<Edited July 14>
Since May I have been telling people that they would have to wait for details of the new Microsoft Office 2010 applications coming down the pipe. Yesterday the veil was lifted, as the beta program was made available to a wider audience. With that I would like to share some of my favorite improvements in Office 2010.
In Office 2007 we were introduced to the Ribbon Toolbar, as well as the Office Pearl which replaced a great number of menus. The BackStage in Office 2010 is the new iteration of the Office Pearl; Click on the Office button in the top-left corner of your window and the back-stage appears, allowing us a host of tools to configure both your document and application. As this screen shot from my Outlook shows our top-level choices include account settings, automatic replies, mailbox clean-up, manage rules and alerts, and because Outlook 2010 is designed to work with Exchange 2010 including Unified Messaging, we can manage our voice mail from here, should you have that configured. We also find all of the options we traditionally found in the Office Pearl (or previously in the File Menu), such as Open, Save, Print, and Options.
One of the greatest complaints I have heard about Outlook has always been performance… depending on a number of factors (including but not limited to the size of your mailbox/profile) it could be relatively slow, taking at times anywhere from 20 seconds to over a minute to connect to my Exchange Server. That has certainly not been the case with Outlook 2010, connecting in under five seconds every time I load it up!
Speaking of loading it up, the Splash Screen on Office 2010 programs have the familiar minimize and close icons in the top corner, which can be helpful in some cases.
64-Bit… Welcome to the Future!
In Barcelona in 2006 Bill Gates announced that the future of Microsoft was 64-bit. The problem as many of us saw it was that most – if not all – of our applications (especially on the desktop) were still 32-bit, and the subsequent release of Office 2007 as a 32-bit application did not change that. Many of us hopped on the x64 bandwidth early on, and most of us found our way back to the more comfortable x86 operating system, at least for the time being. The announcement that Office 2010 would be released in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions offered hope… and in this writer’s experience the 64-bit version delivers on the performance, while the 32-bit version still shows great improvements over its predecessor. (My 32-bit Dell Inspiron Mini 9 has a Windows Experience Rating of 1.5 and still performs admirably).
Customize your Ribbon Toolbars!
I point out that the now familiar (and hopefully comfortable) Ribbon Toolbar has been expanded across the Office suite, including to Outlook. As was the case in Word and Excel three years ago it took me a little while to get used to it, but now that I have been using it for a few months I am definitely loathe to return to legacy menus.
I want to be clear that this is not something that I plan to do… For years applications have offered the ability to customize menus, but I have generally found that the toolbars are very intuitive as delivered; also I tend to uninstall and re-install, reformat, and redeploy on a very frequent basis, and even if I could export and re-import my custom toolbars every time I do that (yes you can! Woot!), I doubt that I would ever bother. However the ability to do that does give me as a deployment guy ideas about standardizing Just the Fact, Jack toolbars across departments and organizations!
Reviewing in PowerPoint
As a writer I spend a lot of time editing – and more importantly having others submit comments for me to edit – my own documents, as well as those from others. As such I spend a lot of time in the Review screen in Word, and have always been disturbed by the limitations of same in PowerPoint. While there are still some functions that I do not see in PowerPoint 2010 I am extremely excited by the improvements.
While on the subject of PowerPoint I should mention that I am not a big fan of fancy transitions in my own slides… however I have looked at some of the new transition options available in PowerPoint 2010 and am very impressed. I still doubt I will use them much…
Office on the Web
This is one of the features that I have not yet gotten my hands on, but am nevertheless extremely excited about. Having used Outlook Web Access for years, I am looking forward to trying Word and Excel in the same fashion. There will be, I am told, three ways that users can access this functionality:
- Consumers will be able to access the tools via their Live accounts (there are apparently over 500 Million of us with Live accounts… wow!)
- Enterprises can offer employees their own applications from their own SharePoint sites; and
- Web providers will be able to offer customers the applications.
The one issue that I am not (and seldom am) clear on is how licensing for these tools will be set up, but with Google apps growing in popularity look for terms to be extremely competitive.
Open Document Compatibility
Recently I helped a friend install her new PC, and when I pointed out that her Office 2007 Home and Student Edition allowed her to install the application suite on up to three PCs, she told me she was considering installing OpenOffice instead; that is the suite that her company uses, so many of her documents were in that file format; she did not want to have to convert them all. As I much prefer Microsoft Office (and not simply to toe the line) I was pleased to see support for the Open file formats in Office 2010… load and save your .ODT files seamlessly.
Conclusion – Two Months On
I have been using parts of Office 2010 since mid-May. As with any pre-release version there were some bugs that have frustrated me, but overall I have been extremely pleased with what I have seen. I have been an Office user since Office 95, and am glad to see real improvements version over version… I have not seen any component that I feel is a step backwards. Look forward to hearing more about the steps forward as I continue to dive into the applications!