Vista, Office and Outlook 2007 are a Nightmare

Hey, category managers in charge of IT spend. Want to make yourself a friend of the business for life? I've got a secret for you: don't rubberstamp your CIO's decision to upgrade to Vista or Office 2007. In fact, tack on a big "reject" to the request or the requisition. And don't do it to save money. Do it to save your hide.

Having spent approximately 25 of my last 40 waking hours trying to get Vista and Office 2007 to perform at the level of my previous operating system and desktop environment, I can honestly say that it's an absolute travesty that Microsoft would have released such a half-baked product, having put billions into its development. In fact, my friends, colleagues and clients will probably attest to my slower than average response rates via email recently (I simply have not had the patience or the time to write emails while the new composer catches up with my typing).

Here's a little backdrop in case the Microsoft blog readers and commenters -- yes, they actually have a group that read and try to spin negative blogs -- try to apply their marketing magic to this post. First, I'm running Vista Business and Office Professional 2007 on a brand new $2800 Dell M1210 notebook (about the fastest small notebook you can buy) with 2GB of memory and just about every upgrade. Second, I am not a gamer and my hard drive is only about 25% full (even with all of the file migrations). Third, Vista Business and Office 2007 Professional was shipped in an OEM agreement on the Dell (so in theory, Dell should have tested it as well).

The problem -- which is absolutely inexcusable -- is that Office 2007 (Outlook, specifically) crawls, even on this superfast machine. The hard-drive is also constantly in motion, slowing things down even more. I'm not alone in these observations. You can read other Office 2007 horror stories here and here. Despite a small .PST file -- I reduced mine from close to a gig to less than 150 MB -- my Intel Centrino Duo-driven notebook chugs along like a 386 trying to run an application originally written for a mainframe system. Even such tasks as composing a simple email are delayed by a few seconds before my typed words ultimately appear on the screen (and send / receives and related activities take an eternity).

As a somewhat technical person, I've followed just about every fix recommended, but still the performance is completely unacceptable, even on a machine that is at the higher end of what Vista will ever run on this year and next. As of tonight, I plan to "downgrade" back to Office 2003 and XP. I'd also like to send Redmond an invoice for my lost productivity, but alas, monopolies such as MSFT would probably laugh at such a thing.

Still, if I can discourage companies from taking the plunge based on my experience, at least I will have saved my fellow procurement and operations brethren from Vista and Office 2007 hell. If IT comes knocking -- or you have plans to integrate your ERP SRM environment with Office -- tell them to read this post before wasting a minute on Redmond's joke of a product.

Update: I followed the advice of a comment to uninstall the Cyberlink Outlook Addin and things have improved. It is now marginally acceptable (and Safe Mode flies at the old rate of Office 2003). But even now, Outlook 2007 is still not close to the performance of Outlook 2003 on a two year old machine. However, at least it is workable (with every possible feature, viewer, and the indexing turned off). When I have more time to figure out the trouble ticket with Dell next week, I'll probably end of downgrading to XP and Office 2003 just to improve the performance or I'll send back the machine under the 30 day warranty. But now at least I don't have to rely on my web mail for the rest of the week. Alas, I will now say that Outlook 2007 in Safe Mode finally gives Outlook 2003 a run for its money in the speed category. Bench test, anyone?

Jason Busch