Microsoft Office 2010 Beta: First Impressions

It’s already been a big year for Microsoft with the release of Windows 7. With the release of the public beta for Office 2010 Professional, Microsoft is closing out the year with an even bigger bang. I downloaded a copy of the beta and decided to do some real-world testing to see how it feels and works. I’ll be using my home PC with a 2 Ghz AMD Athlon dual core processor, 2 Gb of RAM and Windows 7 64-bit. I’m also reviewing the x64 version of Office 2010, even though they recommended the x32 version.

I use Office 2003 at home and Office 2007 at work. I primarily use Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and occasionally Outlook. I’ll be looking primarily at these applications while also poking around with the other bits.

2010 loads pretty quickly once it’s fully installed and activated. When it first ran Word, a splashy animation heralded the opening of the program and it took about 5 seconds or so to fully load. It now loads so quickly that the splash screen is just a flicker.

First we’ll look at Word 2010. If you’re used to Word 2007 then you won’t have too much of a learning curve. Initially Office 2007 took a lot of getting used to with the new “ribbon” interface. Office 2010 keeps the tabbed “ribbon” feel but gets rid of the dumb Office “Orb” that was at the far left of the toolbar. Instead is a highlighted “File” tab, which when clicked opens up what MS calls the “backstage view” pane. This pane provides sharing information, basic stats such as time spent on editing and authors, allows you to print and so on. It also provides a thumbnail of the document in real-time.

Word 2010 has improved image editing features for graphics inserted in your documents. You can delete picture backgrounds without opening an external editor for example, but I found that the busier the picture the more trouble you’ll have isolating the foreground from the background. Word also lets you try different picture formats, layouts and effects on-the-fly: just hover your mouse over the style you want and it will automatically be previewed in the document.

Another feature that students will love is the References tab, which manages your citations, footnotes and captions. It even formats citations in a number of common styles such as APA, Chicago and MLA. Oh, if I had this in grad school!

Word 2010 allows you to save in a number of different formats as well, including PDF, and also allows you to save it to your SkyDrive, which is Microsoft’s answer to cloud computing. You can save documents to your 25Gb SkyDrive, which is attached to your Microsoft Live account, and access them anywhere. You can also share your file immediately via your blog (which is what I did this time!) or send it as an internet fax.

So far I’m only in the tinkering stage, but given that the beta is activated for a full year (yee-haw!) I’ll hae plenty of time to try it out. Overall, given that this is a beta, I’m pleased with the polish on it. The fact that it’s like 2007 may or not be a good thing, depending on how comfortable you are with 2007. But it may just provide enough new features to merit jumping from prior versions. Keep checking back with more updates and impressions.

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Posted on November 24, 2009, in Microsoft Windows, software and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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