Windows Vista and Office 2007: Should I Switch?

(4/27/09) updated from original 2007 article

Since Windows 7 is now coming out of beta, you should most definitely NOT upgrade to Vista. Instead, wait for Windows 7 to be released, and continue to use Windows XP Pro for one year after Windows 7 has been released, unless you have a compelling reason to change before then. As of 2009, only 6% of businesses have adopted vista, and that's mostly because they had to. In many cases, businesses have switched from Vista back to XP.

In this article we'll be covering:

  • Windows Vista
  • Office 2007
  • Windows Compatible Alternatives (for the brave of heart)
  • Windows Vista (Windows 6)

    Early benchmark testing by Tom's Hardware, and others, showed that XP far outperformed Vista on nearly all accounts, considerably in some cases (90% slower, or more). But, for games written to run using DirectX instead of OpenGL, will perform a little better with some video cards designed just for Vista, like ATI (now owned by AMD) new 512MB X1950 with AMD's new drivers. The Vista OpenGL drivers are still in the works, so OpenGL performance hasn't improved under Vista.

    There have been several reports (anatech.com, PC Word, techage) that 2GB-4GB is ideal for running Vista, but even with that memory, Vista is still slower that XP. When running Windows Vista Ultimate 64 uses 864MB of ram while not doing anything at all, except running it's windowing interface.

    In the past, there have only been two versions of Windows: Pro and Home (and before then, Windows and Windows NT Server, then just Windows and something called DOS). Microsoft has expanded this to more, Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. If you want the networking features found in business systems (important for anyone intending to connect to an office LAN), then you'll want Business or Ultimate. The problem is, very few systems ship with Ultimate owing the large price difference between Home Basic and Ultimate editions.

    The good news is, Microsoft makes it fairly easy to upgrade your operating system by going online. They even provide you with many buttons within the operating system to upgrade. To upgrade, all you need to do is have an Internet connection (you can't use Windows Vista without one, as it has to connect and re-verify it's self with Microsoft every so often), and pay for the additional license-- and then wait a long while for the missing components to be downloaded to your computer.

    The payment is directly transferred to Microsoft, and none to the seller of the original system, thus dramatically increasing Microsoft's profit margin for those wishing to upgrade. However, computer retailers accept this loss so that they can provide you with a shiny new computer at a lower perceived cost-- they can even say they include Office 2007, when, in actuality, they've included a trial version that will expire in 60 days.

    Windows Server 2008 (formally code-named Vista Enterprise), is the server version of their new OS. However, Windows servers should NEVER be connected directly to the Internet without going through a firewall (many firewalls run either BSD or Linux, such as those made by Linksys and Cisco).

    For home users with kids, there is only one reason why you would want to switch to Vista: Parental Controls. This is a new feature integrated into the new Windows operating system. It allows to control when your kids can use the computer, even if you're away from home-- you select what time they can use the computer by checking boxes on a schedule. But there are already software programs out on the market that do this.

    Vista's Parental Controls also allows you to select what game ratings your kids can play (some newer games will include a code telling Vista what they are rated). This is a very nice feature if you have children who spend too much time playing video games. But, beyond that, there is very little in Vista that is revolutionary. Vista will do a great job of making your kids very angry with Microsoft, however. Their games also won't run as fast as they did under XP.

    It is fairly easy to get around these parental controls, and gain full control over a Windows Vista system. The details of which, I won't get into, but any kid can run a Google search and figure out how to get around any parental control features put into a computer. The only real parental control you can place on the Internet is to lock the modem in a closet, and have it on a timer like those used for lights. At a certain time of day, the AC timer turns off the power to the DSL modem, thus killing the Internet connection, and not their homework assignment.This also has the advantage that it's not you turning off the modem, it's the AC timer box-- and it shuts off for everyone, no exceptions, and never any changes (except for daylight savings time).

    In short, there's no reason to go with Vista, unless you have little other choice, or unless you need Direct X 10 for some reason (and there's only one game on the market as of 2009 that does). Even though Vista has been out for nearly 3 years, people are still having numerous issues. You can still get systems with Windows XP Pro from your local PC system builder, or even with no operating system at all. While our suppliers still sell XP, we'll still offer it.

    Office 2007

    After reviewing search results related to this article, we found that many people had two main questions regarding Microsoft Office and Windows Vista: Will Office 2007 work on Windows XP? Yes it will, so long as you have SP2 or higher. Also Office 2003 will work fine on Windows Vista.

    For those that would like to know, Office 2007 will currently not install under WINE out of the box, but some people have reported successes. Either, changes in WINE or Microsoft's downloadable files have made these tricks fail, or it is my special System Builder install CDs. A specialized WINE distribution by CodeWeavers may work better, though you'll need to pay for it. CodeWeaver's also has a version for Intel-based Macs.

    Office 2007 shares a similar license to Adobe's in that you are allowed to install a second copy of Office 2007 on a mobile device. You are not, however, allowed to have Office 2007 installed on more than one partition or virtual machine at a time.

    Aside from the fact that the interface in Office 2007 is completely different than anything else before, thus requiring many hours of retraining to use, it's actually a very good and solid office suit, the best Microsoft's released thus far. The new interface also steals more valuable screen real estate than previous versions, thus reducing your visible area by around 5 lines of text, depending on your font.

    If retraining is cost prohibitive, there's always OpenOffice.org which still uses an interface much more familiar to MS Office 2003 and WordPerfect users.

    Office 2007 has changed is file format to "Office Open XML" (OOXML). What this means is that now Microsoft Office will no longer be storing it's documents in a binary format that is very difficult to read, even for Microsoft programmers (one programmer at Microsoft was quoted saying that even he didn't know Office's file format). This is because Office 97/XP/2000/2003 all were basically a dump of whatever was in memory (sometimes stuff would be included in the document that people didn't want in there, which is VERY bad if you're editing a classified document in an attempt to produce a lower security version-- the "removed" text will still be present in the saved binary).

    Microsoft has essentially rewritten the ISO standard OpenDocument format that OpenOffice.org has been using for years. Microsoft has followed suit, and now their version of Office produces XML documents in a format they have submitted to ECMA for standardization.

    There are numerous problems with OOXML "open standard," in that too much of the standard is left undefined, ensuring incompatibilities in layouts. Also, the font file format is not open, thus guaranteeing layout problems due to inconsistent font size. So, instead of using well established standards, Microsoft has chosen instead create it's own.

    The good news is that, now with OOXML being at least mostly open format, you should see it well supported in the free, and already Microsoft Office and Access compatible office suite, OpenOffice.org.

    You can read more about OOXML on Wikipeida.

    If you must use Office rather than the free OpenOffice.org, then Office 2007 is the best choice. , simply because of the new file format. But there is one thing to keep in mind: The menus in Office 2007 have been completely redone, so you will have much to relearn. The menus are now always displayed on the screen (there are no pull-down menus like before), and you have to click on tabs to access them. This new format uses up much more of your screen than before (about 3-4 times more than IE 7.0 uses for it's menu).

    There is one caveat we have about Office 2007 at this point: OEM versions of Office 2007 are "medialess" licenses. This means we must use a preinstall kit to install the software on the computer, and, unlike the operating system, you won't get a CD. Until Microsoft changes this marketing policy, we will be a little reluctant to offer Office 2007 on our systems over Office 2003 (unfortunately, now, this is no longer an option)

    Microsoft doesn't allow us to create recovery CDs to ship with our computers, so it's a little silly for them only offer a medialess license version of Office 2007 for system builders. They instead want you to use the system backup tool that comes with Vista to create your own recovery CDs. There are, of course, ways around this limitation.

    Free Windows-Compatible Alternatives to Vista

    There are a number of alternatives to Windows Vista, many of which are free, and will still run most of your Windows applications and games, like Spore, Left4Dead (and other Source Engine and Valve games), Warcraft III, AutoCad 2008, and newer Adobe software. For more information on these, see Windows Compatible Alternatives.