Impressions of Microsoft Office 2010

With Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT)announcing the public beta release of Office 2010 today I thought I’d sharesome impressions of the Consumer Technical Preview (CTP) release of the suitewhich I’ve been testing at home and at work for a few months.

I’m not a power-Office user so myusage is confined largely to Outlook and Word, with occasional very basic Excelusage. And I should add I’m not keen on change, and was never really sold onthe ribbon interface when it was added to Word in Office 2007. Suddenly, itseemed, I couldn’t find anything anymore, because of a design change that wassupposed to make it easier to find things.

Well, the ribbon is back in 2010,and now it’s everywhere. Excel and Outlook, as well as the other apps, all haveit too. While I’m still somewhat of a design purist, and I’d like a “classicmode” option to toggle, the ribbon has grown on me somewhat. I guess I’ve justgotten used to it. And, as a novice Excel user, I did find it easier to do someadvanced spread-sheeting and charts thanks to the ribbon interface.

Perhaps the ribbon is moreattractive to those people that aren’t already proficient with an application.If you do already know what you’re doing, the change can be disquieting. Eitherway, the ribbon is firmly entrenched in 2010.And it doesn't seem as busy as it was in 2007, appearing a little cleaner and less cluttered.

Also new in 2010 is what they callthe “backstage.” Each app has a button that takes you into a sub-menu systemfor opening and saving files, printing, and other functions. I like the versioncontrol and permission management tools that allow you to track changes and setwho can make edits.

I’m not as keen, however, on the waythe print tools have been moved way backstage. Of course I can short-cut therewith ctrl-p, but via mouse clicks, I counted three clicks to get from documentto document printing. Seems like two too many, a quick print icon on the mainscreen would be nice (one can be added manually).

As mentioned, Outlook now has theribbon interface. While it took some getting used to (I had to hunt for thesend/receive quick button before finally finding it hiding on the top left ofthe interface). The quick action tabs are interesting, such as the button toinstantly open an e-mail addressed to your manager, although I haven’t mademuch use of them. The rules also have potential, and I like how the calendar isnow more integrated into the main mail screen, showing upcoming meetings aswell as outstanding tasks without tabbing away.

I wasn’t that keen however on thethreading message functionality. It makes sense in theory, being able to viewmessages back and forth on the same topic as a conversation rather than as separatemessages. It could just be my resistance to change, but I found it easier tofollow and find messages before.

These are just a few earlyimpressions of Office 2010, and I haven’t even gotten into many of the apps inthe suite, such as PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote and Access. Based on what I’veseen though, I’d say if you’re a novice user who has had trouble unlocking thepotential of the Office suites, 2010 will make it easier for you to find thosetools and do more with them. If you’re already a power-user, there are somefunctionality improvements but you may find the ubiquitous ribbon interface tobe an adjustment.

Still, in time, you’ll get used toit. I wouldn’t feel the need to rush into it though.

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