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Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 is an important release. Microsoft Office 2007 was controversial, and implemented some major changes. Following such a release, it is common for the next version to focus upon consolidation, and actually to be much more popular with users as a consequence. Windows 7 appears to be a release of this type. It builds upon what is now a stable release of Vista, but offers a far less radical advance in the process.
We shall consider the key features of the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010 to consider their impact upon the user experience.
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Microsoft Office 2010 Key Features: Suite Wide Changes
The ribbon interface was a key feature of Microsoft Office 2007. It was criticized because of its unfamiliarity but also because of its inflexibility. In the 2010 version, the ribbon layout is more familiar simply because it is no longer new. However, Microsoft has gone further allowing users to move functions or groups of functions from one ribbon to another. (See Ribbon Customization Options in Office 2010.)
Similarly, the 2007 file formats are retained: whilst this does not provide file compatibility with older versions, the passage of time and no further change means that doing nothing is almost a feature in its own right!
The most radical surgery to the interface comes with the reinstatement of the File menu. This is a major U-turn but the menu is much more powerful than the 2003 file menu with big glossy dialog boxes, known as the Backstage view, covering functions such as Print and Save.
These changes together with the full integration of the Outlook and OneNote applications are key to acceptance of the new release, and may be enough to trigger upgrades form those who resisted upgrading to Office 2007. As one who never willingly embraced Office 2007, speaking personally, the new interface features are a huge improvement over the 2007 release.
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Microsoft Office 2010 Key Features: Word
Apart from the suite wide improvements, the biggest changes in Word concern formatting and appearance. Provided that you structure your document with appropriate heading levels, Word will work hard to add a degree of style to your documents. There are enhancements to templates, font handling, WordArt and photo editing all designed to improve the appearance of your documents. For power users with long documents like book manuscripts, there is navigation pane which replaces the document map and adds enhanced features such as a more powerful Find feature and enhanced spell checking. Finally, Word works harder to save your document in the background and prevent you losing your work.
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Microsoft Office 2010 Key Features: Excel
This application gains the least aside from the general interface improvements. In spite of gaining some fancy new feature names such as Sparklines and Slicers, improvements here are in essence incremental, and less important to the average Excel user than the overall interface changes. In fairness, this may reflect the maturity of the Excel product and the limited rise in expectations in this area.
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Microsoft Office 2010 Key Features: PowerPoint
PowerPoint faces a much bigger challenge with a whole range of presentation graphics applications now competing with it, many offered for free on the web and offering better integration with other web-based applications than PowerPoint. PowerPoint 2010 responds with a range of video handling functions which include video editing in a user friendly environment. Another nice feature is the ability to export a presentation directly as WMV file. Whilst this is a Microsoft Windows proprietary format, many free utilities will convert a WMV file to formats suitable for web publishing.
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Microsoft Office 2010 Key Features: Other applications
Outlook and OneNote get major facelifts and are much more integrated into the suite with new ribbon interfaces. They still lag behind the main applications in a few areas, such as the Backstage view, but now seem part of the main suite rather than afterthoughts.
There are two more innovations for 2010. The new free web apps provide cut down versions for online editing of shared documents. These appear still to be finalized in early 2010, so judgement shall be reserved at this point.
A second innovation is the availability of free starter versions, likely to be shipped with PCs in place of trial versions or the Works integrated application, including limited versions of Word 2010 and Excel 2010 together with a nagging banner advertising the full version.
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This is a smart new release of Microsoft Office. It is a less radical redesign than Office 2007, but likely to be better received because of this.