If you need more than just a text editor and a basic spreadsheet, then Microsoft’s Office is still a great choice.
With Office 2007 Microsoft made the brave decision to throw away the old interface of menus and introduce the Ribbon instead. While the new interface was admittedly a little hard to get used to, as the options weren’t where you remembered them, it started to make sense after a while and was very simple to use, bar a few complaints.
With Office 2010 just released, we wanted to find out if Microsoft had ironed out the last few problems, making this a must-have upgrade (in the same way Windows 7 improved on Vista). Over the next few pages we’ll look at the shared features of each version of Office, and go into more detail on the key applications of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. You can find out which products are included in each version of Office 2010 over on Microsoft’s website.
Tie a ribbon
The main change between Office 2010 and Office 2007 is that the Ribbon is now fully customisable. In 2007 you were stuck with the default layout and couldn’t do anything about it. In 2010 it’s as simple as right-clicking and selecting Customize Ribbon. You’ve then got a simple list of commands that you can add into existing Tabs and Groups, plus you can create your own custom Ribbon entries. It’s a little thing, but one that makes Office much easier to use, particularly for people that are used to the old menu systems.
Another big new addition is the revamping of the venerable File menu. The menu, now a tab over the Ribbon, has been changed to a full screen interface, with links to all the tasks you’d expect. This larger interface is called Backstage View, and deals with creating, saving, printing and sending files. The extra space means you don’t need extra windows popping up; for example, press Print and Backstage shows all the key printing options and a big print preview in one place.
One other useful feature that runs across the whole suite is improved copy and paste. Right-click on a document and choose paste and you can then switch between different paste options – letting you instantly choose to keep the original formatting, blend formatting between the documents or paste text-only – as you mouse across these the document gives you an instant live preview of the results.
Share and share alike
The other key cross-application feature is better sharing of documents using co-authoring and the web apps. In the same way as you can have multiple people working on a document in Google Docs, co-authoring lets multiple people share work on office documents. Strictly speaking, you don’t need Office 2010 for this, but the new applications have options built into them to upload files to the necessary online shared space.
Users can upload files to Sky Drive or use Microsoft Office Live (currently in beta and it only supports Internet Explorer and Firefox, but not Chrome). Using Sky Drive we weren’t overly impressed. For starters, saving files online proved to be very slow from our work computer, and the sharing options aren’t that easy to use: restrictions are based on folders rather than files, making security harder to apply.
In addition, there are a lot of irritating features. Uploading a file in Excel 97-2003 format (.xls) rather than the new .xlsx format meant that when we tried to open the file in Excel web app we got an error message telling us that the file was in the wrong format. We then had a problem that uploading a file in the correct format told us that the file was ‘locked for editing by another user’. To view the file online we had to close down our local copy of Excel.
Office Live Workspaces should bring more flexibility to sharing documents, as it operates more like Google Docs. However, the current beta version doesn’t support web apps. As it stands sharing files and editing online is far from ideal and Google Docs is currently the better application.