Ribbon tweaking

You can get the RibbonCustomizer add-in, either free or paid for, with free Classic UI tabs from www.pschmid.net/office2007/ribboncustomizer/index.php.

Ribbon tweaking

Outlook 2007 performance patch

When Outlook 2007 was launched, quite a few people complained about its poor performance, and most of their problems were traced to badly behaved add-ins on installations that had been upgraded from previous versions. Removing these add-ins or deleting and recreating the user’s mail profile cured most of these performance issues, but some systems remained slow. Microsoft has been researching this problem and spotted a common factor shared by all the instances: in every case, the PST or OST file holding the Outlook data had become large, more than 1GB in size. Digging down further, Microsoft’s programmers found some specific areas where performance could be improved, particularly where there were thousands or tens of thousands of messages in the same folder. They also took the opportunity to make some changes in the way Outlook data is replicated.

The resulting patch makes Outlook 2007 feel more responsive, especially when dealing with large PST or OST files, but it can improve the speed for other users too. Messages open faster and it takes less time to copy, move or delete them. In addition, items download faster from Exchange Server. Whether you think Outlook 2007 is slow on your PC or not, it’s worth downloading and installing the patch from www.pcpro.co.uk/links/154AdvOffice1. There’s also a Knowledge Base article about it at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=933493.

File format standardisation moves on

The national standards bodies invited to comment on whether the ECMA-376 standard for Office Open XML file formats (OOXML) used in Office 2007 should become an ISO standard have all lodged their responses with ISO (International Standards Organisation), and they’re very interesting to read. The 20 national standards bodies, including the British Standards Institute, have between them come up with 15 reasons for objecting to the new formats.

The top reason given for objecting to the fast-tracking of the Office Open XML file formats (put forward by 13 countries) was that the Open Document Format is already an ISO standard. The next most popular reasons (supported by nine countries each) were the length of the ECMA document, which ran to over 6,000 pages, that the Office Open XML formats don’t store dates in ISO 8601 format and that the Office Open XML formats include embedded WMF and EMF graphic objects, which are proprietary to Microsoft and don’t conform to ISO 8632 for graphics metafiles. Seven countries mentioned that the ECMA formats included a list of countries that wasn’t compliant with the ISO 639 list of country codes, and five countries were worried that Microsoft wasn’t explicitly allowing people the use of all its relevant patents, and so could in principle decide to sue people who created applications that used these ECMA file formats.

Other objections included the fact that some legacy behaviours weren’t well defined, that Appendix D of the specification was initially missing from the documents sent to national standards bodies, and that the use of percentages, colour names, paper sizes and hash functions all contradicted existing ISO standards 15445, 216 and 10118-3. Also, there were complaints that ECMA Office Open XML files aren’t “human readable” because they’re so terse, that the ECMA documentation provided wasn’t of sufficient quality, and that pending anti-trust actions against Microsoft might reflect badly on ISO if it adopted the formats.

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