MS Office science stoopid

Office 2k8 is teh Suck

Originally, I was planning on writing this screed lambasting teh suck that is Office 2008. Its not that I’ve changed my mind since the idea came to me, its just that I’ve had a week to calm down. In my line of work, which is of the scientific persuasion, we deal with lots of data. In an average experiment, we’ll have around 90-100 test subjects that give us double that number in useful data points, plus metadata. Yes, metadata in meatspace. And of course, we use Excel to handle all that.

Our main template has 15 tabs to separate out all the stuff that we need to keep track of. Scientific excel sheets are a big reason why I can justify running multiple monitors. Anyway, we usually have fewer than nine categories, like so:


This usually works pretty well, even when its filled:


The graphs that these generate are usually fairly readable, but its was a real PITA for experiment #664, which had 11 categories instead of the usual nine. Adding those categories required a lot of manual editing of complex formulas that really should be called incantations. That took me a little over an hour and way too much coffee. Then when I tried to get my charts to look like this:


I was introduced to the steaming turd that is Excel 08. In order to get those last two bars to look like the others required eight edits, plus one to change the scale. That’s nine edits, per graph, of which there are four.

Not a problem, you say? Well, that’s because you’ve clearly never had to make any change in an Excel 08 graph. The problem is that Excel crashed every single time I made an edit. For the math impaired, that’s 36 crashes. Once Excel crashed, I could make my edit, but when I got to the next one, FATALITY! The real bitch of it is, I had to make the edit, then when I hit the OK button, it would crash. So I actually ended up making 72 edits, only half of which kept.

I don’t particularly enjoy wasting my time, especially on something as stupid as that. Office 04 didn’t do that, but when I downgraded from 08, it picked up the habit somewhere. I guess if I reinstall OS X, I could use Office 04 and it would work properly, but fuck that! Office 2008 is so poorly written that it can barely handle basic functionality. Office 2007 works well. So well in fact that I’ll actually boot Windows to use it. But it still doesn’t play nice with the Mac versions, and since my lab is all Mac, that’s that.

All I want is an office suite that works and works well. iWork is nice, but doesn’t (yet) do all of the stuff that I need it to. Microsoft really needs to get their shit together before someone one-ups them. Office is a bitch to use, but is still the only suite with all of the features I need. As soon as I can get my hands on a suite that meets my needs, I’ll drop Office so fast, it’ll make Ballmer’s hair grow back.

BTW, I used the full sized images to show the real scale of what I had to deal with.