A look at the new Office 2010

Microsoft has created a successful franchise that is Office, a suite of applications that pioneered cohesive experiences allowing end users to be productive by using a uniformed approach to working with information across a variety of familiar applications. 2007’s successful Office 2007 infused the platform with new momentum by further innovating with new ways of using Office applications more effectively through the new Office Fluent UI that exposed tools that were once hidden under drop down menus. With Office 2010, it’s about building on those benefits by exposing more applications in the Office family to Office Fluent. In addition to that Office 2010 improves the core experiences that initially made the platform so popular.

Pre-liminary Requirement:

Operating System: Windows XP SP2 or higher: Pentium 1.0 GHz, or higher RAM: 512 MBs or above HD: Varies depending on installation choices, Resolution: 1024 x 600 or higher.

Test System:

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Release Candidate, Intel Core 2 Quad 2.5 GHz, 2 GBs of ECC RAM, nVidia Quadro FX 1700.

Microsoft Office 2010 Upgrade Path warning

Setup

Microsoft for the first time is supporting a full 64 bit release of Office. The advantages users can expect include the ability to address more than 4 GBs of memory, more robustness and performance across the suite. It’s also a model of the future where the industry is expected to go, 64 bit is the future and Office is embracing it with full force. What I discovered though is that Microsoft Office 2010 64 bit will require a clean install, which means, there is no upgrade path from 32 bit Office. If you want to install 64 bit Office on a PC that already has a 32 bit version of Office, you will have to uninstall it then re-run setup, otherwise, choose Office 2010 32-bit. Right now, Office 2010 Technical Preview setup program looks identical to Office 2007, as the suite approaches beta 2 and the final release; I am sure distinctive branding will come into play. After selecting a custom setup option, I noticed that Groove has now been renamed SharePoint Workspace, what’s also new is the addition of SharePoint Workspace and OneNote to the Professional Plus SKU, which makes me wonder if Microsoft is eliminating the Enterprise SKU under their volume licensing programs.

Installing Office 2010

Office 2010 is big, requiring at least 2.5 GBs of disk space. This is quite amazing when I think back to when Office 95 full install used about 88 MBs of disk space. There are reasons of course for this, more features and applications have been incorporated into the Office family and suites, so it’s a given. With today’s enormous storage devices ranging in hundreds of gigabytes and terabytes, Office 2010 is more than welcome on most systems today. Office 2010 installed in less than 9 minutes. It’s something I have noticed with the Office 2007 release that the suite takes longer to install than past versions. I remember installing versions 2003, 2002 and 2000 in less than 4 minutes. I hope that’s one of the improvements the Office Team applies to this release because installing is excruciatingly long in my opinion.

Microsoft Office Word 2010 – Stunning

First Experiences

User experience is abounding in this release and you will notice it when you launch an Office 2010 application for the first time. Some of the Office 2010 application splash screens animate, but it goes by so fast you just might miss it. I see immediate performance in that area already, so kudos to the Office Team there. Word 2010, which is the first application I launched (of course it would be), you are presented with a gorgeous, graphically rich UI that implements strong use of the Aero Glass transparency effects with the Gallery Tabs area displaying faint semi-transparent background of your desktop or non-active windows. Is this important, nope, but it really looks good and I like the focus on aesthetics. Office has always carried its own pizzazz by presenting a new look with each release since Office XP. The Office Button introduced in version 2007 is now gone, thank goodness, featuring a more stylish, yet conservative tabbed appearance with a distinct colour representing each respective Office application, the File menu in 2010 is significantly enhanced. Featuring an information centre, the Office 2010 File menu is more detailed about your Office files. Immediately users can glance at topics such as Permissions, distribution methods, versioning, property information and improved life cycle management facilities. In addition to these, users can find common functions such as Save, Save As, Open, Close, recently accessed files which unfortunately were not preserved from my Office 2007 install. The New menu is greatly enhanced; a gallery of templates can be accessed much faster instead of the cumbersome Office 2007 New Template window which got in the way. Here is a tip Office Team, implement a collapsible panel for the Template Galleries.

The new Office 2010 File Menu showing Backstage Preview

Printing is also more accessible, built right into the Office File menu; you can quickly choose a Printer and different printing options along with a quick print preview (called Backstage) of your document before sending to the Printer. Sharing is also more simplified, with different Galleries detailing options for each task. The more I use Office 2010; I am saying to myself, this is not a minor update after all. The interface is well organized especially where the Office file menu is concerned, it’s too bad the application Options dialog was not incorporated into the File menu itself; this would have been a great way to reduce the mouse clicks and just naturally integrate with the Office 2010 experience.

Office Fluent or Ribbon in 2010 is more manageable, one of the first things I noticed was a chevron for minimizing the Fluent much faster instead of using the Quick Access Toolbar menu; alternatively, you can use the CTRL + F1 keyboard command. The Office 2010 UI is much flatter in appearance similar to productivity applications in Windows 7 that have embraced the ribbon. The Insert menu features a new Screenshot tool that allows you to quickly insert screen captures on the fly. This is a convenient option for technical authors who might be writing long manuals about features in a program and would like to quickly insert shots on the fly.

The Word 2010 Contextual menu adds some subtle improvements such as an improved Styles Gallery and richer Paste Special Options menu with real time preview of text before it is pasted. Word 2010 also adds a cool effect when hovering over the paste option, the context menu will automatically become transparent while you preview the different paste formatting available.

Excel 2010

Using Office Excel 2010’s new Sparklines feature

I tried my hardest to look for new features in Excel 2010 apart from the improved Office Fluent UI. Most of the notable changes were subtle, with a few re-arranging of some icons and features. For example, the ‘Existing connections’ source dialog from under the ‘Data’ tab > ‘Get External Data’ gallery in Excel 2007, has been renamed ‘Slicer’, and is now located under the ‘Insert’ tab. The Charts gallery features smaller pictorial representations of the different types of charts that can be created. A new Gallery under the Insert menu has been added called ‘Sparklines. Sparklines are tiny graphs that can fit in a single cell of a spreadsheet. Apart from some additional miniaturization, there is not much else to see.

PowerPoint

Not much was found, except for additional consolidation of toolbar buttons, such as the new ‘Record Slide Show’ button for recording narration of your slideshow. Version 2010 adds the ability to record your presentation as video. You can optionally, on the fly choose to have audio narrations and laser pointer gestures played during a slide show, along with the option to display media controls when you move your mouse pointer over audio or video clips.

 

You can record your slide-shows as videos using Office PowerPoint 2010

The Review menu features expanded options with a new Compare and OneNote gallery. You can compare and combine another presentation with your current presentation. Along with this, are traditional reviewing tools for multiple persons working on the same presentation such as Accept, Reject and completing a review. If you have OneNote installed, PowerPoint will install an add-in that takes notes about your presentation in OneNote. Links are automatically created in OneNote that can be used to get back to the presentation, or press this button to find any notes already created in OneNote about this presentation.

Access

Access 2010 was a tough exploration, because I just could not find anything significantly new. What I did see were improvements to Table fields that feature more distinctive variegation that made it easier to read fields with lots of information. Galleries have been rearranged and consolidated, Font Gallery and Rich Text has been combined into Text Formatting and moved to the extreme right of the Home tab.

 

Microsoft Office Access 2010

The Create Tab features a new button under Templates gallery called ‘Application Parts’, which seems to be a combination of Table Templates buttons now consolidated into a single option. The balloon describes App Parts as providing the ability to insert or create portions of a database or an entire database application. You can create tables, forms, and reports as database parts. Save combinations and use them to form common components. You can also save an entire application. For organizations and teams that build solutions on top of Access, this sounds like a powerful solution that reduces a lot of the manual work that would be required of previous releases. Other noticeable changes include the ‘Form Wizard now displayed within the Forms gallery instead of the ‘More Forms’ pop up list. The ‘other’ gallery has added some new buttons for Visual Basic for Office applications.

External Data tabs adds some features that are new, a web service button is now available under ‘Import’ gallery. Collect Data gallery has now been consolidated into the ‘Export’ Gallery. A new gallery called ‘SharePoint Lists’ provides tighter integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint Portal software. With the release of Excel 2007, Microsoft introduced Excel Services, one of the things Access users and developers were yearning for was better integration with SharePoint too. At the last Office Developer Conference, Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates talked about how the Office Team is working to improve Access integration on the SharePoint front:

“So the next step is to take that base of Access users and literally let them write things that connect directly up to SharePoint and so it’s server based. So it’s a logical step for Access. There’s a lot of smart people working on that, so in no sense are we leaving the Access people behind. The same way we moved Excel up to the server, now we’re moving Access up there as well. – Bill Gates

The Access Datasheet contextual tab, features some changes with expanded galleries, such as Formatting now separated from ‘Data Type & Formatting’, along with Properties, Validation and Table Logic. Some of the buttons seem to be non functional at this time. Table Design View features some new Gallery options for: Field, Record & Table Events along with a Relationships gallery.

Publisher 2010

No longer the black sheep of the family; Publisher 2010 embraces the Office Fluent user interface, along with some unique features that will make this release even easier for users in small DTP shops. The new Office 2010 File Menu is automatically presented on start-up. Featuring the programs collection of installed templates. If you want you can select a template, or click ‘Back’ to start from a new Blank Publication. Publishers traditional Task Panes have been replaced by a Thumbnail preview of pages in your publication. Personally I don’t like it and would have preferred the more productive Formatting Task Pane.

Office Publisher 2010 now embraces the Office Fluent UI and is also 64 bit capable

It’s quite interesting how all of Publisher’s numerous Drop Down menus have been consolidated into five main tabs in version 2010. These include Home, Insert, Page Design, Mailings and View. Familiar options once found in the Publisher Task Pane such as Page Options, Colour and Font Schemes along with Publication layout can all be found under Page Design within galleries, which is actually refreshing. Publisher 2010’s popular Mailing feature is identical to Word 2007, which is an example of Office 2010 going back to the fundamentals of what made Office so popular to begin with. The process of learning one application in the Office suite is carried over to the next. With Office Fluent, Publisher also adopts features such as Office Smart Gallary Shapes that will make it easier to work with.

As for that new Thumbnail Task Pane, it’s not bad, but I think it would be better if it was a Tabbed Pane while still keeping the traditional Formatting pane from previous versions of Publisher. Overall, Publisher users should be excited about this update of the application which combines the ease of use introduced by Office Fluent with Publishers hallmark simplicity when it comes to Desktop Publishing.

Outlook 2010

Outlook 2010 surprisingly takes on Office Fluent and I must say it does it well. Most of the new features in this release take advantage of Exchange Server 2010 such as the following:

A look at the new Outlook 2010 with Office Fluent showing message threads

  • Built-in e-mail archive
  • View Emails in Conversation thread
  • Ignore Conversation, which allows users to mute an e-mail thread they are not interested in.
  • MailTips – warns users before they send an e-mail if a particular recipient is out of the office and unavailable or warns users if the email is to be sent to a distribution group that is very large or includes recipients external to the company or warns if they are going to send an attachment outside their company’s firewall. MailTips will not be available on Windows Phones
  • Text previews of voicemails in Outlook
  • Tracks whether messages arrived with recipients

Office 2010 includes built in support for PDF publishing which was included as a part of the Office 2007 SP2 release. There are no changes to file formats except for the addition of ODF (Open Document Format) which was also included in Office 2007 SP2 and is not built in Windows 7’s WordPad word processor.

Office 2010 works great on the new Windows 7 operating system

Conclusion

Office 2010 is an improvement over version 2007, it’s not radical, but it still improves upon the fundamentals. I am glad to see more applications in the suite embrace Office Fluent UI which will further reduce the need to have an understanding of two UI paradigms when working with the suite. Of course, I have not covered everything Office 2010 such as some of those new applications that are now ‘ribbonized’ like SharePoint Workspace (formerly Groove), InfoPath, OneNote, SharePoint Designer and Project. This is an early rough preview and I need to sit down and explore the suite some more, especially the improved File menus which I find are more fun and productive to use.

Is this an upgrade every Office user should look forward to? The product is still in development, so I am not gonna call shots just yet. But for users who are still contented with Office 2003, XP or 2000, this is definitely an upgrade to look forward to. Office 2007 users who use core features of the suite and want a suite that simplifies task even more and makes working across applications smoother, this release should add even more agility to your workflow.

Another part of the Office 2010 equation is the new lineup of Web applications that will essentially take Office to the web browser making it available on any platform or computer out there. Microsoft has not provided code for us to preview just yet, but they did announce how they plan to distribute this radical change to Office. Office Web Applications will be available for free through Windows Live. It will cost customers who want a Web Applications platform hosted on their own servers. And users will also be able to buy a subscription to Web Applications through Microsoft Online Services.

Resources

Introducing Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview
ActiveWin.com Microsoft Office 2007 Review
ActiveWin.com Microsoft Office Publisher 2007 Review
Microsoft Office 12 Beta 1 Preview

2 Comments

Filed under Reviews

2 responses to “A look at the new Office 2010

  1. Chris

    Looks nice, but the new menu system looks UGLY. The darker color seemed much easer on the eyes. Don\’t understand Microsoft\’s obsession with light, washed out looks

  2. Andre

    Its still early days yet, Office 12 beta 1 used a completely different look from what was presented in beta 2.

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