Office 2004: Packaging and Installation

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 2nd, 2004 • 5:41 am

I just got my copy of Office 2004, and of course installed it as soon as I got the chance.

First of all, I have to say something about the packaging. I really don’t see the point of using all this environmentally hostile plastic. The CD is in a DVD-style plastic case, which is wrapped in a clear-plastic moulding, which in turn is inserted inside a clear plastic container that is supposed to look like some kind of tin can. I honestly don’t think the CD needs that much protection. I routinely order DVDs online from Amazon and other stores, and they come in a cardboard box with some light-weight bubble paper of some kind. I have never ever received a damaged box. This is really overkill. Fortunately, this time the package is easier to open than it was for Office X (which almost required surgery), and the clear plastic has a logo that indicates that it’s recyclable. But still…

The installation assistant is reasonably easy to use, although the list of options for a custom installation appears in an area that’s just too small, and requires too much scrolling up and down as you expand or collapse each sub-section in the list.

The first significant annoyance occurs when you launch an Office application for the first time (Word 2004 in my case, of course). For some reason, Office insists on installing all kinds of additional fonts and offers no option to by-pass the process or install the fonts in a specific library. I have my own font management structure, and this is an annoying disruption that will force me to reorganize things yet again. In addition, if you ever trash your Microsoft preferences/user settings after that, the next time you launch an Office application, it will install the fonts again, even if you haven’t trashed or moved any of the fonts it installed the first time! Pretty dumb.

The reason I know the bit about what happens after you trash your preferences and user settings is that, with Office 2004, I wanted to start with a clean slate and took pains to remove everything that was left from my Office X customizations, including my own templates and all the Microsoft preference files in my home library that I could find. Obviously, that wasn’t enough, because when I first launched Word 2004, it gleefully executed my AutoOpen macros from my existing Normal template from Office X. I don’t know how it managed to find that template just the same. But it did. I quit Word and tried trashing everything again. I also trashed all the “Microsoft User Data” crap that was in my home Documents folder, even though I didn’t see any trace of a Normal template in there. Then I relaunched Word. For some reason, that time it worked — but Word insisted on reinstalling all those fonts. Hence the note in the paragraph above.

Worse still, after this font installation process I noticed that the fonts in my currently open web pages in Safari were screwed up. Instead of the default Georgia 16 pt font that I use, I has Lucida Grande all over the place. Quitting and relaunching Safari fixed this, but still… I suppose that Safari doesn’t like people fiddling with its fonts while its running, and it’s clearly what Office 2004 does without giving you any option to avoid the process.

Starting with a clean slate also enabled me to verify that Microsoft has not changed its habit of turning all kinds of automatic settings on by default all over the place (Preferences, AutoCorrect, AutoText, etc.), which I proceeded to turn off right away. No progress on that front then.

In fact, the first impression with Word 2004 is that very little has changed. At this point, it seems that the main reason to purchase Word 2004 is to get support for long file names in Mac OS X. That puts a pretty hefty price tag on what is essential a feature that should have been provided for free in an Office X update.

More to come as I start using Word 2004 and rebuilding my customized environment, of course…

8 Responses to “Office 2004: Packaging and Installation”

  1. Warren Beck says:

    Well, even though very little has changed, Word 2004 manages to break important add-ons like EndNote and MathType. I’m not going to upgrade until the add-ons have been revised. What burns me is that there probably aren’t any useful changes in Word, yet I’m going to have to pay the third parties for the revised add-ons. What a pain. Maybe Word v.X will keep running, but I’ll bet that Tigger or whatever the next Mac OS X 10.4 version is going to be called will break Word v.X and _then_ I’ll have to upgrade. Gaak.

  2. Evan Gross says:

    I haven’t ordered my Office 2004 upgrade yet, but will be soon. From the sounds of this, and other things I’ve read, I’m getting the impression that it’s not possible to have Office v.X and 2004 installed at the same time. I hope I’m wrong, but that would be a big problem as far as testing (with Spell Catcher X) goes. And the mandatory MS font installation thing has me a bit worried as well.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Evan: I didn’t remove Office X after installing Office 2004, and I am still able to run Word X at the same time as Word 2004 is running… But of course they might both use some of the same preference files, so it might be a bit risky… Still, it definitely is not impossible to have them both installed on the same volume. Also, FYI, SCX appears to run fine in Word 2004 :).

    Warren: I am reasonably optimistic that 10.4 won’t break Office X — and in fact Office 2001 still runs fine under Classic in 10.3. As far as I am concerned, the main issue is support for long file names. Office X’s lack of support is just a major pain in the neck. I had to deal with it on a daily basis. Of course, it’s extremely irritating that Word 2004 also breaks important add-ons — especially in light of the fact that there are so few changes.

  4. George Fowler says:

    Well, there is one very important change “under the hood” which completely justifies Word 2004 for me: introduction of PC-compliant Unicode support. I run a publishing operation that makes extensive use of Central European, Cyrillic, and other foreign language character sets. We are Mac-based, and a long-standing problem has been documents we receive for copy-editing and typesetting from PC Word users. We have had to resort to very extensive and cumbersome procedures to retain character information. Now, with Word 2004, we can install the Windows TT version of Times New Roman and open the documents directly without any systematic problems. We haven’t yet experimented extensively to figure out what new problems there are going to be (our university just released Word 2004 to us on Friday), but this one thing makes the new version of Word worth thousands of dollars (US!) to us.

    I used to enjoy reading your curmudgeonly postings about Word/Office at, I believe, macfixit. Glad to have discovered your blog.

    George Fowler

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    I agree that Unicode support can be important to some people. Your situation is an obvious example. But it’s also a fairly uncommon one :). It could be argued, however, that full Unicode support is something that should have been provided to Office X users as a “Service Release” type of update.

    In any case, the fact that Unicode is still far from being ubiquitous makes this particular feature only relevant to some people, not to the vast majority of Mac Word users, I suspect.

    PS: Yup, I used to post stuff on the MacFixIt forums. Most of my writing about Word takes place here now, however.

  6. George Fowler says:

    To be fair to MS, Word X was released in the early days of OS X, when the operating system didn’t have full Unicode support. MS hacked something that approximated Unicode based on the existing OS underpinnings. Then when Apple got the Unicode thing straightened out (10.2? I have read about this but don’t recall), the MS hack broke and things got worse from our perspective. It may be that this was too extensive a hack, or too deeply rooted in the Office code, to patch it back up with a service release. I don’t know for sure.

    BTW, I spent a full day at Microsoft in early 1996 as a guest of the natural language processing group. These are the people who at that time were working on the underpinnings of what became later grammar checkers and other modules of Office. While I find these products completely useless, I can certainly attest that this is a dedicated and extremely talented group of linguists and programmers. (I’m a linguist myself, and was in grad school with some of the people in this group, which is why they invited me.) If the products are useless, I judge that this is because at the current state of the art, the things that can be implemented are simply not sophisticated enough to be useful to people who actually already know how to write. They are, however, useful for non-natives with middling English who nonetheless have to write in English.

    George Fowler

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    I agree that the initial release of Word X probably couldn’t include support for such features as Unicode and long file names. My thinking is that this support could have been added later on, in a Service Release. Microsoft obviously elected to wait until Word 2004. Why? The discussion always goes back to the apparent mess that is Word’s code. But ultimately it’s a business decision much more than it is a technical decision. There’s apparently always someone at Microsoft who decides that fixing this or that bug (no matter how much work it requires) is not a priority.

    As for the natural language processing stuff, I am like you. I find the tools completely useless. However, English is my second language, so I believe that I have some experience in learning a second language and on how useful such tools might be for “non-natives”. And I am also a trained linguist. In my opinion, even for non-natives, the usefulness of such tools is highly debatable. There are just far too many “false positives”, and the tools are simply not refined enough to reflect the flexibility of a language’s syntax, which is an essential part of the process of learning a second language.

    Whether it’s possible to develop much better tools with today’s technology — I don’t know. My suspicion is that it might be. After all, our hardware has evolved at a breathtaking pace in the past 15 years or so. Has there been a similar evolution on the software side of things? Far from it. Some things are now possible that used to be impossible (such as full screen video editing in real time) — but other things like word processing or text editing have barely evolved/improved at all. My guess is that there simply isn’t enough serious research being done in the area of automated language processing.

  8. ssp says:

    Long filenames have been supported by the Mac_OS_ (but virtually no applications, not even the Finder) since version 9 or so IIRC. There has been unicode support as well.

    These may not have been as easily accessible to programmers as they are in OSX/Cocoa these days, but Office probably doesn’t use those anyway. Applications like Apple’s WorldText or the more ‘real world’ PowerMail have worked in OS9 very well. And apparently MLTE are available in Carbon, thus potentially running on System 8.6 even.

    Perhaps things weren’t as easy or pretty back then – but at least the basic APIs have been there, giving developers the chance to pick them up before OSX. Not that many of them used the opportunity.

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