using Collabora alongside NextCloud.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well... there's always...

      Yeah, some people love to whinge at everything. There's always alternative products.

  7. ITMA

    Another Microsoft screw up

    Shudders when one thinks back to the horror of "Focused inbox".

    Another crap feature foisted on users - not needed and definitey not wanted.

  8. Terry 6 Silver badge

    The Microsoft way

    Another critic wailed: "I am truly at a loss for words as to why this seemed like a good idea to your development team."

    Which is what they do. It seems like it's hard wired into them now. If something works fine and is used by lots of people very effectively they'll brainstorm ways to make it less functional, and then remove residual functionality from that. It's that which gave us the "Ribbon", which not only makes it less obvious to find what you need, but then removes the option to modify the set menus to switch function between menus or hide away menus/functions not needed.

    Or the accursed "Charms" which were designed to be undetectable until you didn't want them, when they'd suddenly pop up like an evil genie.

    Or the Start menu that now prevents you grouping programmes according to function, so if you can't remember the name of that useful little graphics utility(say) you'll have to scroll down your entire list of software and hope the publisher gave it a sensible name (which so often they don't - I love Irfanview, but if you didn't know what it was called you'd never find it).

    Or the Outlook.com Android app that always starts in one day mode with no option to change the defaultt and won't let you set repeating events for >1 year (as in,say, a renewal). Or the Onenote Android app that always starts with a (long) recent notes page, rather than a list of the different sections and again gives no option to change the default if you don't often go back to the same note very soon.

    And so on and so on.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: The Microsoft way

      It's that fucking telemetry feedback feature. A few years ago the MS Office team used focus groups of complete novices, watched them struggle to carry out the simplest of simple tasks and then strived to make those simple tasks ever simpler; and experienced users just got to suck-up the collateral damage.

      Then they introduced feedback telemetry so now they know which features users use most. And instead of leaving those most used features well alone and asking themselves why other features aren't being used, they instead do their best to 'improve' the stuff that people are using.

      Result: they have the ability to zoom in on a useful feature like a guided missile and do approximately the same amount of damage.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: The Microsoft way

        >Result: they have the ability to zoom in on a useful feature like a guided missile and do approximately the same amount of damage.

        You missed the collateral damage: They are also able to see the features that are being used the least and nuc them; failing to appreciate that these features were useful to those who were actually using the application for it's original intended purpose...

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: The Microsoft way

          The thing is that a lot of people probably use some of the less used features, just not necessarily the same ones. And that's probably why people use MS Office and not some of the more light-weight alternatives.

          For me, it is linking json and xml data sources to Excel spreadsheets.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: The Microsoft way

      Or the Start menu that now prevents you grouping programmes according to function, so if you can't remember the name of that useful little graphics utility(say) you'll have to scroll down your entire list of software and hope the publisher gave it a sensible name (which so often they don't - I love Irfanview, but if you didn't know what it was called you'd never find it).

      In the case of Irfanview, knowing the name of the publisher (Irfan Skiljan) makes it a pretty sensible name ;)

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: The Microsoft way

        knowing the name of the publisher (Irfan Skiljan)

        A pretty irrelevant comment imao - except in as much as actually making my point for me. If you don't remember the name of a programme you don't often use there's little chance you'd know who made or published it. So software that sticks itself in the Start menu in a little folder named according to the publisher's own name is pretty much hidden from view. Why they think that you'd remember who they are when looking for their software is another question. AOMEI may think their name is on the tip of every one's tongue. But it's much easier to find their software if it's filed under "P" or in a folder called, say "utilities"* than in one called AOMEI. And since ther's begins with an A it's one of the most easily located.

        I remember Irfanview because I like and use it quite a lot - so I vaguely remember that it was named for Irfan ( if not the rest of his name).

        *I do know how to work round this issue. Easiest way is to right click on a programme name (not a folder) choose file location then navigate up the levels - only complicated by their being two locations you might end up in and sometimes you may want to swap a link between the "all user" and specific user list location. I also have desktop shortcuts to said locations, particularly useful for that purpose.

  9. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    There are many professional comment haters out there...

    David Coleman for instance.

    Remember him?

  10. Muskiier

    The best product doesn't always win

    Every time I fight/use Word I long for WordPerfect with Reveal Codes on. If Word were not bundled with Office (Excel) I don't think it would be anyone's choice.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: WordPerfect with Reveal Codes on

      Yep, I provide support for a husband and wife that still use it. The "support" is not so much for WordPerfect these days, which is a breeze to use, more for things like rogue emails and the like. Husband has a few books to his name (indexing of which was done by him, using WordPerfect), wife has awards for television scripts she's produced.

    2. ACZ

      Re: The best product doesn't always win

      Ahhh..... WordPerfect 6.1 - it was absolutely magical. Reveal codes to show what was going on under the hood, a couple of minutes spent deleting unwanted bits and pieces, and job done - perfect. Small docs as well, which was helpful back when a 1GB drive was expensive.

      Oh... and the document indexer was great as well - we had a structured file system for all our documents/correspondence, and the indexer ran every night. Ended up with a searchable index of >100,000 docs and it only took a second or two to find what you wanted. Not bad for the 90's :)

      1. Reg Reader 1

        Re: The best product doesn't always win

        wordperfect, paradox and, quattro pro were wonderful in the mid-90s, better than Microsoft's office tools by a long shot. I haven't used them since, sadly.

    3. ITMA

      Re: The best product doesn't always win

      In my (longer than I care to state) experience, I've had to use (more had inflicted upon me) far, far worse.

      WordPerfect for one - I absolutely loathed that software.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: WordPerfect for one - I absolutely loathed that software.

        I had a boss that insisted I use WordStar. Whereas with WordPerfect the key combinations to do various operations made some sort of sense, WordStar was totally irrational.

        https://www.wordstar.org/index.php/wsemu-documentation/wsemu-commands-and-menus/1-wordstar-emulator-full-version-command-list

  11. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Angel

    This is Google Docs comments

    I am truly at a loss for words as to why this seemed like a good idea to your development team.

    All these features are essentially the way comments work on Google Docs. That was likely the reason for introducing them... Whether this was a good idea or not, that's a different matter.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: This is Google Docs comments

      And I bet the users of that don't have the problems that the MS users have.

      MS have fucked up by pushing this out instead of letting people opt in, but the fact that Google docs uses this style of comments without raising a pitchfork wielding mob makes it clear that it's not what they've done that's the problem, it's how they've done it.

      This is why you should be more concerned about Google. They get away with this shit all the time.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: This is Google Docs comments

        "MS have fucked up by pushing this out instead of letting people opt in, but the fact that Google docs uses this style of comments without raising a pitchfork wielding mob makes it clear that it's not what they've done that's the problem, it's how they've done it."

        Alternatively, it makes it clear that people choose to use Word specifically because it doesn't work the way Google docs does, and they get upset when that choice is suddenly taken away from them. Not everyone wants social media-style alway-online instant-sharing collaborative editing. Sometimes, that can be useful. For a local sports club event, for example, being able to send out a link to a single document where everyone can fill in attendance details, kit needed, number of people who can fit in their car, and other handy information can be quite useful. When I'm writing a scientific paper, the entire point is to have a static document sent out, then a number of people independently and anonymously comment on it and then send their version back via a third party. In that case, having a shared online document updated in real time with notifications sent out to everyone isn't just annoying or inefficient, it fundamentally breaks the entire process.

        So no, it's not simply how they've done it. Sometimes there are good reasons for preferring one way of doing things over another. It might simply mean a lot of unnecessary work to change processes, but it might simply be entirely incompatible with some kinds of work. The "how", in pushing it out with no warning or opt-out, certainly doesn't help. But for some people it's very much the "what" that is the problem.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is Google Docs comments

          This is crazy talk. At least 99% of use of Word I've seen has been because there is no known alternative to the user. Show them Confluence and train them and it's like a lightbulb going off in their heads. So many restrictions lifted.

          And that's Confluence - not exactly the pinnacle of usability.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is Google Docs comments

            Am I allowed to say that I quite like Confluence? As wiki systems go, I find it pretty user-friendly, and I like that it has toolbars and menus for newbies, but also lets you type in wiki markup if you're a keyboard junkie, which makes typing and editing so much quicker.

      2. ITMA

        Re: This is Google Docs comments

        "MS have fucked up by pushing this out instead of letting people opt in"

        Microsoft have form doing this. The reason I was given with the great "Focussed Inbox debacle" was to "encourage" users to try it.

        The real reason, I firmly believe, is this - they are shit scared that if they made them "opt in", rather than force them on users (by rolling them out switched "ON") they would see the truth. Which is most of the "improvements" they laboured over developing are utter shite that nobody asked for and nobody wants.

        "Focussed Inbox" was a bit of a rude awakening when the backlash of "how the F**K do I turn this F*****G poxy thing off and get all my emails back?" came.

        On a par with their botched attempt at forcing users PCs to upgrade to Windows 10 whether they wanted it to or not. Not everyone's "estate" is of a size to justify WSUS and Gibson Researche's Never10 was a real Godsend.

  12. fajensen Silver badge

    Microsoft has a new "modern commenting experience"

    When something is branded as an "experience" it is never going to be good!

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      re: When something is branded as an "experience" it is never going to be good!

      Guess that explains Jimi Hendrix.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: re: When something is branded as an "experience" it is never going to be good!

        In rebuttal, I offer this:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKAwPA14Ni4

        The man was a genius, and taken from us too soon.

    2. roytrubshaw
      Linux

      "When something is branded as an "experience" it is never going to be good!"

      I think it's the word "modern" that is the red flag.

      No doubt there are a lot of Jimi Hendrix fans that will contradict your use of "experience" for that purpose!

  13. Elledan Silver badge

    Change for the sake of change

    Whereas up till Windows 7 rolled around, Windows' UI seemed rather consistent and following a 'lessons learned' evolutionary path, Windows 8 was probably the point where MSFT's management got a taste of 'revolution' over 'evolution', and figured that they could take the industry by storm, just like Apple. Thus we got Modern UI ('Metro'), 'touch everywhere' Windows 8 without start button, the flat, dystopian nightmare that's Windows 8 with zero regards to or lessons learned from decades of Windows UIs and its literally half-aborted 'Settings' 'App'. Because everything is an App now, fellow kids~

    The development of end-user software should first and foremost be driven by what those end-users want and need.MSFT can then take this feedback and incorporate it into their next release, maybe along with a couple of original ideas of their own. Whatever doesn't work out (hi Clippy) then gets tossed the next release cycle. Lather, rinse, keep end-users happy.

    I was happy to move from Windows version to Windows version. Win98 SE over Win95? Win2k over Win98 SE? Heck yes. WinXP improved a lot of UI stuff over Win2k, and Win7 (we don't talk about Vista) improved on that again, to provide a user experience that's based on the culminated experience of decades.

    But it seems that MSFT is increasingly less interested in such a development path. They want to surprise the world, apparently, just like their secret love: Apple. The same Apple who can apparently not do anything wrong. Put a charging point on the wrong part of a mouse? Call it innovation! And yet Apple's MacOS doesn't stray that far away from its MacOS <9 roots, back in the PowerPC days and before.

    Perhaps ironically it appears that while Apple appears revolutionary, they're actually quite evolutionary, without major disruptions, and easing things over in a transparent manner when disruption is inevitable. Meanwhile MSFT has shifted from that same model to one that is happy to alienate customers with every new release and increasing patch level.

    This is not how you build a sustainable business, MSFT. Just FYI.

    1. Snapper

      Re: Change for the sake of change

      Microsoft were damn lucky to start when they did.

      They were able to create a virtual monopoly by fair means and a lot of foul. If they came out with the type of crap 'improvements' that they have done but with serious competition they'd have gone to the wall decades ago.

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Change for the sake of change

      Perhaps ironically it appears that while Apple appears revolutionary, they're actually quite evolutionary, without major disruptions, and easing things over in a transparent manner when disruption is inevitable. Meanwhile MSFT has shifted from that same model to one that is happy to alienate customers with every new release and increasing patch level.

      On the other hand you can still run a lot of twenty year old 32bit software today on your PC; good luck running OS9 or PPC software on your Mac...

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Change for the sake of change

        >On the other hand you can still run a lot of twenty year old 32bit software today on your PC

        Provided you can get the installer to work...

  14. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Still exasperating

    They add a load of new 'features' to much uproar but still don't provide simple and obvious new functionality. For example I can't make a selection at one point in a document; make a second selection at a later point further down; and then apply a single comment that is linked to both e.g. "what you say here doesn't match what you said earlier" or similar.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is this news?

    Removing usability has been pretyy much a standard for anything that Microsoft touches (Visio, anyone?) Ribbon?) so it only stands to reason that they'd apply it to their own software.

    The real question is why it took this long.

  16. RegGuy1 Silver badge

    Then don't use Word

    I have never understood why you need to use Word. There are so many other free word processors out there, why Word?

    Always save your docs in the open standard, a format that even Microsoft's software understands. Or is it that some people are just too thick? 'Well, my customer sent me the doc in Word format, so I HAVE to send it back in that format,' sort of morons.

    If you all suck up to Microsoft then I have no sympathy. Bleat on.

  17. Rol Silver badge

    More power to your fingers..presumably the middle one more so.

    "Good morning colleagues. I'd like to introduce you to George Salter and Co's engineer. He will be visiting each of your work stations and implementing the latest update to their typewriters. Please afford him every courtesy."

    "Upgrade?"

    "Oh yes. The time wasted when typing the "U" after the "Q" can be saved by making the "Q" into "QU", and thus we all gain"

    "Excuse me sir, but I am the foreign correspondent covering Iraq. And I foresee a problem"

    "No worries, we have already thought of that and Iraq will hence forward be known as Irak. Delegates from George Salter are already hard at work implementing this change across the globe, and it would be unwise to doubt the efficacy of modernization"

  18. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    I don't work in Publishing, and nor do I use the comment feature on Word (much).

    But I think this is a bad idea. Specifically the Notifications. If I submit a document for comment, I don't generally need to know every time someone comments on it. As long as I get notified when they have finished, I can check the comments myself.

    In fact, I think this whole notifications idea needs re-evaluating across the whole of Office 365.

    I am currently working mostly remotely. As a result, and due to the nature of my job, I have to work on Multiple devices, and use Teams on most of them. Until I found out how to disable them, I was being flooded with notifications. That annoyed me. After all, I can get dozens of notifications each day, a large selection having little to do with me. Multiply that by the number of devices used, and I could get hundreds of notifcations. To make things worse, on a Mac at least, I frequently got notifications even though I was running the app, and actually doing something in it.

    I've disabled notifications everywhere I can. The fact I could do that was not immediately obvious, due to the less than logical UI used by Teams.

    Although I don't like them myself, I don't object to notifications as such. They can be handy, but I think the default should be to ask each user *if* they want them , rather than assume they do.

    Admittedly, I am not familiar with the Office 365 admin console, so the notifications defaulting to on may be something decided by my company's system admins, and I could be unfairly blaming Microsoft..

  19. Kev99

    Once more some half-wit pimple popper coder decided to show off to his/her boss by writing some wobble code that serves absolutely no purpose. Sound like most MSOffice upgrades, actually.

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    Oh Microsoft!

    Don't ever change Microsoft! Your never ending bollocks is almost charming after ALL THESE DECADES.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this functionality

    All these users with almost zero knowledge of how to use said technology

    It was ever thus.

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