10 reasons not to upgrade to Office 2007

I love Office 2007, but migration will be easier if IT knows about some legitimate concerns

Rollouts of Office 2007 are on the rise, but are there caveats you haven't considered? The folks at ConverterTechnology think so, and although I love Office 2007 and its ribbon interface, I recognize that not everyone does or has even yet made the switch from a previous version.

I can understand that. In my youth I went through extensive training at the financial services company Goldman Sachs for Office products. I became better than proficient, eventually moving into support and training. I then studied and passed my first certification in a long line of certs: the Word 97 Expert exam. Office 97 was an exciting release and filled with all sorts of new features. From that time forward, I hadn't enjoyed another Office release until 2007 came my way. In fact, I stopped upgrading after Office 2000. But lo and behold: a ribbon interface! Some have questioned its necessity. But with 1,500-plus commands to navigate, Microsoft clearly needed a better way, and the ribbon was a tremendous improvement.

[ Not sure you want to make the Office 2007 leap? Check out Office alternatives, as rated by InfoWorld Test Center. ]

But I've digressed. The folks at ConverterTechnology raise some reasonable concerns that if addressed can help enterprise admins solve any that might affect their deployments. Considering the fact that Microsoft support for Office 2000 is set to expire in July 2009, you may be actively looking at an Office 2007 upgrade for your business.

Concern No. 1: Business-critical files can be at risk. Many Office files are heavily customized using Visual Basic for Applications. Organizations need to address changes in the VBA object model for Office 2007 to prevent existing custom code from failing in business critical files.

Concern No. 2: Broken links. The new file format in Office 2007 changes the filename extension from three to four characters (.doc to .docx), which will break many existing links to existing Office files when they are converted to Office 2007 format.

Concern No. 3: Incompatible files. Exchanging files outside the enterprise may be problematic. Users can't be certain whether or not the people receiving the files are using Office 2007 or if they have downloaded a compatibility plug-in to read Office 2007 file formats. Also, in a Windows-Mac environment, Office 2008 (the Mac's version of Office 2007) does not support VBA scripts and apps, as its previous version did, so file sharing for many spreadsheets and other documents is severely limited.

Concern No. 4: Access security. Microsoft Access 2007 no longer uses Object Level Security (also known as Workgroup Security). Companies that use Object Level Security on their Access databases will need to redesign their security model to use the new features in Microsoft Access 2007.

Concern No. 5: Training issues. Users already know how to use Office 2003. The new user interface in Office 2007 will require training to reach the same level of proficiency.

Concern No. 6: Inconsistent user interface. The new ribbon feature isn't available in all Office apps. Most users prefer a consistent user interface across all Office applications.

Concern No. 7: No more Excel writing in SharePoint. Excel 2007 no longer allows users to write to lists contained in SharePoint; users can only read the lists. (With Excel 2003, users can both read and write lists in SharePoint 2007.)

Concern No. 8: Equation compatibility issues. The equation editor in Word 2007 is incompatible with Office 2003 and previous versions.

Concern No. 9: Useless DAPs. With Access 2007, it is not possible to create or modify existing Use of Data Access Pages (DAPs), as you could in Microsoft Access 2003 and earlier.

Concern No. 10: Lotus and Exchange challenges. The user interface to import files from Lotus 1-2-3/DOS and Exchange has been removed from Access 2007.

So there it is, folks. Now if you are thinking, "What?! Those are the best top 10 reasons not to upgrade? No proclamations of Office Armageddon?" then we are on the same page. There are certainly fine Office-like products on the market (such as OpenOffice and others), but if your crew prefers Office, then let them evolve with Office 2007. Whatever issues may be in your path, there are ways around all of them. At times, you may be able to find a solution from Microsoft or a third-party migration assistance company. Regardless, don't let these issues be stumbling blocks that trip you, but rather stepping stones that propel you forward.

What do you think? Is 2009 the year you upgrade, switch to OpenOffice 3.0, or simply stay put with a legacy set of Office apps?

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