Microsoft Office 2010 Review: Worth the Upgrade?
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Interface-wise, Office 2007 was a drastic leap forward from earlier versions of Office. The typical text-based menus were trashed in favour of visual ribbons. Even the file menu disappeared and was replaced by a strange glowing orb at the top left of the screen. Desk jockeys were divided. Microsoft’s changes turned a lot of people off, sending them running back to Office 2003. Others overcame the learning curve and warmed up to the new approach.
The ‘big picture’ thing that becomes apparent with the release of Office 2010, is that Office 2007 was a transitional product. Core applications like Word, PowerPoint and Excel featured revamped interfaces while other sections of the suite hadn’t undergone the transformation. Most notably Outlook looked a bit sexier but still was built around the classic UI found in Office 2003.
Office is 2010 is far more cohesive than its predecessor as this time the entire suite has been brought up to speed with the core applications.
The infamous Office orb has been replaced with a highlighted ‘File’ tab. Although not as impressive to look at, it’s a whole lot more intuitive for newcomers. Microsoft obviously became well aware that the orb did more to confuse than to simplify, so scrapping it was the only logical choice.
By clicking on the ‘File’ tab you are brought to Office’s new Backstage View. All the administrative options have been gathered together here. Most notably you can open documents, save, print, share and access preferences. Sharing and permission options are prominent, showing a new focus towards group projects. Still, it seems much of these features are irrelevant for the average Office user. Let’s face it. The need to bounce an Excel spreadsheet back and forth among several people for editing is still a rarity. If you need these types of possibilities open, you’ll get the most from the upgrade to 2010.
Folks that still have issues with the organization of the ribbons in any given Office application can now do something about it. Go ahead and customize everything from the ground up so the ribbon menus make sense according to how you work. There is full control to move, delete, and add icons as you see fit.
One of the intriguing new features of Office 2010 is the web apps offered by Windows Live. This is Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs. Simply launch your browser, login and import to start working on Office documents online. The capability is of course ideal for circumstances where you are working with a team. Everyone involved is free to make changes and save the document at will. Although useful for simple documents the online apps aren’t nearly as quick or robust as the desktop versions. In many situations it makes more sense to upload the document to a cloud, allowing collaborators to edit with standard Office applications.
What’s New in Word?
The ‘screenshot’ feature in Office 2010 is as useful as it is innovative. It’s godsend for people that write tutorials based about IT. Launch the application you wish to grab a screenshot from, and then switch back to Word. From here, click on the ‘screenshot’ icon under the ‘insert’ tab to activate the pull down menu. Select the desired window to place it. Voila! This is great idea because you’ll no longer need to crop screenshots in Photoshop, save the file and place it. If you do this type of thing often, it will save you a good chunk of time in the long run.
Image editing capabilities in Word are impressive. After you place a graphic, a contextual ‘Picture Tools’ menu appears. From here you can remove the image background, apply colour correction or artistic effects. Most notable are the new rectangle effects that allow you to quickly create drop shadows, reflection and borders around the image. Those well-versed in Photoshop might not like the cookie-cutter approach. However for business people that can’t be bothered to spend much time on such details, this is a solid addition. Well-chosen photo treatments might even make your documents look like a Graphic Designer was involved.
What’s New in Excel?
The suite-wide image editing tools mentioned above gives Excel users a better complements to the eye-popping chart graphics introduced in Office 2007. Besides this, the OneNote integration and paste-preview feature, Excel isn’t a whole lot different than its predecessor.
A new feature called Sparklines has been added to make it easy to see numerical trends within the confines of a cell. This creates a good alternative to switching back and forth from spreadsheets to charts.
The 64-bit version of Excel provides performance advantages to power users, as you can work with massive amounts of data thanks to the access to memory above 3.3GB. Heavy Excel users will also want to make use of the free PowerPivot for Excel 2010 add-on. With it installed you can harvest large chunks of data from multiple sources.
What’s New in PowerPoint?
Access to online apps benefits PowerPoint users a great deal. As doing presentations puts you in a variety of circumstances, it nice to know you have options. If issues arise you can alternatively launch your slideshow from a Web browser. Employees at two companies can opt to view presentations from separate boardrooms with PowerPoint's Broadcast Slide Show feature. After clicking on the ‘broadcast’ button, sign on with your Windows Live ID. From there you e-mail invitations to the parties you want to send the PowerPoint presentation to.
PowerPoint now has much improved video editing features out of the box. Embedded videos can be trimmed to any length required. Content from sites like YouTube can be easily imported and manipulated as well.
A number of new 3D slide transition effects have been added, expanding the already extensive library even further. New themes and eye candy ensure your slideshow looks current. The ‘cheese factor’ almost adherent to PowerPoint presentations in the past can quickly be ironed out, granted you stay away from clip art.
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Versions of Office 2010
There is both a blessing and a curse emanating from Microsoft’s pricing of Office 2010.
The curse is directed towards Office 2007 and 2003 users, who are not offered an upgrade path. Whether you’ve been a loyal user for ten year running or are totally new to Office, it makes no difference. You need to pay full pop.
The blessing is that Microsoft has lowered the price of Office 2010 considerably. To take even more off the price you can opt for a Product Key Card (download) instead of a boxed product. Professional users benefit from this the most as the Product Key Card version is $200 cheaper than the physical version.
Office Home & Student 2010
Full Package $159.99, Product Key Card $129.99
Included Software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote
Office Home & Business 2010
Full Package $349.99, Product Key Card $249.00
Included Software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook
Office Professional 2010
Full Package $669.00, Product Key Card $469.00
Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, plus Premium Support
Microsoft Office 2010 Review Verdict
Office 2007 had more ‘wow factor’ when it came out due to the new interface. However, when compared to Office 2010 it seems half finished. Ribbons are finally consistent throughout the entire line of products in Office 2010.
Sharing capability and online apps have widened the possibilities of what you can do with Office in a team setting. Still, only a minority will want to upgrade for this reason.
The best thing about Office 2010 is how quick and snappy everything loads, especially with 64-bit software. Added features are always great but when it comes right down to it, massaging and streamlining what is already there is most important with a productivity suite. In that respect Office 2010 has hit the target flawlessly.