Office 2010: The Technologizer First Look

Microsoft is starting to let folks in on the Webbiest, most collaborative Office ever. But it's not all there yet.

By  |  Monday, July 13, 2009 at 9:06 am

Also yet to come is access to Office 2010’s collaborative features. There are a wealth across all the major applications: Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word all get new tools for co-authoring documents and juggling multiple edits. The specifics vary, but in general, Microsoft says it’s tried to implement a more orderly, less chaotic approach to collaboration than the everybody-can-edit-everything-simultaneously philosophy embraced by Google Docs and other online suites. It’s also renaming and updating its slick Groove document-sharing software–from now on, it’ll be known as SharePoint Workspaces.

I’ll write more about Office 2010’s collaboration features once I’ve tried them; for now, here are details on some of the other notable other features in the Technical Preview.

Word 2010

Word’s new Navigation Pane incorporates the Document Map and Find features from Office 2007 into a window that sits to the left of your document. Like the Document Map, it shows an outline of the document by listing all the headers, but now you can shuffle around sections of your document by dragging and dropping headers. (In the Technical Preview, at least, there’s not quite enough visible feedback as you drag headers around to make it clear where they’re going to land.)

Office 2010 Navigation

The Navigation Pane’s search feature is a heck of a lot more useful than World’s old, traditional Find dialog (which is still available), since it doesn’t cover up your document and shows you all your results in context–it’s sort of like Google Bing results for your Word files. You can also search for specific types of elements inside a document, such as graphics or comments.

Office 2010 Search

Word 2010 Background RemovalThe outstanding graphics features in Word 2007 are even better in Word 2010, and one of the most striking differences between the app and its purely Web-based competitors. You can now add fancy effects like reflections and shows to text, and use more sophisticated typographical options like small caps. The new Background Removal feature (also available in Excel and PowerPoint) lets you quickly mask images to retain only figures in the foreground; it works surprisingly well. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint also some one-click image effects, such as ones that make photos look like watercolors or mosaics.

Both Word and PowerPoint now let you capture screen shots (including cropped sections of the screen) from directly within the program. It’s not a replacement for a full-featured screen capture program like SnagIt, but it can come in handy if you prepare documents that incorporate screen images, such as training materials.

Word and the other Office apps also get a new Paste Preview feature: Hover your mouse pointer over the Paste icon before you click, and you’ll see a preview of whatever’s in the Clipboard as it’ll appear if you paste it. I’m not convinced that it’s faster than using <Ctrl>V to paste and <Ctrl>Z to instantly undo if you’re unhappy with the results, but cautious newbies who don’t like keyboard commands may apreciate it.

Excel 2010

Much of what’s new in Excel 2010 is aimed at serious spreadsheet geeks, including the potential of the 64-bit edition for faster number crunching, and new functions that provide greater precision. (Office 2010 will be the first version of the suite with native 64-bit versions of Excel and all the other apps.) A new feature called Slicers lets you create floating field lists for data in PivotTables, so you can easily filter down and segment the data in a view.

Office SparklinesAnother addition called Sparklines is…well, fun: You can create teensy thumbnail bar charts and line graphs that sit inside cells, providing at-a-glance data visualization. I expected Sparklines, like formulas, to be relative to the data around them–so copying a Sparkline to a new row would automatically update it to reflect the data there. But unless you explicitly edit a Sparkline, it continues to chart the data in the cells you originally specified.

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15 Comments For This Post

  1. Paw Hellegaard Says:

    Thanks for sharing, great article!

  2. Josh Says:

    It’s nice to see Microsoft finally acknowledging the web. Maybe we can put SharePoint in our past… forever.

    I’m guessing that Office 2010 won’t work with Firefox or Safari and that this will become just another extension of the monopoly’s attempt to circle the wagons rather than to innovate and provide value for its customers. We’ll see.

    It’s a real shame that Google only half-heartedly exploited Microsoft’s recent weaknesses. Google Docs got a great start — and people noticed — but as Google Gears floundered, Docs never evolved into something more useful. Meanwhile, Zoho over-evovled and became a clumsy overstuffed suite of applications, trying to be all things to all people.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    Josh–Thanks for the thoughts. Microsoft specifically says that the Web apps will work in Safari and Firefox…

    –Harry

  4. Marc Says:

    I hope they speed up Outlook. I’m amazed at how my iPhone can be so fast when accessing Exchange and IMAP accounts, yet on my high spec XP box at work, Outlook regularly freezes momentary, just enough to annoy me, when browsing mailboxes.

  5. Tom Reestman Says:

    This might be a better write up on the newest office than even Paul Thurrott’s (and that’s saying something).

    It really looks like Microsoft has paid attention in this release. Not only to weaknesses in the otherwise promising Ribbon interface, but also to some of the slicker features in Apple’s iWork.

    As near as I can tell, the biggest problems in Office now will be that the days of very expensive office suites are numbered (I’m just not sure I’ll take the plunge this time), and there are too many freakin’ versions (five, thankfully down from eight).

  6. Rufus T. Firefly Says:

    Godfrey Daniel! I’ve just begun struggling with making sense out ofr Office 2007.

  7. ediedi Says:

    I’m using office 2008 for mac – there’s no ribbon!
    Anyway, who needs another version of office? Almost nobody I know uses the latest verson anyway (.docx backwards incompatibility is really annoying).
    Won’t be upgrading anytime soon…

  8. Jess Says:

    Office 2010 sounds interesting, but why wait for it to come out when you can use a product like eXpresso which already exists. I use eXpresso for business and personal needs and I LOVE IT! eXpresso provides real-time collaboration and editing control for shared Microsoft Office files in the cloud. Check it out at http://www.expressocorp.com

  9. billige mobiler Says:

    very nice blog.. I like the design, its cool:-)

  10. billige mobiltelefoner Says:

    very nice wordpress block, i gust love the design.

  11. Tim F. Says:

    The problem with the ribbon is that the tabs are clickable rather than hoverable.

    It may expose some new functions to some limited users at opportune times, but for users who know what they want, being faced with: I can’t access that function without clicking a tab which changes the interface to select the same application menu option which is now a huge icon, click back on the other tab to go back to interface, interact with window, repeat…

    That just makes no sense in many situations. Before, I could access ALL functions by hovering the mouse through the application menu without leaving any particular interface or tab. How is only giving me a subset of functions at any given time better if I know what I am doing? For some apps where context specific actions may be common (building a table, etc…), it can be helpful… if you don’t need to quickly or frequently access functions of a different type, located in a different tab. But for many apps, it just isn’t helpful at all.

    Office was a fine suite of applications until 2007.

  12. boe Says:

    Nothing beneficial for most businesses – no reason to upgrade/purchase –

    Like Vista – all bling – no function.

    If they wanted to improve Office they SHOULD have –
    1. Made outlook open multiple e-mail accounts as full exchange -not an additional mailbox with some functionality or pop/imap with very limited functionality but two seperate exchange profiles simultaneously from multiple exchange servers.

    2. Full OLE support for pictures in access – umm wasn’t that functional with Office XP – why take that out? Why should someone have to code to add pictures to a personal database? Might was well use oracle or a real database if you are going to have to use code. Adding Office XP photo editor is the work around but why not just add photo editor back into office if that is the solution?

    3. Offer the old menu bar for people (most of my clients) who don’t want to learn the new menu bar. You can finally modify the ribbon to some extent in 2010 however my clients just want their old ribbon bar. Frankly I have no issue with the new menu bar but I’m one person and most of my clients don’t like it so prefer to stick with office 2003. MS could make money selling the new version if they just offered the old menu as a choice with the new ribbon.

  13. boe Says:

    Nothing beneficial for most businesses – no reason to upgrade/purchase –

    Like Vista – all bling – no function.

    If they wanted to improve Office they SHOULD have –
    1. Made outlook open multiple e-mail accounts as full exchange -not an additional mailbox with some functionality or pop/imap with very limited functionality but two seperate exchange profiles simultaneously from multiple exchange servers.

    2. Full OLE support for pictures in access – umm wasn’t that functional with Office XP – why take that out? Why should someone have to code to add pictures to a personal database? Might was well use oracle or a real database if you are going to have to use code. Adding Office XP photo editor is the work around but why not just add photo editor back into office if that is the solution?

    3. Offer the old menu bar for people (most of my clients) who don’t want to learn the new menu bar. You can finally modify the ribbon to some extent in 2010 however my clients just want their old ribbon bar. Frankly I have no issue with the new menu bar but I’m one person and most of my clients don’t like it so prefer to stick with office 2003. MS could make money selling the new version if they just offered the old menu as a choice with the new ribbon.

  14. Perry Says:

    Excuse me? Quick Step is only available for Outlook Exchange? This is one of the best maybe the best new feature in Outlook 2010, the search is well you know (but I haven’t expected something different) and something you can cope with as long as you have been smart enough to get yourself a third-party search tool like lookeen, but hey Microsoft what is going on, do you want to scare the rest of the Outlook users away to other e-mail-programs like Thunderbird?

  15. Jim Britt Says:

    The ribbons STINK! They are clunky and primative compared to the menu bar!

    Access 2010 is HORRIBLE; they took a good product and made it 100 times more complicated.

    IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT!

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