02 February 2010
I've been playing with the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010. I'm a big fan of Office 2007 - it made a few enemies by ditching a user interface with over ten years of history behind it. But it does make most activities much quicker to carry out, once you've worked out where they are hiding on the new toolbar.
Office 2010 has a lot of crossover with Office 2007. Lots of people were infuriated by the removal of the File menu in Office 2007 and even more so by the help which told you "IMPORTANT: you can't get it back" (paraphrasing only slightly). Well, Office 2010 has introduced a File tab, which takes you to the backstage area. This is basically about the file settings, and the other stuff that goes on in the background and doesn't affect your document's content or appearance. All the features that used to be behind the Office button in Office 2007 are now found here, and the office button itself has gone. This provides quicker access to a lot of features and saves time hunting between different sub menus to find them.
There are a few new features which might save some time. There's a cool feature for inserting a screengrab into your document. You just select which of the currently running programs you'd like to grab (it must not be minimised), and the image is inserted in your document. For those writing software tutorials, this could save quite a lot of time, although this workflow won't help out with book production much because publishers typically need the images to be separated out.
Word 2010 has a new navigation panel down the left, which adds search to the thumbnails and document map, and makes it easier to switch between them. There are some new text effects too, and a web-based translator built in to the Review tab.
The main new addition to Office 2010 is integration with Skydrive, which enables documents to be stored online so that they can be accessed and edited online and from other machines. This is a response to the rise of Google Documents and other online editing services.
I expect additional new features will come to light as I use Office 2010 more, but for now it seems to be more of an evolution than a revolution. Perhaps just having a File tab where the File menu used to be will be enough to encourage people to give it a go. They'll be pleased they did: the old version of Office hadn't changed very much since 1995, and was designed for much smaller screens than we typically have today. Office 2007 and 2010 more fully exploit the available screenspace to enable you to write more intuitively and quickly.