By now, you’ve probably heard the big news announced at Microsoft’s Wordwide Partner Conference in New Orleans: Office 2010 is now available as a “Technical Preview.” Starting today, the company is opening up the beta program to a larger number of users, all of whom will get to try the new, improved applications and their online counterparts. Yes, Office Web Applications will become available too, starting next month!
So why will you want to replace your Office installation with the latest version? Here are ten of the best reasons why this is the version of Office that can’t be missed:
1. Office Web Applications: For many online enthusiasts, the arrival of the web version of Office is probably the most exciting thing about the new suite. The web applications will work in multiple browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari) and even in most mobile browsers, too, including, as we reported earlier, the browser on the iPhone. Although some advanced functions will be powered by Silverlight technology, it’s not a requirement. The web apps will be tied in with their desktop counterparts and will use SkyDrive to host the online files. For consumers, web apps will be free, but no decision has been made on future plans to monetize them elsewhere. One of the best things about the web apps, besides their very “webiness” is the fact that documents will look exactly the same no matter whether you’re viewing them in the Office Suite itself or within the web browser.
2. Collaboration Features: You’ll now be able to collaborate with other users thanks to a new feature that lets two or more people work on a project at the same time and see each other’s changes in real-time. Specifically, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote will offer coauthoring capabilities. And the collaborators will be able to work with each other no matter how they’re accessing the files – either via the web browser or via the desktop. Specifics on how exactly this is being accomplished are still a bit under wraps since no one has actually gotten to test this yet, but it sounds promising.
3. Instant Sharing with PowerPoint: Built into PowerPoint 2010 is a tool which allows you to invite other users on the net to see your slideshow. The app will simply send them an email with a link for them to click which will launch the web version of your presentation within their browser.
4. Video & Image Editing: In addition to the new sharing features, many office applications, most notably Word and PowerPoint, will include both an image editor and a video editor for making changes to both types of files directly within the app itself with no need for an additional program.
5. Excel Sparklines and Slicers: Sparklines is a new feature in Excel 2010 that gives you a visualized snapshot of a data trend over time. These cell-sized charts can be added to tables to show trends or can be pulled from rows and columns to give visualized representations of the spreadsheet’s data. Slicers also deliver visualizations, this time to add visual filtering elements to tables so you can see what it is you’re filtering on.
6. Search & Navigation in Word: In addition to the new collaboration features and improvements to WordArt and Text Effects, Word 2010 also introduces some great new navigation and search features. When searching through a document, you can now see results as section headings, thumbnail previews, or as excerpts. Also, a new Navigation Pane replaces the old Document Map and lets you browse by sections and headings or by thumbnails – much like Adobe’s PDF does.
7. Outlook 2010 – More Social, Smarter, and Efficient: Outlook 2010 has had a number of changes all of which are worthy of attention. To begin, the program now sports the same Ribbon UI as the other Office apps, making the suite seem more cohesive. A new “Recipients Pane” adds somewhat of a social element to Outlook by delivering info about the people in a message pulled from data sources like Active Directory, SharePoint, and Office Communicator. Calendar Groups help teams decide on meeting times and, thanks to the new “Schedule” view for looking at horizontal slices of several calendars, it’s easier for you to see what time works for you. A new “Mail Tips” feature will warn you if you’re about to do something stupid – or just not practical – like emailing a large distribution list or someone who’s out of the office. It can also help fight data leaks by reminding users when they’re sending something they shouldn’t. Outlook’s “conversation view” is now the new default, grouping messages together by subject and letting you condense threads by removing redundant messages. Finally, Outlook will now support more than one Exchange account, which is something that affected users will rejoice about.
8. “Office Backstage”: This replacement for the old “File” menu, which was recently tucked away under the Office button within the application is quickly shaping up to be a “love it or hate it” feature. Instead of launching a menu of choices, Backstage pops-up a window-like view where you can quickly perform tasks like saving and printing files and configuring preferences. If you can get past the new full-screen feel for what was once a simple menu, you might find you like Backstage even more. For example, you can preview a document right from the “Print” settings so you don’t have to go to a separate “Print Preview” area anymore.
9. Paste Preview: Across all Office apps comes a new “paste preview” function which lets you see what your document will look like before you paste in new content from elsewhere. You can preview different formatting options for the content you’re pasting in and choose which one you want before actually pasting.
10. SharePoint Workspace: Although technically not a feature of the Office Suite itself, this new extension of the Office Stack will make it easier for business users to work with Office files on SharePoint even when they’re out of the office and offline. The SharePoint content is synced with your PC for offline use and you can then launch your docs from the Start Menu or from a Windows folder just as you can with any locally stored file.
To learn more about what’s coming in Office 2010, check out the newly launched site at www.microsoft.com/office/2010 where you can get more details about the core programs as well as the other apps like OneNote, Publisher, and Access, all of which have also undergone major upgrades.
You can sign up to be considered for the Technical Preview program from the site, too – just click the link at the upper-right.