Office 2010 Technical Preview With Windows 7

Windows 7 rolls out to the public in October, but thousands of users have already gotten their hands on an early copy, whether via the free Release Candidate download that Microsoft offered to all comers, or via a Technet subscription, or maybe by getting sticky fingers on a RTM copy.

Whatever the method, whether it is now or in a month or two, many people are going to be upgrading their computer operating system to Windows 7. If you are going to go through all that effort, you might as well upgrade your Microsoft Office software too, right?

Office 2010 Technical Preview Software Suite

Microsoft Office 2010Microsoft released a technical preview of its upcoming Office 2010 software suite earlier this summer.

After the shocking changes made to the user interface in Office 2007 with the introduction of the new Ribbon menu design, the upgraded features of Office 2010 seem a little tame by comparison.

Is there enough new stuff in Office 2010 to bother with the upgrade?

What’s New in Office 2010

Unfortunately, the biggest new feature slated for Microsoft Office 2010 isn’t ready for its close up yet. The big news in Office 2010 is that Microsoft is unleashing its Office applications onto the Internet. Lightweight, web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote will be available to anyone with a Windows Live account. These online versions can also be established by businesses via an accessible SharePoint Server and the web apps feature on either Office 2010 Standard, or Office 2010 Professional Plus.

However, Microsoft did not open up the Office 2010 web apps technical preview in August as originally targeted, so for now, upgrading to 2010 all depends on the non-web app features.

What is new and different in Office 2010 depends a lot on how you use your Microsoft Office applications. Many of the Office’s most hyped new features only apply to a certain subset of users. For example, there is a lot of noise around features that allow you to work on certain Office documents together with other users at the same time. If, like many computer users, you type, edit, and print or email your own documents, these features are going to go largely unnoticed.

So, what are the top new Office 2010 features? Well, that depends on what edition of the Office Suite you get.

Office 2010 Version Choices Roulette

Microsoft’s current business model relies on being able to charge customers with deep pockets more money for their software in order to keep their profit margins up. In order to do so, Microsoft offers multiple editions of its Office suite, each with different software and at a different price point.

Currently, Microsoft releases show a whopping FIVE different versions of Office 2010:

  • Office Professional Plus 2010
  • Office Professional 2010
  • Office Home and Business 2010
  • Office Standard 2010
  • Office Home and Student 2010

How does one make sense out of this name origami?

As with previous Microsoft Office releases, the first choice to make is whether or not you need Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is left out of the Home and Student (cheapest) version, so if you need Outlook, then skip the Home and Student version.

This brings us to the choice most users will have to make between Home and Business 2010 and Office Professional 2010. These two editions are the same except that Professional has Access and Publisher. Note, that for this release Professional does have OneNote as part of the suite. Apparently, Microsoft’s market research has led it to believe that professionals sometimes take notes too. In fact, OneNote is included in every version of Office 2010.

The last two offerings of Office 2010 are only available through volume licensing which means that you will only get them at work, or that you’ll have to get them installed through OEM (by buying a new computer with Office installed).

Office Professional Plus 2010 comes with everything you get in the regular Professional edition, plus all of Microsoft’s new “collaboration” products and technologies including the new SharePoint WorkSpace (formerly Groove), as well as InfoPath and Communicator. Office Standard, on the other hand is same as Office Professional, except that it does not come with Microsoft Access.

Microsoft Office 2010 Version Comparison

Top Office 2010 Upgrades

What do you get when you upgrade to Office 2010?

First, you get the ribbon interface that was introduced on the main Office applications like Word and Excel in Office 2007 on all of the 2010 applications, including Outlook and OneNote. (If an application ever needed the ribbon interface, it was OneNote – Holy icons, Batman!).

The ribbon in Office 2010 will also be customizable, allowing you to create custom tabs with your favorite commands.

The ribbon also get’s an updated look, as you can see below:

Office 2007 and Office 2010 Ribbon Comparison

What else does an upgrade to Office 2010 come with?

Once you get past web apps, Office 2010 is mostly tweaking Office 2007 and adding the ribbon interface to the rest of the applications that didn’t have it before. After that, there are some nice add-ons, but no real got-to-have-it features.

PowerPoint 2010 gets some application tools to better handle the images and videos that are becoming a basic necessity in a presentation. These tools mean that you won’t have to jump out into an image editor or video editing program to do every little thing. They are in no way a replacement for full-fledged editors, but it will be nice to trim two seconds of blank screen from the end of a video clip without having to go fire up the video editor.

The two other features Microsoft is banging the drum the loudest for are new Excel 2010 visualizations and data analysis functions. That means that if you run huge multi-page spreadsheets with thousands of rows of data that are filled with complex formulas, equations, and calculations, then you are going to be able to produce much more appealing and useful charts and graphs. If you have single tab spreadsheets that have a handful of SUMs, a couple of AVGs, and maybe a time value of money calculation or two, it means that there will be another type of graph to choose from.

The other high-volume feature is “co-authoring.” With co-authoring, multiple users, in multiple locations can work together on the same document. If it sounds familiar, you are missing the hook. They can work on the SAME document at the SAME time, not work on different documents and have them synchronized back together.

In other words, while I am typing this sentence, my co-author could be highlighting the one above in green. I guess this would be a big deal for some people, but as a writer, I’ll edit and write on a document at the same time with someone else when the devil and his friends are using the same functionality to co-author a press release about the unusually cold weather and white fluffy stuff falling from the sky where they live.

Office 2010 will also be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Learn more about Office 2010

Interested in learning more about Office 2010? Check out these resources:

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