Microsoft Office 97 2000 2003 2007 – Not so happy family.

I was involved, no enthralled, no actually pushed in the deep end, trying to get our company email signature right. I’m old school, so I’ve been resisting the urge to stick a picture in there, because it makes the signature big, many people’s email won’t load it, and there’s so many formatting issues it’ s just not worth the hassle – but eventually the push by management became too big to ignore.

In our company there are over 200 workstations and sure, they all run Windows XP, but we have all sorts of flavours of Microsoft Office. You see, they buy a license for one version, and then when the upgrade comes they buy additionals for the next, and so on, and now we have percentages using Office 97, Office 2000, Office 2003 and most recently, Office 2007.

The only consistency amongst them so far as a) inserting the email signature and b) how the email signature actually displays, is between 2000 and 2003. The good people at Microsoft didn’t deem it necessary to make major changes to this function between these two versions. But the changes between 97 and 2000, and 2003 and 2007 are significant.

Day before yesterday the grahic for our signature was done and I set out to put it together. Our IT guys have just about finished installing a shipment of brand new Dell computers that arrived a month ago, replacing the last of the relics. Relics, I’m not joking. The poor people in the Marketing Communications office only now got rid of the two Windows 95 (Ninety-Five!!) and 2 Windows 98 (!!) workstations that has been there since the Resort was new more than a decade ago.

I foolishly assumed that because of the new workstations and fresh installs of Windows XP (we bought it with Vista but downgraded en mass), that everyone would be running Office 2007. What a pleasure, I thought, because in just 11 steps, I could make an idiot-proof howto to copy and paste the email signature (even though it just involved highlight, copy, paste, I still needed 11 – sigh – in hindsight, I needed many more than that) – and those 11 steps didn’t even cover all the stuff I didn’t know.

When I mass emailed the entire organisation with the howto however, the email replies came and the phone started ringing. Despite my easy to follow, supposedly idiot-proof howto, people still just blindly copied and pasted as per the Office 2007 instructions. Turns out that even though we run Office 2007, our Exchange Sever is still 2003 and the two versions don’t like each other, sometimes refusing to co-operate. Thus, because of the understaffed IT department who doesn’t care much for trouble shooting for too long, or perhaps just because Microsoft is on various records as being inconsistent, the ones who gave problems were simply downgraded to 2003 (or 2000, subject to who got lucky with which license).

And that’s how I ended up having to to draft two sets of easy to follow, supposed idiot-proof howto’s for updating your email footer in Microsoft Office 2000 & 2003 and also Office 2007. Sigh.

To get the formatting just right in 00 and 03, I had to create a web page with the image attached to an absolute path and send that as attachments, which they then had to save in the specified folder and use as a template when they create a new email *note so self, don’t use CSS for formatting, it doesn’t work. Use old style <font> tags.

The IT Department hates me, because I said in my howto refer to them, and truth is, they don’t know how either. I’m New Media, so I wash my hands when it comes to troubleshooting *evilsmirk*. And it looks like it worked only because I’ve kept our signature fairly simple – dear God, please don’t let the bosses ask me for something more complicated.

So eventually, after people started realising that reading the instructions actually work, the emails started coming back with proper signatures in place. But then something else started happening – the standard font, with the standard size and the standard formatting got personalised with funky fonts, funky colours and funky sized (human intervention here, can’t blame that one on Microsoft beyond giving them the ability to do it).

Of course, I made sure instruction number one was to follow the template, consider the corporate image and not personalise it with colours and personal slogans like “phew, survived another day”, which doesn’t exactly reflect well on the company…

But, it appears as if it was easier to ask one person nearby who maybe read the instruction how to do it and thus missing the actual instructions. I’m wondering, even if they did follow what I sent, would it work like I intended, or will we end up being 1 of about 1,020,000 on Google who says Outlook 2007 sucks?

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