Chris Alexander

On Engineering

Office 2010 Beta 2

30th November, 2009

It’s been nearly 3 years since Office 2007 was unleashed upon the world, its revolutionary UI and complexity contentious to this day.

Now, however, Microsoft is readying its successor, Office 2010. With it comes further UI changes where they had not appeared in Office 2007, along with numerous usability and speed enhancements.

Let’s take an in-depth look at Office 2010 now the beta is available to download, and see what we can expect to be working with for the coming years.

You can download Office 2010 from the link at the top of the Office 2010 website. I would not recommend installing this as your primary office suite unless you are willing to take Office 2010 for all the bugs that there will inevitably be in beta software.

Please also note, that I downloaded the 64-bit edition of Office 2010 Professional Plus; this required me to uninstall the 32-bit Office 2007 Ultimate that I had installed, so don’t undertake installation unless you are willing to do that.

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Installation

The installation of Office 2010 was just as easy as Office 2007, which is very easy. Although it took a few minutes, it was still faster than Office 2007 and very painless. (Click through any screenshots to see the full resolutions)

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Word and the new File menu

Word remains largely unchanged from Office 2007 - it had the deepest integration of the Ribbon UI (the horizontal menu at the top - for more on Office 2007 and the Ribbon see this post (#575)).

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It extends this with the brand-new File menu that appears throughout the Office suite. The File menu comes with a sub-menu, that brings up the following pages.

Info

This page is the new central place to access and set all the information about the current document you are viewing or editing.

It includes metadata, sharing preparation, versioning, and permissions.

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Recent

The recent tab provides a much-needed and considerably nicer way of accessing the most recently documents you have had open.

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New

The New menu in Word 2010 has improved the way that you can select templates, and integrates templates from Office.com straight into the interface so they’re very easy to get started with.

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Print

The Print dialog has been in dire need of a revolution for many years; now it finally has it. The Print tab in the File menu has been radically overhauled and makes it incredibly easy to configure your document to print.

It also comes with a built-in Print Preview, saving yet more clicks over the former printing wizard.

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Share

This is something that intrigues me very much - the File menu now has a Share tab.

Currently it has options for sharing by E-Mail, saving to your Windows Live SkyDrive, saving to SharePoint, publishing as a blog post, and much much more.

I will look forward to where this can lead; hopefully you will be able to add your own services to this menu - a huge amount of potential there.

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Help

The Help tab has also been improved to make it easier to get the assistance you need directly from the program.

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These options are available throughout the Office 2010 suite, where the File menu features in all the applications.

Outlook’s vast improvements

Outlook has always been my most-used Office application - if I’m at home, its invariably open all day dealing with e-mail from 6 mailboxes.

Outlook 2007 was a vast improvement over 2003, but the application was tediously slow, blocked other processes while it started, and caused all kinds of mayhem in my mailboxes.

I have only been using Outlook 2010 for most of today, but already I am superbly impressed by it. Here’s a run-down of the latest features.

Ribbon UI throughout

Outlook 2010 has had its Ribbon tweaked, and it now features throughout the program, along with the new File menu. Here’s some shots of it in action.

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Conversations

Finally Outlook supports E-mail Conversations (much like Google Mail did from the outset). This means that if you are having an e-mail exchange with a group of people, all of the e-mails will be grouped together and it will be super-easy to find previous e-mails in the exchange.

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Social Networks

This one is both intriguing and potentially incredibly exciting.

Do you remember Xobni, the Outlook plugin that pops up more information about contacts you’re exchanging e-mail with from social networks like Linkedin, Facebook and more? It seems that Outlook will be able to do this itself when it’s released.

Currently it only supports getting more contact information from SharePoint, but I checked out the Outlook 2010 site, and it seems that authors will be able to write plugins to pull content about contacts from external sites - presumably sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and others.

The information is displayed in a popup box a the bottom of e-mails, and other locations where you’re looking at contacts.

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Better Contact auto-adding

I don’t know about you, but I was always fed up with how Outlook 2007 seemed to fail every time when I started typing a contact’s name in the “To” field of an e-mail. That seems to have been solved in Outlook 2010!

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Enhanced with Jump List

The last little enhancement comes with Windows 7, and the Jump Lists feature.

Right clicking on the Outlook icon on the taskbar brings up this menu, which makes it really easy to get started on something.

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Ribbon in OneNote and Publisher

The Ribbon’s assimilation of the rest of the Office suite continues with OneNote and Publisher.

OneNote’s menu is particularly cool, in that it only pops up from the tabs when you select them, keeping out of the way the rest of the time.

Other tweaks and the new File menu improve the OneNote and Publisher user experiences a lot too.

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Excel and PowerPoint

Like Word, not much has changed (on the surface, at least) in Excel and PowerPoint, other than the addition of the File menu, and a few enhancements and tweaks here and there. Here’s some shots of what they look like now.

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Overall Impressions

Having had a decent chance to play with the applications, I am once again very impressed by the quality of Beta that Microsoft has produced. The applications are all stable, pretty much feature-complete, and working well.

Office 2010 is definitely a substantial evolution of the suite. Critics will say that it does not change much, and that it is not that much different from Office 2007, yet some of its new features pave the way for a lot of great things to come.

When matched up with the Office Web Apps and Office Mobile, this should be a great proposition that I look forward to working with in the future.