I have a long-standing client who is *very* good at what he does, which is oil and gas economics. When he talks about past clients, he doesn't mention company names, he gives countries. As in, "I worked for Pakistan in the mid-70s." One day, I complained about how hot it was outside and without looking up, he said, "you don't know what hot is." I learned later he had just come back from a few months in Dubai. It was September.

This fellow doesn't have any outrageous computer needs. He uses Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and Acrobat Reader. But he's pretty specific in what these applications need to do. Especially Excel. Being an older man, he always claims that he isn't a very good example of a user because he always manages to click something that causes errors. I've always maintained that it's exactly this reason that makes him the *ideal* user. He isn't there to admire the software, he just wants it to do what he wants. Sure, he has little idiosyncracies, like pressing Ctrl+C to copy but Shift+Insert to paste but all in all, he's a very smart guy, only slightly set in his ways, and not afraid to get the latest software if it directly affects him.

He has a custom-built spreadsheet he's been using and updating for nigh on ten or fifteen years and his latest laptop came with Vista and Office 2007. The spreadsheet is over 13Mb now and it uses macros that haven't been signed. (I will listen to comments claiming it shouldn't be in Excel and nearly all will receive the same response: ClickOnce ain't got nothin' on an Excel spreadsheet when you travel eleven months out of the year.)

Forthwith are some first impressions from him:

  • Where's the File menu?
  • How do I get rid of this toolbar at the top (for presentations involving a Word document on a projector with low resolutions)?
  • I didn't get the macro security warning when I opened my spreadsheet. Do my macros still work?
  • Why the &*%$ don't my macros work anymore?
  • (In Word) This isn't Full Screen Reading in any book I've ever seen
  • (In Excel) I clicked Insert, where's the option to insert a worksheet?
  • (In Excel) How do I unhide a worksheet now that there's no Format menu?
  • What the &*%$ is with all these security messages?
  • It's funny, that *looks* like the icon to shut down the computer... 
  • Did anyone actually *use* this product before they shipped it?

The thing is, Windows XP and Office 2003 were working for him. Yes, they had minor issues and yes, we had to implement some minor workarounds but they were in exceptional situations, where we expect things not to go smoothly. Now, as he puts it, everyday things take four clicks whereas before, they took two. Perhaps it's because he's not used to the new UI paradigm but then, why does he need to do that?

In closing, a quote from the late, great Douglas Adams: "We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works."

Kyle the Upgraded

** UPDATE **
Office 2003 is currently being installed on said user's computer. A new frustration was that his computer would tend to lock up when three or more instances of his 13Mb spreadsheet were open at a time. But the last straw was when this spreadsheet started taking in the order of minutes to save. And not just a few. I'm talking at least ten.

In case you're wondering about his laptop: brand spankin' new $3000 Dell Inspiron.