The fun doesn't end with Outlook. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are all infected with what I've dubbed the Back Stage Virus. I'm referring, of course, to the new Back Stage view that pops up whenever you click the File tab in any of these applications. Instead of the drop-down menu that appears on all previous ribbonized applications (including the Windows 7 Paint and WordPad accessories), Office 2010 presents you with a dedicated, full-window pane containing a schizophrenic array of buttons, button menus, and hyperlink-like text labels.
Worse still, each of these UI conventions works in a different way. Some (Open, Save, Save As) trigger a dialog box. Others change the view inside of the Back Stage pane. And still others hide nested menus that lead to yet more buried options. Add to this the fact that your actual document is hidden from view as you hunt around for the right button or link, and it's easy to see how confusing this will be to new users. Help desk calls beginning with the phrase "where did my document go?" will no doubt become commonplace when the product ships next year.
Which brings me to my burning question of the week: Is Microsoft running out of ideas? Is it so desperate to keep the cash cow's udders full that it's resorted to simply reshuffling the Office bits every few years and calling it a new release? Based on my experiences with this and earlier builds of version 2010, I'm inclined to answer yes.
The idea well has finally run dry in Redmond. Maybe they can borrow a cup or two from their contemporaries down in Cupertino.