Most of my previous articles (computoredge.com, Rob the ComputorTutor) on Office looked at the 2003 version, which was virtually identical to the 2002 and 2000 version, and very similar to their 97 and 95 versions. However, recently, Microsoft introduced a new 2007 version that left experienced users baffled. Microsoft’s premise was that the new “Ribbon Bar” (see Figure 1, Excel’s Ribbon Bar) made life much easier for beginners and experienced users would be able to find what they need by simply looking around.
Figure 1. Excel 2007 Ribbon Bar
After playing with this a while, experienced users will find that all Microsoft did was take all of the pictures out of the menus and put them in organized boxes. However, along the way many nice new features were added. The biggest struggle I’ve had was trying to locate some of the advanced features that I use often. Other than that, as expected, I have gotten pretty used to it and find that most of my work remains the same.
That said, there were a few annoying features. As I’ve previously indicated, when I first tried this out as a beta product, I was unable to find out how to open a new file. (My existing spreadsheets were still launching the previous version...and yes, they could live on your machine simultaneously.) So there I was looking at the above trying to find the place where I could Open a file. I looked at the Home tab and figure that it should be there. No luck. Maybe the Insert tab? I went through every tab and found nothing. Since I had a beta version, I though that maybe this was not offered. I checked the help file and it said to simply click on the Office Button. Office Button? What’s that? Help files offered no clue as that what that looked like or where it was located. After an hour of research, I finally found out that it was the circular logo in the top left corner. Click on that and you see all of the tradition choices found in the File menu of many applications.
Apparently I was not the only one to complain about that. The new version gives us a menu tab to access this. Here are images from the current beta version, currently available free from the Microsoft.com website (as of Jan 2010.)
Here’s a collection from the beta. To fit this page better, I shrunk my application window before capturing the picture. When you do that, the groups under each tab are contracted and you often get pictures without text. If you run it with a wider window, you see the pictures plus more of them with text.
First up is the ever-popular word processor, Word. Notice in Figure 2 that the aforementioned “File” tab next to the Home tab. No more Office Button. This was replaced with a product logo: the familiar blue “W” in a picture of a printed page.
Figure 2. Word 2010
In addition, near the top right, you still see the “?” in the blue circle. However just to its left is a little “^” up arrow. If you click on that it will collapse the ribbon bar so you get more space to work on your document. This feature was previously available by right-clicking on the menu bar but few people knew about it. I’ve also seen people accidentally collapse the Ribbon Bar and not know what happened or how to undo it. Now, you simply click on the “v” down arrow to expand it again.
I really haven’t had a chance to explore all the new features but the main ones I’ve seen are the File menu and color change; the 2007 version has a shade of baby blue that was replaced with a colder steel gray. Let me know which you like better.
Other than this, Word 2010 seems to work pretty much the same as Word 2007 including the new file formats that came with that version.
Next up on our list is the spreadsheet program, Excel. Figure 3 shows that this also looks pretty much the same as Excel 2007.
Figure 3. Excel 2010
If you compare this to Figure 1 above, you’ll notice some of the same changes mentioned for Word. Also notice that Figure 1 was captured from a wider window so sections like Styles showed the text, as I previously mentioned.
Next up in the package is the presentation tool as seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Powerpoint 2010
For those not too familiar with this, Powerpoint lets you create a computerized slideshow. Typically this is used during group presentation to help demonstrate your points. However, this can also be delivered to anyone who wants to download the presentation viewer (similar in concept to the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader.) The individual pages can be set up with nice fonts, and pictures like a typical word processor page. However, the tool lets you add special effect so that, for example, bullet items show up one at a time either based on a timer or a mouse click or other event. With each of these you can add a sounds effect. Then at the end of a page, you can add special transitions to make the current page switch to another page with effects such as a diagonal sliding page, a cut-and-splitting effect, a fade-out-fade-in or a collection of others, also with optional sound effects. Finally, you can “compile” the final result into a runnable file (with the above mentioned viewer) so that the user double-clicks to start the presentation.
How does the new e-mail / organizer tool look? Figure 5 shows the new version.
Figure 5. Outlook 2010
Most people think that Outlook is an e-mail application. It is, but it is also much more. A dozen years ago, people called this a PIM (Personal Information Manager). The idea was to give you all of the tools you needed for a typical on-the-road business.
Aside from e-mail, Outlook offers many other features.
Of course, you have the e-mail system. This lets you create a collection of accounts and folders for these various accounts. You can also add rules to indicate how you want to manage these accounts (like spam management or project organization.
As expected, you have an entire Contacts subsystem to help keep track of the people you want to contract through e-mail. However, it also lets you add other things like categories, address, phone number, personal information, business information, nicknames, birthday, etc.
In addition, there is a Calendar. This is more than just a picture of the date. This is a fully-interactive calendar that lets you add messages to individual dates, add recurring events (like weekly reminders that my ComputorEdge article is due!) and the ability to colorize each message to help you identify them. You can also view your calendar by hour for one day, by week or by month. In my regular job, I use this to track how much time I am applying to each job so that I can fill out my timecard at the end of the week without thinking so hard about where to apply my hours.
Next is a Task-tracker. If you can discipline yourself to use this, it can be a very effective way to define a set of tasks that you would like to perform and allow you to mark them as completed when you finish.
Last in this tool is a Note-maker. This is a very simple feature that lets you add basic messages so you can “write it down” for later. This is actually very similar to a stand-alone application we wrote about 6 months ago here in the “Rob The ComputorTutor” articles (but ours had less overhead.)
The last item in the beta package is a note-take tool seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6. OneNote 2010
Although it was available in a 2007 version, it was not included in my version so I haven’t tried it yet. According to the Microsoft website, “Microsoft OneNote 2010 gives you the ultimate place to store and share your information in a single, easy-to-access location. Capture text, images, video and audio notes with OneNote 2010 to keep your thoughts, ideas, and important information readily available. By sharing your notebooks, you can simultaneously take and edit notes with other people on your network, or just keep everyone easily in sync and up-to-date.
You can also take OneNote 2010 on the road with you by posting your notebooks online and accessing them from virtually anywhere using the Web or a smartphone”
Wrapping up, Office 2010 also includes a new version of Access (for personal or small business database management), Publisher (for basic desktop publishing of things like greeting cards and newsletters), InfoPath (data-collection tool with forms management), SharePoint Workspace (for shared document version management) and Communicator (which is an Instant Messaging tool competing with AOL Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and a few others).