Role of Word Processing
Pathe is upfront about what word processing is and the role it plays, saying: "Word processing is basic. Whenever a new computing platform emerges, one of the first applications and often the first application to appear is the word processor." Over time though, ease of use became as important, even more important in some cases, than any particular word processing feature, with consistency and compatibility with Excel and the other Office applications becoming the new customer expectation, he said.Personal productivity also had to be enhanced with collaboration and workgroup capabilities."The graphical versions of Word are almost iconic in the world of modern computer application software. In many ways I think Word helped to shape peoples expectations of what productivity applications were all about," Pathe said in an interview with Microsofts PressPass. To read more about how the launch of Vista will spur a wave of innovation, click here. "Being early supporters of the Mac did a lot to establish that sensibility in the development team, and it continued into the work on Word for Windows," he said. Asked about some of the milestones achieved along Words path to adulthood, Pathe cites tool bar buttons, print preview, background spelling and grammar checking, auto-correct and creating a table with the pencil and eraser icons as among them. Looking forward, Pathe says that along with new user interface design in Office 2007, Word will have a new menu design that makes it easy to access the most commonly used commands. "Weve also really worked on the formatting capabilities in Word 2007. We have the new Quick Styles and Document Themes that help users to quickly change the appearance of text, tables and graphics throughout the entire document, and the new SmartArt diagrams and a new charting engine that make it pretty easy to create 3D graphics, transparencies, drop shadows and other effects," he said. Microsoft is using a Web-based comic strip to try to convince consumers that the new Ribbon-based user interface found in Office 2007 is an innovation they can benefit from. Click here to read more. The new Document Inspector protects people from making information errors much the way spell check protects them from spelling errors. The inspector looks for personal information, along with tracked revisions, and alerts users to their presence. Microsoft had also spent a lot of time over the past decade working on making Word a platform for Web-based and collaborative processes. Word has been tightly integrated with SharePoint, while protections and rights have been added to the document. The program also supports HTML and HTTP, XML templates, and other Web-based protocols. "A very important development in Word and Office 2007 is the support for Open XML file formats. The specifications for these have been submitted for approval as ISO standards and will enable Word to be used in whole new ways, including the information processing scenarios you are asking about," he said. Read more here about how Microsoft has hit back at its Open XML critics. While Pathe acknowledges that "we didnt always get things right," one thing was clear: Word needed to be easier to use and the features more accessible to more people. Referring to the notorious "Clippy," which was dropped for Office XP, Pathe said "it turns out a cartoon paper clip asking if you wanted help with that letter to Mom wasnt always as welcome as we had hoped it would be." Pathe, who is retiring from Microsoft, is upbeat about the future for both Word and Office, saying that "Im reminded of the story of the closing of the U.S. Patent Office around the turn of the 19th century because there was nothing left to invent. Well, the patent office is still open and the Word team is getting ready to start work on the next version. I cant tell you what they are up to, but Im sure it is going to be great." Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.