Microsoft Office 2010 Launched:A Much Deeper User Experience

Microsoft officially launched Office 2010, a remarkably attractive upgrade to Office 2007 that will please power users with its dazzling array of new features that refines Office 2007's somewhat confusing interface, adds cloud computing elements for road warriors, and offers a much deeper user-experience.

Microsoft Office 2010's price starts at $99 (Office Professional Academic) and tops off at $499 (Office Professional), so investing in the suite should be done with some consideration. Although Office 2010 offers many enhancements to usability (such as a 64-bit version that supports massive Excel spreadsheets, and multi-threading for faster open and closing), this might not be enough of an improvement for those who are already happy with Office 2007. In fact, Google has suggested that users forgo upgrading to Office 2010 and take a look at Google Docs instead. We analyzed the features of both Google Apps for Business and Microsoft Office 2010 to help you decide which is best for your business.


Microsoft has put the final touches on Office 2010, and corporate customers can either buy it via resellers or download a 60-day free trial (via TechNet) as of May 12 (the boxed, retail versions hit shelves in June). As with many revisions of popular applications, one vital question must be asked: Do you need the new version? If you're a home or small-business user of Office 2007 ($399.95 direct, ), the answer is: probably not. Our Office 2010 review shows that the latest version packs in enough new conveniences and performance tweaks that you'll probably at least want Office 2010—something that hasn't been true of every Office upgrade.
Three categories of users should regard Office 2010 as an essential upgrade: anyone who creates graphically rich documents and presentations; anyone who buys software for a whole corporation (especially if that business relies on collaboration and sharing tools); and anyone in need of the new 64-bit compatibility which enables users to create worksheets even more humongous than 32-bit Excel's 2GB limit.
For the first time, Microsoft doesn't offer upgrade pricing on any Office edition; you'll need to buy either a full copy or a "Product Key Card" which gives an activation key (no DVD or packaging) used to unlock a trial version of Office 2010. Product Key Cards have street prices typically about two-thirds the price of the boxed versions. That's not to say there are no free upgrades; if you bought Office 2007 on or after March 5, 2010, you qualify for a free upgrade to Office 2010.
Of course, you don't have to pay at all for Office-like functionality. Open-source darling OpenOffice.org works pretty much like Office 2010, and it's free. Sadly, however, it's got a clunky interface and generally lacks the polish of the last couple revisions of Microsoft Office. If you're not a power user who does tons of formatting of word docs and don't tend to put a serious strain on Excel, you might consider Google Docs, which is free for personal use and still pretty cheap for business. Of course, free is a relative term; some businesses might find that the process of making the switch can be costly in terms of disruptions of workflow during the transfer. And then there's the issue of keeping your documents in the cloud, which isn't for everyone.
Enhanced Interface:
Unlike Office 2007, which introduced a brand-new Ribbon interface that proved controversial among consumers, 2010 lacks a steep learning curve. By now, users who took the 2007 plunge feel at home with the Ribbon. Office 2010 improves on the Ribbon by adding an option to create custom tabs that contain only the tools you use most often. It's still not perfect, because Microsoft only lets you choose from a small set of built-in icons for commands that you add to the ribbon—ancient pre-Ribbon versions of Office let you choose your own icons when you added commands to a toolbar. 
In Office 2007, few users discovered they could hide the ribbon by clicking in it, or pressing Ctrl-F1. The Office 2010 ribbon sports an arrow icon that reminds you to click on it to turn the ribbon on or off. As in the 2007 version, if you tap the Alt key in 2010, the Ribbon displays little boxed letters you can type to perform tasks entirely from the keyboard.Some features, however, such as paragraph styles, still require too much mousing.

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