Review: Microsoft Office 2010

While today marks the consumer launch of Microsoft Office 2010 in Australia, I got a chance to take a look at the professional edition so here’s the review. First...

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While today marks the consumer launch of Microsoft Office 2010 in Australia, I got a chance to take a look at the professional edition so here’s the review.

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First of all lets cover what’s included, there is new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. It’s important to not the lack of InfoPath and remember Visio and Project are not included in the Office suite, but are still branded as Office products.

Chances are if your a business, it’s a good bet that your already running Microsoft Office, so the question really becomes should you upgrade. One of the most important influencers for the upgrade decision is the ‘what’s new’ list, so lets cover that now.

Backstage view – New to 2010 is the replacement for the file menu. The Backstage view gives you all the common tasks you would perform in one simply full screen view. Filling the application window, Backstage lets you create new documents based on new documents from templates, send or save your file or review your available print options. It actually works quite well, but will take some time for consumers to adjust.

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The Ribbon – First introduced in some Office 2007 office apps, the successful ribbon is now refined and standard across all Office apps.

Jump Lists – All Office 2010 apps support Windows 7 Jump Lists, allowing convenient access to your recently used documents which can be pinned for easy access.

Templates – Basically every new version of office includes new themes, so this is nothing new, however there are some fairly good ones on offer, so don’t start from scratch, find a template and modify from there to save time.

Word 2010
Microsoft Word is arguably the most used application in the Office suite, so there should be key changes to improve productivity gains in Word 2010..  so is this the case ?

Text effects – this include the ability to add text effects directly to text, this previously required you to insert word art with some pretty average results.

Embedded search – Gone is the very dated popup search box, searching through a document now produces a search panel on the left, finding all references to your search term throughout the document, allowing you to easily skip between results.

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Excel 2010

Sparklines – These are tiny charts that fit in the space of a single cell, this allows for a visual summary of trends alongside data.

64-bit – Excel is commonly used to store large amounts of data (sometimes this data really should be in a database). Excel 2010 can now take advantage of multithreading improvements to speed up the retrieving, sorting, and filtering data.

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PowerPoint 2010

Transitions and animations – these have really taken a big step forward in this version. Now available is a long list of interesting, more professional transitions, as well as a slew of pre-built and custom animations for objects within your presentation.

Broadcast Slide Show – If you need to show off your presentation remotely, then the new Boadcast Slide Show feature will be an important feature for you and your business. Previously you may have had to resort to a 3rd party remote desktop solution at a decent cost to achieve this functionality. From the Slide Show tab, just hit Broadcast Slideshow, it’ll be uploaded (may require a LiveID), and then you receive a URL to send to remote viewers. Transitions sadly don’t make it over the wires, but animations are preserved.

Video – The fact is video and PowerPoint have never really worked well together, in this release that changes. Inserting a video is now a menial task which also comes along with effects and basic editing controls. It’s also easy to compress video to save on file size, so no need for standard users to learn about transcoding. If you find a video online you’d like to including in your presentation, Outlook 2010 makes it easy to paste in the embed code (note: some video effects won’t work on embedded video).

Mobile – One of the most unique features built into PowerPoint 2010 is the ability to use PowerPoint Mobile to control your presentation from your Windows Mobile phone. This feature does however require an add-in called Presentation Companion, this should be included out of the box. Hopefully this is also supported by Windows Phone 7 that ships later this year.

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OneNote 2010
Taking notes is not just for students, professionals can also take advantage of taking notes, sketching ideas or flushing out concepts in OneNote 2010.

Linked Notes – If you’ve ever wanted to make notes about a document, but not actually include said notes within the document itself, then the new Linked Notes feature is for you. This would be great for making notes while proofreading, editing or reviewing a document. These are location aware, so when you make a note, it links to the location in the document you were in when creating it.

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Outlook 2010

Social connector – This feature connects Outlook to your social and business networks, this allows easy access to more information about the person contacting you. See their recent activity on social networks, previous emails from the contact, attached files, IMs and connections. Currently the Outlook Social Connector only supports Linked In and MySpace but Facebook and Windows Live support is coming soon. Also it’s important to remember social connectors are only 32-bit, which means 64-bit users are out of luck.

Quick steps – These are designed to be a one click solution to common tasks in outlook such as marking an item as done, moving mail to a specific folder. Users can create custom Quick Steps to suit their workflow needs.

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Publisher 2010

See through paper – Paper isn’t fully opaque, it’s slightly transparent, which means you’ll likely see some of the content on the page underneath when your document is printed. Publisher 2010 recognises this through a new backlight feature.

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Access 2010

Expression Builder – This allows you to automate complicated database expressions easily, without writing code.

Application Parts – Databases can now be built in a modular fashion with pre-built Access components. These can be added to the database with a few simply clicks. New templates from Office.com also help get you up and running quickly.

Improved Forms and Reports – UI improvements are plentiful in Access 2010, particularly when it comes to forms and reports.

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Price & Availability
Microsoft Office Professional 2010 costs A$849.00 if you buy through Microsoft’s online store. If you look around you can find it at places like CitySoftware for A$683.00. Another way to buy is to purchase a Product Key Card and download it yourself, using this method, it’ll set you back A$499.

Overall
If your still on 2003 it’s a no brainer, it’s time to upgrade. If your on Office 2007, then the ribbon standardisation is a much needed inclusion and backstage is nice addition, but its hard to point to many ‘must have’ new features for Office 2010.

While Microsoft will try and tell you Office 2010 is more collaborative than ever before, the reality is there’s a long way to go. Having multiple people work on a single document in reality is just 1 person working on a document and pushing changes to a central location (SkyDrive or SharePoint). There’s now live updating, nor is there chatting or conversation support while co-editing.

Update
It seems there is a way to chat to colleagues whilst editing.. it just requires Office Communicator 2007 R2.
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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.