I hung up my teaching and manual writing skills about Microsoft products exactly four years ago. I was bored, each new Microsoft iteration merely seemed to add complexity that few users would ever need. 95% of users use 5% of the product. How many of you have ever used the TOC (Table of Contents) feature in MS Word? In the quest for world peace, I strongly suggest that you do not try this at home! A well formatted 100 page document becomes a battlefield. It becomes a war of wills. Luckily I survived a number of ‘tickets to the dance’ and lived.

My use of Microsoft Office these days is more recreational. I use MS Word to write articles. It is quite good at Spellcheck, and if you beat it with a large stick you can even train it to open a new document with a font other than Times New Roman.

Even though I have written a few books and taught a series on Excel, I essentially hate it. In my mind it does nothing that interests me. Lotus 123 was just as good. It was cheap and cheerful, and didn’t need a PhD to operate it.

Earlier this year, through a huge and unexpected piece of luck, I became the owner of a pretty ‘spanky’ Laptop. Microsoft Office was included. For several years I had relied on OpenOffice and LibreOffice, both of which to a great job, in fact in some respects they ‘whoop Microsofts ass’.

I can honestly say that I have not played with Excel 2010, but I assumed that other than the usual ‘Bloatware’ it would be easy to handle. I had a nice dataset in the format that Excel loves, rows and columns. The challenge was a simple one, a line graph, across the bottom dates, and on the vertical amounts. A simpler graph I could not think of. In fact I used to use this as an example. An apple grower sold 10 on Monday. 8 on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday…. Etc.

It was a walk in the park to get even the most computer illiterate person to achieve the end result.

But obviously Microsoft has traded the idea of simplicity to one of complexity. Problem number one is the stupid ‘Ribbon Menu’. It is next to impossible to find anything that you are looking for. Of course there is a plus to this, the dreaded TOC generator is well hidden.

After an hour of getting absolutely nowhere in my quest to produce a stupid, and pointless chart for my own use, I decided to seek wisdom from those wiser than I.

Microsoft had this useful nugget:

Microsoft Office Excel 2007 no longer provides the chart wizard. Instead, you can create a basic chart by clicking the chart type that you want on the Microsoft Office Fluent user interface Ribbon. To create a chart that displays the details that you want, you can then continue with the next steps of the following step-by-step process.

Obviously the 2010 Office has also decided that the ‘Chart Wizard’ is not needed. For hard core (both of them) users, this does not matter. For the poor secretary asked to produce a graph of last months sales by date, well that’s a different story.

For anyone needing to produce a graph in Excel, you can get the gory. long, and most definitely boring and sleep inducing instructions here.

With this kind of technical wizardry I can see the potential of a big interest in Quadruled Paper and Number 2 (HB) pencils.

Simon Barrett

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