Seriously, who runs Microsoft’s Usability Lab?

Check out the Preferences Pane for the four Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage). They all look different and behave differently.

Shouldn’t programs in the same office suite at least look alike?

While setting up the latest Microsoft Office suite on a friend’s Mac, I needed to set all applications to save to Office’s previous file format by default – for better compatibility with clients who might not have upgraded to Redmond’s latest.

Check out these images of the Preferences pane for each Office app and where the file format compatibility settings are stored:

Microsoft Word:

In Microsoft Word, the Preferences Pane looks a lot like Apple’s System Preferences Pane and you select the default format you want to save files to on the “Save” tab under the “Output and Sharing” section. Looking good so far.

The Microsoft Word Preferences Pane
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Microsoft Word Preferences : Output and Sharing : Save Pane
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Microsoft Excel:

Excel’s Preferences Pane also look a lot like Apple’s System Preferences, but now the “Save” tab rests within the “Sharing and Privacy” section. Worst of all, you select the default format you want to save files to on the “Compatibility” tab. Word also has a “Compatibility” tab, but it does different stuff.

The Microsoft Excel Preferences Pane
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Microsoft Excel Preferences : Sharing and Privacy : Compatibility Pane
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Microsoft PowerPoint:

Powerpoint has a completely different Preferences Pane, with all tabs displayed at the top like a toolbar. It also has a “Compatibility” tab, but you select the default file save format on the “Save” tab.

Microsoft PowerPoint Preferences : Save Pane
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Microsoft Entourage:

Entourage is so different from the rest of the Office suite that it doesn’t surprise me to see a totally different Preferences Pane. There’s no need to set compatibility options here, but take a look at it anyway.

The Microsoft Entourage Preferences Pane
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For comparison, here’s Apple’s iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote):

The Apple Pages Preferences Pane
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The Apple Numbers Preferences Pane:
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The Apple Keynote Preferences Pane
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They could still look better, and more like Apple’s OSX System Preferences Pane, but at least they all look alike.