Why CS/CE people hate Microsoft Office 365

NOTE: this article was written mid 2016.

A few years ago, I got a new job, and they used Google (docs, gmail, everything)… and it was wonderful. Sure, being someone who has always used OSS mail tools, office suite, etc, it was an odd feeling at first. Akin to using a new tool or riding a Vespa when you are used to “everything else”, you felt slightly out of place, but it quickly fades into the background as you learn where the controls are, and why the designers put them there. It just makes sense. Microsoft Office 365, on the other hand, is designed to slow you down, to give you no productivity, in short, it makes no damn sense

Let me elaborate by use of example. I have an event on MWF (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Several in fact. They will repeat for a number of months. They will always be there, at the same time. Hey, it would be a great idea if they were on my calendar, so that it is clear that I am not in the office, I am at this meeting.

Assume we are on a corporate network with corporate login IDs (in both cases, I am)

To accomplish this in google calendar one would perform the following actions:


Open your browser and go to mail.myjob.com (or whatever your network admin linked to gmail)

Login to google with your email address (myuserid, note this small detail for later)

Click the waffle icon

Click calendar, note in a genius move, this opens in a new tab so that you still have access to email.

Click "Create"

Type a name in the event box

Change the meeting time if needed

Now, we want this to repeat every MWF for a few months.

Note the "to" field, change the date to be the calendar day that you want the last meeting to be on.

(and here is the "of course this makes sense part"):

Click repeat

Check off M W F, click "done"

Add a description if needed

Change the event color and notification time if needed

Click save

Hey, we just created a calendar event, and it is repeats every MWF. Great. This makes sense.

Let us perform the same operation on Microsoft Office 365 online calendar.


Open your browser and go to mail.myjob.com (or whatever your network admin linked to Microsoft Office 365)

Login to Office 365 with your email address (myuserid@myjob.com, WhyTF am I typing the domain again!?!)

Click the waffle icon

Hover over the Calendar icon

Click the ... and click open in new tab. NOTE, if you don't do this, calendar will open in your current window/tab, eating your email window/tab. Why does that make sense!?!

Click "New", note the down arrow will allow you to create a new email... most likely because you just destroyed your email window opening the calendar :O

Click "Calendar Event"

Add a title

In start, change the start time

In end, change the end time

(this may seem petty, but this is faster in google calendar, as they compress the fields for this to be right under your event title)

Now, we want this to repeat every MWF for a few months.

(and here is the "why is this over-complicated part")

Click the down arrow on the drop box under "Repeat". Let's say today is the 29th and it is Sunday, you will be greeted with the following options (even though you set the calendar start day to Monday the 30th):

never
every day
every Sunday
every workday
day 29 of every month
every last Sunday
every January 29
Other

Ok, clearly none of those work, lets choose "Other"

You are greeted with a popup box which contains the following:

A drop down box: Select repeat pattern

Which contains:
occurs:
daily
weekly
the same day each month
the same week each month
the same day each year
the same week each year

Under which is a box with the numeral 1 in it which says:
Every [1] weeks on

Next to which are check-boxes:
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

all of which are checked.

So… instead of putting in a date for the end date, let us assume (perhaps incorrectly) that Microsoft is telling us that we have to calculate the number of weeks want the repetition to take place (by, I don’t know, breaking out a calendar, since this pop-up box is covering the damn calendar that I was looking at)…

But wait! There’s more! If we assume we need to type in the number of weeks and enter it, we would be wrong.


Ensuring MWF are the only boxes checked, we hit "save" and return to the calendar

We then note that there is a “From” and “To” date box under the repeat box that we did not see before. Hrmmmm, which one takes precedence? We are only left guessing and to perform some test cases.


We hit save and it does indeed work, however, we are still left slightly confused.

If there is a start-end time, then why ask us “repeat every [n] weeks?” Just to have multiple choices? To have an “Every other week” type selection? (this is a simple process in Google). The process in Office 365 is lengthy and time consuming compared to the google process, which is considerably more straightforward. Asking a few cohorts has garnered the same results (this is overly complex).

Crazy caveats:


When editing the times on the first page for creating an event, If you click the down arrow and set the start time to say 3:00 PM, when you click in the end time to edit it, if you do not enter say 4:30 PM and hit enter, it will change your time to be 4:00 PM (at least on my system).

e.g. not entering the time in XX:XX AM/PM causes it to just go to a one hour default. Odd

For a split second, I was not able to change the color… then it hit me.


Colors in Office 365 calendar are called Categories.

That makes so much sense. Like, I want to change this even to red. Nope, it is not the color red, it is the category red. Of course.

As an aside, this is the tip of the iceberg for Office 365 woes. Using Office 365 on Mac/Linux is the worst kind of pain. A few examples:

Not supported under Chrome. At all. Chrome on Linux will hang and timeout. A LOT.

Some features of editing files online in Office 365 in Word on Mac will make it impossible to remove the formatting under Office 365 in Word (or just word) on Windows 10. Things like highlighting paragraphs with background fill colors (which my cohorts have a tendency to do with the mac) will not go away under the same system on windows 10. You end up copy/delete/paste no formatting the text. Try that a few hundred times after googling a solution for an hour only to have the internet say “yeah, that does not work”. It is a productivity waster.

Getting off the soap box for a moment, after one uses Google and then MS (or vice versa), you can see how one was developed by software developers thinking of how they would use the system and what is necessary and optimal in terms of things like number of clicks needed to perform an operation, or useless menu items. This goes across the entire office suite.

To be fair, I was forced to teach a class on Microsoft Office 365, and decided to be open minded and just learn it. After hearing the innumerable (but justified) complaints of my students about incompatibilities, ridiculous menu locations, crazy things (I am an old school unix hack) like not being able to copy a file while office is running (what?), etc, I feel I am not alone in my disdain office 365. Of course, we will assume that if you stay entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem you may not encounter all of these issues but the environment I was working in was mixed mode at the least.

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