The release of the new Microsoft Office suite isn't the most exciting thing in the world, the fact that it is used nearly every day on my work computer doesn't help matters. Nevertheless, I thought it would be good to compare it to the older versions to see how it stands up against them.
With the final release due in a couple of months, Microsoft have provided a beta test version of Office 2010 that's free for members of the public to download. The beta test version will run unhindered until October 2010 at which point users must decide whether they wish to purchase the final release or have it removed from their hard drive.
For the sole reason that it costs money to buy, the majority of users may still be better off with the free OpenOffice Suite (www.openoffice.org) as it still includes all of the features needed but at no cost. This having been said, the Office Suite has remained a popular flagship product over the years due to business users often requiring a specific function or application only present in the Microsoft offering. I, for example, use Outlook on a regular basis and haven't yet found an alternative that suits my needs.
Having not been the biggest fan of Office 2007 (especially the 'ribbon' interface discussed in the past) I wasted no time downloading the 64-bit professional version of the beta to put it through its paces. I have now been using it for a couple of days it does appear notably faster than Office 2007 and certainty incredibly stable. The speed increase could easily be attributed to the fact that a 64-bit version of the application is now available to run on modern 64-bit computers.
Office Professional 2010 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, InfoPath, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher. The home edition (also currently available in beta) includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. After the official release, computer manufacturers may choose to bundle new machines with a starter edition of Office which includes just Excel and Word; this version of Office will replace the aging Microsoft Works Suite.
Although the ribbon interface remains, it is certainly a lot clearer than that provided with Office 2007; it is a far more simple application to navigate, the familiar file menu is back, there are fewer fancy borders and colours and it is also customisable to the users individual tastes. The applications look and behave like a 'family' now and have become more intuitive to use as a result of the more refined user interface.
An important new feature due for release in the final version but missing from the beta is the 'Web Apps' which will extend the Office functionality to a compatible web browser. Very similar in form to Google Docs, Office Web Apps allows users to collaborate, edit and share Office documents online. This is an incredibly important new feature that has no doubt come about due to the success of Google Docs and one that I would like to field test when complete.
This article isn't long enough to go in to details about minor new features so I will summarise by observing that the changes made from Office 2007 to Office 2010 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary; just as Windows 7 was an evolutionary change compared with Windows Vista. Excluding the Web Apps there is nothing substantially new however the minor improvements are certainly welcome as is the chance to road test a new piece of software completely free of charge for a year.
About The Author
Chris Holgate is a director and copyrighter of the online Ink and Toner website Refresh Cartridges http://www.refreshcartridges.co.uk He writes a weekly article of all things tech related.