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July 28, 2004 12:01 AM

Broken: Microsoft Word "New..." command

Word-newDave Collins writes from London:

In Microsoft Word, clicking the New... command does not give me a new document. It opens a dialog box containing a list of items (the first being existing documents - not new ones).

This gives me a mental double-take every single time, followed by a growl, followed by closing it, and then clicking the little blank document icon because that will get me what I asked for.

Why a whole dialog box just to give me a new doc? Because Word is not just for documents anymore - No! I might want a new webpage or email message. Word inserts these extra steps for the 99.9% of my tasks, in order to make the 0.1% (well, 0%) easier. Bloatware at its finest.


All you need to create a new doc without the dialog is to click the new document icon in the toolbar.

Posted by: Anand at July 28, 2004 01:32 AM

The same with Ctrl-N... but that's not the point. The command should do the same thing whether you select it from the menu, an icon, or a keyboard shortcut. Microsoft has put in inconsistencies in their attempt to dumb-down the product.

Posted by: Chris Law at July 28, 2004 08:54 AM

Yeah, he mentioned that in the article

"... followed by closing it, and then clicking the little blank document icon ..."

Posted by: ssssmemyself at July 28, 2004 08:54 AM

Sorry to be so snarky, but why are you surprised that Microsoft is bad at interface design?

(Yes, I've decided to make snarky a word)

Posted by: Patrick at July 28, 2004 09:13 AM

I think it makes much sense to me. If I go to the trouble of File and then New then that dialog is good (for me). And I aint a PHB ;).


Posted by: Chetan at July 28, 2004 09:16 AM

Snarky IS a word, meaning much the same thing as snippy.

Posted by: Paul at July 28, 2004 09:16 AM

About Microsft breaking their own UI rules:

The menu system shows items as a simple entry, or an entry with "..." following it. The "..." indicates that there is a subsequent dialog box. In this example, the entry is "New..." so it is correct UI behaviour to show a dialog box (or in this case, a side panel)

But this side panel for "New..." doesn't just show new things. In fact, the very first section is devoted to old things -- existing documents that you can open. These are the very same things that one would expect to see in the "Open..." dialog which is the menu entry immediately below "New...".

The menu system includes keyboard equivalents listed in the menu so that as you use them menus, you see the keybaord equivalents and can use them instead of going throught the menu selection process. Pressing Ctrl+N should get you "New...". But it doesn't. It gives you a new blank document instead of the side panel. So in fact, the keyboard shortcut is not an equivalent to the menu item for which it is identified.

Now Microsoft may have realized that 99.999% of the time, just really want a new blank document and thus chose to deliberately do this. But if this is the case, why would there not be a menu item to get a new blank document to satisfy the common request?

Instead, one must go through the contortions of customizing Word to add the "New Blank Document" menu itme, which surprisingly has the keyboard equivalent as Ctrl+N

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at July 28, 2004 10:01 AM

I actually preferred when Office used a real dialog box rather than that weird side-panel thing. The dialog box never confused me because it came up right in the middle of things, but the side panel always makes me do a double-take.

In my ideal design, "New" would just create a blank document, and there would be a separate option to create a new document from a template.

Posted by: codeman38 at July 28, 2004 05:56 PM

Yeah, it's kind of broken, but you can fix it.

Go to Tools -> Customize

Click the "Commands" tab

Click the "File" category

Drag the "New Blank Document" command to your file menu in the appropriate place.

Now you can select "New Blank Document"

If the "New..." really bugs you, while you have the Customize dialog open, click on the file menu, then right click on that evil little "New..." and choose "Delete"

Make sure you've added "New Blank Document" first, though, or you'll double-break Word.

Whether or not a user should have to bother with this exercise in the first place is left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted by: Mr. Nosuch at July 29, 2004 03:30 PM

The source of the problem is of course Microsoft's need to create "new features" to justify the purchase of periodic upgrades.

The last usable version of Word was 4 (four), released, as I recall 'round 1989 or so. Since then Microsoft has bolted countless over-designed "features," almost of them more-or-less ridiculously unusable, on to the Office suite of programs. The nightmare of un-usability that is the source of this thread is but one manifestation of same.

Ask yourself this: If Microsoft offered a less expensive replacement for today's most current of Word that contained only the features available in version 4 of the product, would you buy and use it? I think most of us, even most I.T. managers, would...

Posted by: S.F. Ricardo at July 29, 2004 10:54 PM

I love word97 and every one of it's features. Maybe because I use them.

Posted by: Nathan Hughes at August 10, 2004 01:43 PM

Red Hat Linux is cool. Comment?

Posted by: Nathan Hughes at August 10, 2004 01:44 PM

Word is so obviously the work of programmers who have as much in common as Oprah Winfrey and Jeffery Dahlmer. When I learn software, I learn the way the programmer thinks, more than the s/w itself. Word, to me, is what Cybil would write, if she were a programmer! It's a horrible program at best. It doesn't even have the same shortcuts as other windows apps. I develop acute torretts syndrome every time I open word...

Posted by: Duh at August 29, 2004 04:26 AM

First of all, I believe "torretts syndrome" is spelled with a "te;" second, microsoft word is fine if you use it for its original purpose: WORD PROCESSING. Think about that.

Posted by: Ilaan at September 27, 2004 08:46 AM

When i open up microsoft word 2000 it doesn't give me a totally blank document. What i mean is that when i open up a new "Blank Document" theres already words written on it. It's still called a blank document, but theres something already written on there. how do you fix that?

Posted by: Khan at October 15, 2004 03:49 PM

For Khan, you can get rid of the words in your "blank document" by opening up "" and deleting the words. You can normally find in C:\Documents and Settings\userid\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. You can also just delete (while Word is closed) to start out fresh.

Also, for the guy mentioning Word 4, I assume you mean for the Macintosh. There is/was no Word 4 for the PC. Just a useless bit of trivia...

Posted by: Tom at December 1, 2004 01:40 PM

Why do you need a New option on the menu when it is so much easier just to click the white page button?

Posted by: Anonymous at December 23, 2004 08:10 AM

Criticising individual instances of brokenness in Word is like pointing at a rubbish dump and saying "hey, that old washing machine is dented".

Honestly, I DESPAIR each time I use Word, at its hopelessly broken behaviour. THE WHOLE FUCKING THING IS TOTALLY AND UTTERLY FUCKED.


Posted by: IM at March 23, 2005 04:43 AM

i want presentation on ms word 2003 quickly

Posted by: alok at May 16, 2005 04:08 AM

just a suggestion,

Posted by: bob murray at December 3, 2005 12:43 PM

Alternatively, try WordPerfect instead.

Posted by: Wootables at March 14, 2006 01:32 PM

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