After Windows, Microsoft Office is the second biggest money-spinner for the company, so it’s no surprise it has been launched on the same day as the new OS. The numbering gives it away but it been 4 years since Microsoft updated Office and while it’s easy to think that the old version still works just as well as it did yesterday, you can’t help but feel that the new version may well offer more in the way of productivity and ease of use.
As we’ve come to expect, the core of the suite is made up of six tools: Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. They may be the same but the first thing you’ll notice is how radical the interface now looks. Once you would have had the standard File, Edit, View, etc, along the top of the page. This has now gone, as are the familiar drop down menus, in favour of what is called The Ribbon, which is a row of commands that best typify the average tasks you do. So, when you click on a task on the Ribbon, it immediate shows the main tools you need to perform that task, which means no longer having to root around looking for a specific tool.
It’s not only the Ribbon that has changed things. Word is the most popularly used program and has a complete overhaul of how to get the best from it. However, it is the new font and text styles that, along with a number of new Ribbon features, help bring a fresh look to most documents. The old Word allowed you to make basic page layouts but Word 2007 is far more impressive with what it can handle. You can even change style immediately using the tools in the Styles Set options.
One problem with previous versions of Word was how it handled the completed page. Now, you can set parameters so people can view a page but only those with permission can change or edit the page. In this way, control of the content is kept firmly in the hands of the author.
On the surface, Outlook has changed the least visually but with the addition of RSS feeds and more advanced PIM (Personal Information Manager) tools, you quickly get the idea that the underlying engine has had a overhaul. However, the best new tool as to be the preview mode for attachments. Gone are the days of having to click on the attachment for to open Word or Excel. Now you can click on the file and a preview window shows you what’s inside. What’s more, you can print from this attachment or even copy and paste out the contents, still without actually opening the attachment up. Meanwhile, the new To-Do list is predominately positioned, so if you do have a meeting, or need to get something done, it’s there as a gentle reminder, rather than hidden away as with previous versions.
Excel follows the them of a new look with its ribbons but the big change is the new file format, as well as a host of new tools. Excel is all about working with tables and individual cells but data formatting has always been a problem. Not so now, as the new features feel a great deal more intuitive, such as being able to right-click and "Format as Table", for instance, which previously was hidden away in the Tool bar.
We’ve only had a chance to scratch the surface of Office 2007 in this review but even the few changes we’ve covered are enough to make this the most exciting version yet.