Word 2008: Now calls its own commands ‘macros’

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft
January 30th, 2008 • 9:50 am

If you have followed the news about Microsoft Office for Mac OS X recently, you know that the new version of Office (2008) no longer includes support for Visual Basic for Applications, which is the scripting language used in Office for automating repetitive tasks or customizing the user interface with macro commands.

So you can no longer record or write macros in Word 2008. Instead, you have to use AppleScript to write scripts that go in Word 2008’s script menu.

In other words, in Word 2008 macros are gone. They have disappeared, vanished. They are no longer part of the software.

But then, what on earth is this?

A command called 'Macros…'

Why on earth is there still a command called “Macros…” in Word 2008’s “Tools” menu?

It appears that, in their infinite wisdom, Microsoft’s developers have decided that, since macros are no longer supported in Word 2008, it would be fun to use the word macro to describe something else.

And that something else is… Word’s own internal commands:

Word 2008's Macros dialog

Compare this to the same dialog in Word 2004:

Word 2004's Macros dialog

In Word 2004, the “Macros…” command in the “Tools” menu gave you access to user-created macro commands.

In Word 2008, the “Macros…” command has absolutely nothing to do with macros commands, which are gone from Office 2008 altogether. Instead, here the word macro refers to Microsoft’s own internal commands, i.e. the exact same list of commands that can also be accessed through the “Customize Toolbars and Menus…” command in the “Edit” menu and the “Customize Keyboard…” command in the “Tools” menu, although in both customization interfaces, the term used to describe these commands is… commands, and not macros.

I don’t know about you, but I find this terminological confusion utterly idiotic. For power users such as myself, who have to do all kinds of extra work because Microsoft has eliminated macros from Word 2008, this misuse of the word macro adds insult to injury.

But what about ordinary Mac users? What are they supposed to make of this? What if someone starts talking to them about macro viruses? What if they read Microsoft’s own documentation, that tells them that “Office 2008 for Mac cannot run Visual Basic macros or load add-ins that contain Visual Basic macros.” How are they supposed to square this with the persistence of a command called “Macros…” in the “Tools” menu in Word 2008?

Such terminological confusion is totally irresponsible on Microsoft’s part. Whoever came up with the brilliant idea of keeping the “Macros…” command in the “Tools” menu and using it to refer to Word’s internal commands instead deserves to be fired on the spot.

The revised “Macros…” dialog box doesn’t even serve any real purpose. Does anyone at Microsoft really think that users are going to use a small, non-resizable dialog box to go through a flat list of hundreds of commands named using a completely unfathomable set of command-naming rules, in order to find a particular command that they need and then run it?

Microsoft might claim that they take security issues seriously, but the huge blunder with the Office 2008 installer and now this utterly confusing use of the term macro tell a very different story.

In addition, if you take a look at the new “Security” preference pane in Word 2008, you’ll see this:

Security pref pane in Word 2008

Compare it to the same preference pane in Word 2004:

Security pref pane in Word 2004

Notice anything? The “Warn before opening a file that contains macros” option is gone!

Yet the text description at the bottom of the “Security” pane still clearly reads: “Set passwords and control settings for privacy and macro security” (my emphasis).

So Microsoft hasn’t even bothered to update the text description for the “Security” pane to reflect the disappearance of macro support in Word 2008 and the removal of the macro security setting in that very preference pane.

The macro security setting is obviously gone because the user no longer has the option not to get a warning before opening a file that contains macros. Even though embedded macros are now effectively harmless, the user does not have the option to simply ignore them and not get a warning about something that can no longer affect him.

Now you get a warning each and every time you open a file with macros, even though you can’t do anything with them and they are harmless:

Macro warning in Word 2008

So there we are. Word 2008 no longer supports macros, but still has a command called “Macros…“, which now refers to Word 2008’s own internal commands. And it no longer has a security preference setting for macros, even though the text description for the “Security” preference pane still refers to “macro security,” and you get a warning about macros every time you open a Word file that contains them, even though you cannot do anything with them and they can no longer harm you in any way.

Makes perfect sense.

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