The move from MS Office 2000 to MS Office 2010 has brought to my life a whole new set of reasons to be annoyed. One of the early ones is the behaviour of the 'Close' button in different applications.

It really shouldn't be like this.


Windows applications that can use multiple files as once (like the MS Office suite) can present as either a single window for the application with each file contained within that main window or as completely separate windows for each file. The first option is called Multiple Document Interface (or MDI - because you see multiple files within one application window); the second is call Single Document Interface (or SDI).

MS Office applications have been moving from MDI to SDI over several versions; Excel 2010 is still MDI, Word 2010 is SDI. Each mode has benefits - in many cases personal preference and familiarity

My annoyance isn't about the merits of either interface; it's about the unnecessarily confusing differences, in particular the differences from MS Office 2000.

How it used to work

MS Office 2000 had the same MDI/SDI split personality.

In Word 2000, if you had two (or more) documents open, the window control buttons in each document window looked the same: . No document was special, so you could use the same operation (click the 'X') to close any single document without closing the application. Once you were down to the last document, a second set of control buttons appears to let you know: - you can close just the document using the inner buttons or the whole application using the outer ones.

In Excel 2000, the MDI interface always shows both sets of window buttons:

This might not be ideal, but at least it's consistent. You can always tell when you are about to close the application and when you're just closing a file.

New and (not) improved

MS Office 2010 looks like this:

Word 2010 with multiple documents:

Word 2010 with one document:  - rats.

Excel 2010 is much the same as 2000:

You can no longer tell when you're about to close Word and when you're just closing a file. If the Word model is the way of the future, give me back the past.

Why any of this matters

Starting applications is hard work for the computer, the application binaries and all the associated libraries have to be located and loaded into loaded memory; this takes time.

If you are regularly opening and closing files, the extra time taken to open and close the application each time is wasted.

My solution in MS Office applications

Instead of using the window control buttons, I customise the 'Quick Access Toolbar' (the one at the top left): to show the same set of controls across all MS Office suite applications:

Save, New, Open, Open recent, Close file, Print preview, Undo, Redo

Like this:
Word 2010:

Excel 2010:

('Redo' uses a different icon for no adequately explained reason)