Monday, July 20, 2009

Office 2010 at a Glance

With Microsoft conveniently leaking the Office 2010 Technical Preview, we couldn't help but acquire a copy for ourselves. Office 2010 (codenamed Office 14) is the next version of the Microsoft Office Suite, which not only spans across various applications but also various devices such as mobiles, servers, and software as a service (their online persona).


Did you know: Office 2010 is just the marketing name. The internal version ought to be version 13, but Microsoft skipped it for superstitious and fun reasons.






Before we get into any sort of flaming, note that Office 2010 is in no sense revolutionary. It is by all means an evolutionary product, evolving and bettering its existing Office line. Of course this being an early Community Technology Preview (CTP), things will change (at the back end) but most likely the product in its entirety will pretty much remain the same.




64-bit


Speaking of back end changes, perhaps the biggest change is Microsoft's 64-bit offering of its Office program. This is probably due to the fact that Microsoft feels the market will slowly move/want 64-bit applications that are capable of exceeding the limitations of 32-bit software. Of course for most of us casual users of Office, we wouldn't be bothered as our office tasks are in no way even close to computing intensive to harness the power of 32-bit applications even. This change can be seen as a necessity for the Office line and maturity of 64-bit applications as the main stay in our computing lives.

The Look





Since Office 2010 builds upon Office 2007, it retains its unique ribbon-like structure, which finally extends to even Outlook now and other applications such as OneNote now. Microsoft has tweaked the overall Office Ribbon experience, aligning its layout and structure closer to that of Windows 7.





The most noticeable change is Office 2010's round "orb" button which has been replaced with what is now a solid blue rectangle with a white Office logo on it and a down arrow indicating a menu. Apparently Microsoft made this change as many folks thought the mysterious "orb" on the top left is just branding. Honestly, so did I, until curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on it. Even the ribbon color has changed to white compared to the bluish tinge that Office 2007 adorned. I preferred the bluish tinge as it segregated the white of the page from the bluish menu.


PowerPoint 2010






The most surprising feature out of the lot is PowerPoint's capability of editing videos on the fly. There is a special edit menu that lets you control the various ways you can edit videos, such as trimming the video down, fade in-out, etc. Of course you will not get the amount of control/editing capability of a full blown video-editor, but you wouldn't need it anyway! Also note, trimming down doesn't actually chop off the video but rather lets you set a start and end time for it. Therefore the pptx file will be as large as the video but will only play the section you want. You can also embed youtube videos but will require the internet to stream it. PowerPoint 2010 supports AVI, Windows Media, MOV/QuickTime, MPEG-2, SWF (Macromedia Flash), and MPEG-4 (H.264) formats.


Excel 2010






One of the most prominent features the new Excel 2010 is "Sparklines". Enter a range of numbers and hit "Insert--Sparklines" and you get a small visual representation of data in a cell, sort of like a mini view.



Web Office


This is another important feature that is unfortunately not working as of now. But Microsoft plans to integrate Office 2010 seamlessly with its online Web Office component which could spell serious competition for Zoho Office and Google Docs. On a brighter note for existing online applications, Microsoft doesn't want to offer all the feature-richness of Office 2010 online, so you can expect alternative Web Offices to cash in on that.


Microsoft Smilies








It's quite unlike Microsoft to get cute, but they have with their Technical Preview of Office 2010 by providing very web2.0-ish informal ways to gather feedback. One smiley to send positive feedback and the other grumpy smiley to send complaints. I quite like the fact that Microsoft isn't taking itself too seriously by being ultra-formal. However, I think you can expect the smilies to go away when the final product launches.

Videos

Microsoft is flexing its marketing muscle into the Office 2010 line. Take a look at The Office 2010 Movie.

There are several other features that we haven't got into but we will in the coming week. Office 2010 is certainly turning out to be a real mature product with features that make sense and are pretty much needed. Much like Windows 7, Microsoft seems to be headed in the right direction as far as their two main bread winners' go--Windows and Office products. Will 2010 be the year during which Microsoft truly shines (at least in terms of sales?) Only time will tell.



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