As far as different versions of Ms Office packages are concerned till Office 2003 there were hardly any marked differences but the Office 2007 Home and Student version has come up with quite some variations and too my mind makes working in Word, Excel and PowerPoint that much easier with some improved options. The layout of menus is a bit different and once you are accustomed to them things are pretty simple and much more user friendly.
Comparing other versions of Office packages the first thing that tries you is the user menu. You just have Home, Insert, Page Layout, Reference, Mailings, Review and View. Instead of drop down menus when you click one of the main menus there you get boxes.
For example the Home menu gives you the basic options Font, Paragraph and styles. On the left hand side box gives you the basic cut, copy and the clipboard options. Again if you look at the clipboard options it can now remember 24 cut and copy features instead of the generally 12 features available in Office 2003 version or previous. Another improvement is the consolidation of basic menu options to one point so that you don't have to search for them all over the place. Consider the Home main menu option: Here all the fonts' options are staged up in one place and if you want more just look for the arrow beside Font, click you get all the extra options. Another addition is on the right hand side i.e. is select text with similar formatting, this is particularly useful.
Another very interesting feature id available in the Page Layout Menu, the Water mark option: I would suggest you to delve into this option you will be able to water mark your documents as "Confidential", "Don't Copy" and so on. But mind you they can be removed by you. Even you can make them static and only the person creating the file can remove it.
Another marked development is the paragraph spacing feature. By default Office 2007 give you auto 6pt spacing between paragraphs.
In the Home main menu look at the right hand corner and click style and see the number of styles available. Again although it is agreed you can install any number of fonts in all the versions of Office but the variety of default fonts available in Office 2007 is amazing the reason is embedding fonts in Adobe Writer becomes that much easier. Another addition is the draft view which is available right at the bottom right hand corner above the notification bar. There you get another wonderful view option and brand new too, "Full screen" reading. You need not scroll the pages. Just click this option and the pages you want read in full screen view appears. On the taskbar the innovations is great. Look at the left hand side, you get an instant view of number of pages, word count and new the surprise 'proof errors'. If you have problems in spelling and basic grammars it will show a 'cross' sign, it doesn't end there, click the 'cross' make corrections. Don't worry all the required correction options are there with suggestions. When you have a document with no corrections necessary it will show a "right" symbol. Oh by the way I forgot to tell you in the water mark section you can have picture water mark also for ornamentation.
The sort option has added features too, sorting by paragraph is possible!
NEW IN INSERT MAIN MENU:
True we are used to Word art but here there is Smart Art also. Just check the option. Previous versions had no option for Different and Footer. Now you can add different Headers and Footer for different pages, which is wonderful.
The Microsoft Equation is much more improved and offers great options. Symbols are much easier to insert and there are basic symbols handy. Just at the left hand side there you can design a cover page at any point of time and it will show at the beginning of the file.
The addition is Quick table, just on example inserts a quick calendar and edits it and it is possible for all the quick table options.
Now if you want to create a Curriculum Vita you need not separately insert table and then insert data, it is there as template and of course it is editable.
NEW IN PAGE LAYOUT:
From now on you can add line number nice and cool, you don't need word editor.
This is a brand new addition but there not many surprises but one feature is the Adding Bibliography, which quite hand and interesting.
It mostly contains what were there in the Tool menu of the previous versions, only that the Mails Merge part has improved and you can send it to recipients directly.
A fabulous addition is the support of World lingo. Select the part you want to translate, click your translation language and click on the white arrow with green background (as long as World lingo supports the requested language).
A Word About The Title Bar:
Now The Title Bar not only shows the name of the program and file but now you can bring your shot cuts right up here.
Remains more or less same except the additions applicable to excel.
The latest addition is the photo album and believe me it is excellent. But What I did not have time to experiment is the possibility of adding mp3 files instead of .avi. If mp3 format is supported it is something of an achievement.
JUST IN CASE:
If you are looking for short cuts just bang on the Logo right on top at the left hand corner.
Best works in XP and Vista
Maximum disk space required: 525MB
'''IMPORTANT NOTE: Though not particularly relevant but I think it is pertinent to warn you to protect your files with passwords exceeding 18 characters, otherwise it becomes very easy for the hackers.
© roktimdutta November, 2009
Over the years at school, college and work I have used Microsoft Office for my various word processing and publishing needs. When getting a new laptop with no word processing, speadsheet or publishing package I decided to give Microsoft Office 2007 a try, so I downloaded the demo.
I found the installation a bit slow (even on a new laptop) but I guess that wa down to the size of the package. It took a bit to get used to the new layout from the previous versions but all in all the features were as I expected.
Over time I found it started to down and take while to load but once it got going it ran ok, not many crashes. So over all not a bad package.
The main issue I have with Microsoft Office is the price. It is possible to get everything you need free of charge, which all the features you could possibly need. A good example is OpenOffice.org. It even opens all your Microsoft Office Word files!
So in conclusion, if you don't need Microsoft Office then save yourself the money with OpenOffice.org
I have used Microsoft Office for quite a while now in school, college and currently in university so I have had some experience with previous versions. Fortunately I didn't have to buy a copy for myself as the installations in the educational institutions I was studying at fulfilled my needs. However, last year I decided to get a copy for myself to make it easier for me to work at home without becoming dependent on my university's computing service.
The first thing I noticed when I got my hands on the software was that the box was quite difficult to open. The plastic tag showing you how to open the box was somewhat ambiguous and it took me a while to understand how to do it. However, this could well be due to my stupidity.
Once I got the CD out of the box, I began to install the software and it was trouble free. The instructions for installation inside were very straightforward to understand, and in no time the installation was completed.
The variety of programs in the Home and Student package was just right for me; my needs are minimal as I only ever use Word and Excel so I will limit this review to those programs.
The thing that struck me the most, comparing it to Office 2003, is the improved menu system. It is much easier to open, create and modify files using the tabs at the top of the screen.
Occasionally I am forced to use the older version of Microsoft Office at university on certain computers. I find that Word is more difficult to use with regards to doing tasks such as inserting equations and subscripting or superscripting text quickly without the new menu configuration. I have the same issues with Excel.
The 2007 version also makes use of an updated .docx file format so you have to be careful about saving in the .doc format for compatibility with previous versions. It has backwards compatibility, so if you have documents that you have produced with the previous version you will have no problem opening them.
Apart from the menu and aesthetic improvements of the program, I have not noticed many other major differences when compared to the previous version, although I am sure there are some which I haven't picked up on.
In summary, I have found Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 to be an affordable and useful software package for what I do.
Microsoft Office has always been what Microsoft have 'beaten' Apple at. Apple's response was 'Pages', 'Numbers' and 'Keynote'. Keynote is arguable better than its Powerpoint counterpart, but all in all, the MS office has always been greater than the Apple iWork office.
So unlike the previous update from 2000 to 2003, Microsoft have actually changed the interface. Instead of the stacked toolbars, we now have the MS 'ribbon', a (hideable) band across the top of the document using a tab method to display all of the features and options. In my opinion, this is a good idea, but users familiar with the olf office programes may be flummoxed by this odd unique way of using office. Some features have benn made more difficult, for example, inserting shapes and editing them has become more click-heavy and is very repetitive.
As for Excel (Speadsheets) specifically, there is a general improvent in usability and features. Graphs are now very easily edited and made to look more professional than before. Also, the size of the spreadsheets can now only be described as vast.
On an aesthetic note, generally, your document now look much better. With the pre-set title and main text option, making a standard document is a breeze- and it looks great! The built-in colour schemes are very good and account for a variety of purposes.
The most improved program is Powerpoint. MS have taken a leaf out of Keynote's book here. The user-friendliness have risen incredibly. Now the transitions and animations look professional, as before they looked very out of date. Now presentations look clean and slick.
Finally, a note on file formats. All of the formats have changed from their original file extension, with an 'x' added on (e.g., .doc is now .docx). This is to hold the more sophisticated features not available in the previous versions. Before you get worried that you wont be able to transfer files anymore, there is a solution. MS have included an option to save and view the old types of files within the programes. This really is useful.
Overall, this is the best office suite on the market, it may not be perfect, but is worth the expensive price.
Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student
The Home and Student Version comes with Word, Excel, Power Point, One Note, and Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
Changes and Improvements from Older Versions
The file format has been changed from .doc to .docx, which raises some compatibility issues if you try to use the older format. However it is easy to convert old documents to the new format by selecting 'Convert' in the Office Button menu. I recommend you do this as long as you are only planning to open the files with the 2007 version. Though you can save files in the old format, they cannot use all the features and are much larger.
The appearance and layout has also been changed. Now there are tabs on the top with all the formatting and editing features; for instance, a Page Layout tab which shows the buttons to change page orientation, margins, page size, etc.
It is important to be connected to internet to get a complete section of templates and help files.
Things I Like:
* In excel, the document size has been greatly increased to 1,048,576 rows and column XFD (16,384 columns). not that I ever need that big of a space, of course!
* The word art has been updated under Excel but remains the same in Word.
* There are more options in making charts.
* It takes up 392 MB on my hard drive when installed, which is very good considering how much I use it.
* Under that menu it shows the 17 most recent files you opened, which saves the time of opening the folders where frequently used documents are stored.
Things I Don't Like:
* They should have upgraded the Word Art feature in Word like they did for Excel.
* You must use an activation code through the internet in order to use it. It also says you can only have it installed on 3 computers. I'm afraid that if I would net to re-image my PC in the future I might have to buy it again.
* If your computer is small, it may take longer to open. I have 1 GB memory, 1.7 GHz Processor, which is pretty small and is sometimes slow to open Microsoft Office, especially if other programs are running.
* I'm currently having a small problem with Power Point, every time I close it an error message comes up asking to send a problem report to Microsoft. It is more of an annoyance than anything right now.
Is it Worth the Money?
On Amazon.com, this software package sells for $92.99, as of April 21, 2009. If you use word processing programs, spreadsheets, and presentation programs all the time it may be worth your investment. However, I think that Open Office 's free Oxygen Office package, which is FREE, is A better deal for most of us and certainly should be tried out. I have used it and would probably go back to it before paying $93.
It didn't take me long to get used to the new, more efficient layout of Microsoft Office 2007. However it is different at first and for those of us having used the 2003 version for so long it will be a change. I was especially pleased that the package included Microsoft Office Picture Manager, which was not already on my PC. It is one of the easiest to use photo editing tools for basic editing like cropping, resizing, etc.
I primarily use Excel and Word. They have plenty of features and are easier to use than the older version. I have looked into Power Point and One Note as well but since I don't really use them I don't have any opinion on them.
Also posted on other review sites under username K466.
This is the Office that is a definitely must use! It is the most fun Office out of all the edition so far. The one that is created for Mac is even more fun than the one for Windows.
It does take a while to fiddle with the functions and get used to doing things the new way, somewhat like when you first buy a handphone and use it. It is a very radical change from the windows office 2003 edition. Without the right specs on your laptop or personal computer, I would not recommend you to get it though. It could cause your computer to crash.
I have yet to use Excel and word extensively. Excel did irritate me at first when I couldn't find the usual functions in their usual places. Otherwise, there is nothing particularly about Excel or word except it is presented in a new format. The good thing about the new Office is that there is so much flexibilty involved for Powerpoint. Powerpoint allows simple basic photo editing and cropping right within powerpoint. Slides can be saved as jpeg and a whole lot of other formats. The photos can also be presented in all sort of ways, with powerpoint customising it for you with one click of a mouse.
but Powerpoint is now my best friend as I have never developed Photoshop skills. The powerpoint here allowed me to get closer to my photos in a way that I would never have imagined possible.
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 came as a trial version with my vista laptop, personally I preferred OpenOffice to paying for Microsoft Office in the past or I would just load up my old MS Office 2000, the change over from the old style of MS Office to the 2007 version was strange at first and the style of the program seemed almost unrecognisable, then as the days past and I needed to write up an essay I plunged into MS Office 2007 after deciding not to install OpenOffice for a change. Here I found the delights of a start button in the top left hand corner and the quick access toolbar, next I found for the first time the wonders of the more graphical toolbar which illustrates the function of each button clearly, although on the whole this thing is wonderful there are a few drawbacks, I took my essay in to school to print to find the file it was saved as by default could only be loaded up into MS Office 2007, this .docx file eluded me the whole afternoon, luckily I can convert the file in the 2007 Office to a backwards compatible file, but why MS decided to change the defauly format I dont know. another good point is that it uses hardly any of my laptop's resources whereas older versions of MS Office and OpenOffice slow the thing down tremendously compared. I think MS are starting to address design in their programs and making usability a key objective, I hope they keep it up !
As a person who had only come into contact with old-school Microsoft software - using a laptop from 2002 (that was old for the time!) at home until earlier this year, using Windows 95 (!) at work until this time last year, I was a little apprehensive when it came to changing.
My laptop came to a grinding halt in May of this year, meaning a replacement was needed. So far, so good. Then I read the blurb for the huge variety of software options - pretty mid-boggling. Fortunately, I came across some familiar words - Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Excellent. Just what I (pretty much a technological caveman) needed.
Problem 1. Not being blessed with the bank account of a Premiership footballer, I was a little taken aback at the price. I know that it's an official Microsoft product, but come on. I got a "special" deal and still felt ripped off.
Installation was incredibly easy and quick. Insert the disc, click a few buttons, wait a few minutes, and away you go.
Problem 2. It was then that I realised that the software I had been using for the best part of a decade had been obsolete for some time. How you view Office 2007 will depend to a large extent on how long you used the previous generation of Microsoft software for. Getting used to the new layout - using the "Office" button for every function that used to have its own button or tab - can take a long time and be quite frustrating.
There are also some quibbles with compatibility. Whilst you can read and amend documents written using the previous generations of Office software, you need to remember to use the "Save as Word 1997-2003" function if you want others with older software to be able to read it.
But stick with it.
Plus points - once you get over the "differences" hurdle, the software is very easy to use. Good layout of features. In Word, I haven't found that awful paperclip that was there to "help" you.
Minus points - the price. The "differences" hurdle - i.e. the time that you will spend aimlessly navigating every tab and button looking for the feature you want.
When I bought my laptop it came with just about nothing of use on it I didn't have Word, Excel, PowerPoint or anything - oh I had Notepad, but if anyone has ever tried writing an essay on that they will know that it is more or less impossible. It just isn't advanced enough. Something had to be done, so I walked into my local Comet and started asking around. This was what they came up with.
The Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 is very basically a package which you can load onto your computer, it contains Word 2007, Excel 2007, PowerPoint 2007 and OneNote 2007. It is the most basic package they do and is made for non comercial use only, I have to admit considering that it is a very basic package the price of it is rather excessive. Mine cost me £100 from the Comet in the Birmingham Bullring, but that was because I could show them a student card, the maximum price I have seen it being sold for is £250. It is not cheap but it is absolutely brilliant and I know I wouldn't have been able to use my laptop to it's full potential without it.
As with most of the packages that Microsoft make, the installation of this is very, very easy. You don't even need the instruction booklet that comes with it. Every step you have to go through is explained as you move through the installation. I have to admit that this package has been one of the easiest things I have ever installed on my computer, there is none of the complicated and confusing steps, just a simple step by step way of doing it. It really is the kind of, put the disk in the computer, wait for it to load, pick your language, move through the steps shown on the disk, click 'I agree' to the main agreement that they insist you read through and such like (you know the one, the stupidly long one that no one actually bothers to read before getting bored and clicking 'I agree'!). And there you have it, the package is installed. And if I, a complete technophobe, can install it with such ease, then anyone can!
As I said before there are four programmes in the package, and all of them are the latest versions of these (at the time of writing). They are all easy to use and very, very helpful to anyone looking to use their computer for basic purposes.
Word 2007 is very much the same as any other Word programme, but there are certain differences, particularly in layout. All of the changes are basic changes and have only been introduced to make the programme slightly easier to use, and to change the aesthetics so it appears more like the popular Apple Mac format. For example, if you want to emphasise a heading or any part of your writing, instead of having to go through the usual, rather arduous font changes, Word 2007 has a series of 'emphasised fonts' stored on the computer to make it slightly easier, in that you only have to hit a single button to change font. Likewise the word count has been put automatically at the bottom of the page, and if you highlight a section of the text it will count this seperately as well; this means that if you are writing a 2000 word essay, you don't have to keep checking because it is right in front of you the whole time. It is easier to use, and all possible options that you might need to use have been placed in picture form in the top bar. My brother has raised the complaint that the system is overly complicated now, whereas the older versions were simple and user friendly, to be honest I have not found this while I have been using it but it is a point worth noting.
Excel 2007 is almost identical to the older versions of Excel and therefore is very easy to use to anyone who is used to the older versions. It has the same kind of formatting as Word 2007, and I have found that it is a far less strenuous process to make a graph out of data, and make a graph that actually looks good. This would seem like a rather strange comment, but one of the things that annoyed me with the older versions of Excel is that the graphs looked very simplistic, and if I had to put them in an essay any lecturer looking at them would be able to say 'Must be Excel'. This kind of automatic dismissal has, to a point, been resolved in the 2007 version as the graphs seem to look more professional.
This is a program I don't use they often as I very rarely have to do presentations, so I will mostly rely on my foster father's view on the 2007 version in comparison to the older versions. He thinks that the newer format does make it more simple and user friendly, and from the small amount I have used it I would have to agree with him. The idea of it is exactly the same, but it is just easier to move about on it, organise your slide show and show it, as well as including note spaces solely for yourself if you are doing a talk presentation with PowerPoint as a back up.
OneNote 2007 is one of the most useful programs I have ever used, although I had never even heard of it before. But it is a brilliant program. It is set out as if you have a series of notebooks down the left hand side of the page, chapters at the top of the screen and pages down the left side. It sounds stupid, or completely unnecessary, but actually it is very useful. I have used it both for revision purposes and for personal purposes, it's almost like having a scrap book on your computer. I have sections for my favourite poetry, reviews, recipes, lyrics, and just random things that I don't want to forget. It keeps the things that I will want to store safe, and considering that I have a memory like a fish it is very, very useful. And although at first it seemed like it was rather complicated it took me about 5 minutes before I'd got the hang of it, and I it has been one of my favourite programs since...
Depending on what you want from your computer there are other packages which give more programmes for your money. The Home and Student 2007 is the cheapest of the lot, and as I said before it's not exactly cheap. The other main packages are:
Office Standard: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook
Office Small Business: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager.
Office Professional: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Publisher, Groove
Office Ultimate: All of the above with OneNote and InfoPath
It almost goes without saying that the higher package you get the more of your hard earned cash you are going to have to shell out, and for home purposes the student and home version should more than suit your needs. Or at least it more than fits my needs and I use the computer a fair amount because of my uni course.
I wouldn't usually have a section entirely on cost and value for money but considering the pure amount of cash that you'd have to shell out for a single CD, I think it is necessary. Yes, it is expensive, I cannot contradict that. But personally I would say that it is worth it. Given the way that computers seem to come with nothing but the most basic formats on it, some other programming is actually needed to make the computer useful. And although this is expensive, it is reliable, useful and works wonders. I wouldn't advise any of the more expensive versions unless you need it for work and you actually need the extra programs, but this has been perfect for my needs. There is also a small plus in the fact that the disc is licensed for 3 computers, which means that if you are a cheap-skate like me then you can change 2 other people £30 and recoup some of the cost!
Expensive but worth it. A selection of programs that are useful and even on some occasions fun, it's reliable and almost necessary for anyone who has a basic computer like mine!
I'm not one for needlessly shelling out cash, especially for what are, lets face it, extortionate Microsoft products; but I have to say this was money very well spent. The latest version of Word was a huge improvement in my opinion, which is shocking, given that the main function is simply to be a box to type into.
The new format and style of the word processor does make things a lot easier though; no more drop-down menus! Never again will you have you painstakingly go through subcategory after subcategory, which of course disappear if you accidently move the mouse! That might not seem all that annoying, but you'll see the light if you switch. All the main functions are put into related tabs at the top of the page, clicking one change the buttons directly below, then you simply pick the function which you wish to perform. E.g. the 'Review' tab, covers spelling and grammar, thesaurus, printing/previews, translation, word count etc. The tabs help to very quickly get an intuitive feel for the software.
This move also frees up a lot of space on the page, so you're simply left with what you're writing and a few tools at the top - it rids you of all the clutter in previous versions. This makes it more aesthetically pleasing, but more importantly very, very simple to use. I love it, I've used it for my CV about an hour ago, school work, coursework, party invitations, everything!
If you're a scientist/mathematician, the new version makes adding and editing formula SO much easier, I can't even fully describe it. For possibly the first time, the word processor understands calculus, exponential functions and so on. It's a pleasure to use in this way!
The Office 2007 package also comes with Excel, again, very useful; although I can't say as a student I've used it nearly as much as Word. None the less, if you need a spreadsheet, there's nothing better! The updates to this program are slightly more superficial, I can't really applaud its new creative ways... but then again, it's a spreadsheet program! There's not a lot you can do with it. Perhaps that's testament to how well designed the previous versions were. The main benefit is how easily you can use Word and Excel in parallel, things transfer very nicely from one program to the other, saving time and effort - and hey, it even looks nicer.
The package comes with two more programs, PowerPoint and One note. Let's face it, for most people; these are trivial or pointless respectively. Don't get lulled by the fact you're getting four programs...
Please bare in mind the compatibility of the software. If you save a document in the new format, you cannot then upload it again onto an older version of MS Office. It's worth thinking about this compatibility, if say, your school or office is still using a millennium edition or whatever. I had a problem with this once, but after a few minutes of fumbling around at home, I managed to change the document into an older version so that I could open it. It wasn't that much hassle, it's just something to consider, especially if you're lugging documents all around everywhere on a regular basis.
The software was easy to install and hasn't completely died ONCE. Seriously, it's brilliant, on the odd occassion things go wrong, it has ALWAYS, without fail, recovered what I was working on.
I thoroughly recommend this software, although if you're happy with just your bog standard type ups, or you're considering buying this for a 10 year old to do their homework, then I'm not sure I'd plump for the money. I could do most of what I can now; it just took a lot longer and made me bang my head against the keyboard more...
Being a student I find this software extremely useful as it provides all the tools I need to produce proffessional looking documents and spreadsheets. This package includes the basic Microsoft programs needed at home or school. Word is perfect for essays or any general documents and Excel provides the perfect way to draw graphs and spreadsheets. Powerpoint is also included for slideshows and is great for anyone needing to produce a quick, professional presentation. The programs themselves are very slick and have extremely user friendly interfaces, however they can be annoying occasionally when you can't quite get it to do what you want it to, but this is rarely the case. The package does not include Publisher, which is a downside as it is a great way to make professional leaflets and posters.
Overall, this is a great product and the best programs on the market in their selected fields. You will not be disappointed with this package if you are looking for a simple, easy to use home computer package.
I bought this software when I was traveling to Singapore. I bought it at Changi airport (duty free), so I have a good price with original program (I mean no copy one). When I start to use it, I love it. For create a spreadsheets of somethings, it usually take me a lot of time to finish, but using this program it is so easy to create all kinds of sheets, documents and presentations in many fancy ways (that's I love). It helps me in my accounting job a lot and craft booking as well. I pick up a lot of ideas when I use this software.
I love the picture functions, it is so much easy to decorate and fix the pictures, and it saves time a lot for copy, paste and move around the documents.
One function that I also love too that is it allows me to write a blog and publish it! No need to copy and paste to blog, I can keep one copy in my computer.
Microsoft Office Home and Student is good office package overall, but it takes some getting used to without the File etc. menus. The new 'Office' button is the button you will use for everything.
The ribbons features comes in handy sometimes, but sometimes it is annoying and takes a while to get used too. The new design looks very fresh and new.
At the moment Microsoft Office Home and Student is not really for replacing Office 2003, as Office 2007 uses different files formats (i.e. .docx for Word) and most people will not have upgraded including businesses and your workplace.
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 is quite expensive but will boost your productivity somewhat. There is tighter integration between the various applications themselves, e.g. you can now edit Excel graphs within a Word document, which is a very handy feature.
Overall this product offers a cleaner interface but for many the upgrade will not be justified.
What is it? A collection of software to allow you to create, edit and read text documents, leaflets and slideshows etc.
> I gather most people will allready be familiar with Microsoft Office, if not it is similar to Microsoft works (included with most new PCs). What we have here, is another update to the office suite. The first thing you will notice with 07 is the complete overhaul of every menu (no more file,edit,view etc) with graphics used instead. At a glance, the new version of office looks to be inspired by simplicity, but users of previous versions may be left wondering how to use the already existing features. And i think that they may be better off sticking with the current version because more than likely it will already do what you want it to. But for someone who doesnt already own a previous version, i would say pay that litle bit more for this.
Microsoft Office 2007
2007 is going to be a big year for Microsoft as they plan three major releases, pretty much concurrently. They will be bringing to market a new Operating System (OS) for PC's (Vista), a new OS for Server's (Longhorn) and a new Office Suite (I'm guessing the 'creatives' were in the pub by now so they just called it 2007). Bearing in mind the sheer scale of their global customer base, both commercial and retail, this is a massive exercise and you can be sure their marketing team will be bombarding us with promotions between now and then.
As a Microsoft Partner I often get an early view of their releases and I have now been using the new Office suite for a several weeks so thought I'd take the chance to offer this brief overview. I will say that this is based on using the Beta 2 version and there may be some slight changes when the commercial version is released sometime after January next year, but bearing in mind how far down the road Microsoft are with these products any final tweaks should be minor.
Microsoft Office has been the first choice for office software for the best part of 15 years, indeed apart from the odd foray by companies such as Lotus it has been the only genuine choice. Its dominance in the workplace, and with MS Word in the home, is incomparable with any other product, from any other industry. Its user base approaches half a billion across the world and with versions available for Mac users it is now successfully marketed across platforms.
Since the late Nineties Microsoft have been releasing new versions of the Office suite every two years or so. These have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary with increased functionality coming with each release, smart tags and improved document tracking for example, but users wouldn't have noticed much beyond cosmetic changes to the user interfaces. If you have used Office 97 you would have little problem picking up the 2003 version and continuing where you left off.
That is all about to change. Office 2007 is a completely revamped product; the changes Microsoft are unveiling are so profound that even experienced users will find themselves at a loss at first. The user interface has been effectively reinvented and file formats redesigned. The revamped user interface (UI) has been introduced to help us produce 'better results, faster' according to Microsoft, but then they would say that wouldn't they? The file formats were long overdue for a change, based on a binary system released in 1994 they are a hangover from previous computing generations and are something of a drag factor for today's IT needs.
Every time a new version comes out with its new functionality it is inevitable that certain features are deemed to be surplus to requirements and are quietly dropped. Being the company they are, Microsoft don't make these cuts lightly and undertake significant market and user research to underpin their decisions. However, there is nothing more frustrating than installing an upgrade and finding a favourite feature or command is no longer available. If there are features you rely on at work or home then it would be worthwhile trying a beta version before splashing out on the upgrade to make sure it is still included.
So, what are the changes and what does it mean for you and me, the users. Let's have a look.
Although Microsoft cannot claim to be primary movers in the PC market, a lot of their innovations are actually predated by competitors, they do have a history of bringing significant changes to the way we work with our PC to the mass market. A lot of this has come from the development of the Windows operating system. From Win 3.1, through Win 95, Windows XP and the soon to be released Vista Microsoft have introduced new ways of working with your PC, primarily to make it more user-friendly to capture new customers. These changes have often been the driver for UI changes in their software. The changes you will see in Office 2007 are no less dramatic than previously seen.
The change that you will notice first is to the UI. The changes are quite radical and you can be expected to pull up short when you first open an application and in a fit of panic wonder where everything has disappeared to. All the menus and toolbars you currently use are gone and have been replaced by the new Ribbon Interface. All commands are now on the Ribbon, arranged into groups and tabs.
So is this change for change sake or does this redesign make the Office applications easier to use? In Microsoft's opinion the increased complexity of the applications has meant that the old menu/toolbar interface has become cumbersome and inefficient. For example early versions of Word had less than 50 commands; the latest version has nearly 300 as well as 20-odd toolbars. They also found that they were receiving multiple requests for additional functionality that was already in the applications but couldn't be found by users. Their solution? Out with the old and in with the new, and I have to say my first impressions are very good.
Using MS Word as our example, let's say you launched it from the Start menu and are presented with a new blank document. First a word of comfort; the working area, and most of the screen from the ribbon down remains as you would expect from early versions so if you want to get writing you can go right ahead. Above the working area is where all the changes are and it won't be long before you are looking for a command.
There are three main areas in the new interface. In the top left corner is a big round button with the Office logo, this is the like for like replacement for the File menu where you'll find the Save and Print functions. Next to this is the small Quick Access Toolbar. From their research Microsoft determined that only 2% of users ever customised their toolbars and so they have removed this feature. The main Ribbon interface cannot be customised which may prove frustrating for some but as a sop users can add favourite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Dominating the top of the screen is the Ribbon. Where previously you had 10 or so Menus (File, Edit, View etc) now you have a number of Tabs which each open a new Ribbon. Most commonly used commands will be on the Home tab. If you're a lover of shortcuts (ctrl C etc.) don't worry, all the shortcuts currently present will be in 2007.
Is it easy to use? Well, Microsoft have taken steps to make the applications more intuitive. Intuitive is a much used term in software design and simply means is the application easy to use, are commands and functionality where the user would expect them to be. If you have to keep referring to the manual or help files to find a command then the software is not intuitive. What the latest version of Office does is react to the work you are doing by presenting you with commands and functionality appropriate to that task. Think about the version of Word you use now, there is a drop down menu for Table's. It's there all the time whether you're working on a table or not. In 2007 there is no tab for Tables. That is until you create or select one and then a Table's tab does appear and all the commands you need for working with that table are available. Move away from the table and the tab disappears. The same applies if you're working with a picture or a chart in Excel. Clever eh?
Another clever feature involves previewing. There is a wide range of formatting that can be applied across the Office suite and these are now displayed in galleries on the Ribbon. To see the effect of a particular format there is a function called Live Preview where by hovering the cursor over an option Live Preview will show you the effect of that change, if you're happy click and the changes are made and if you're not move the cursor away and the original format is returned.
Despite a steep, but thankfully short, learning curve I've come to appreciate the new interface more with every use. Once you get over the initial 'oh my God, where's the Open button' panic things do quickly fall into place and you find that the commands that you want to use are close to hand when you need them. A knock on advantage of this is that it should open up a lot more of the higher functionality to more users. Despite using Office applications all day every day at work I always have the nagging feeling that I'm only using about 20% of the functionality simply because the rest is buried so deep you never know it's there, because this interface reacts dynamically to the work you are doing you are more likely to find commands relevant to you.
The Ribbon UI will be introduced into Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access. The main screen in Outlook will remain the same but some sub-screens will get the new interface. If this proves successful the other applications in the Office suite will soon follow suit.
Behind the fundamental changes to the interface, Microsoft have also redesigned the file formatting. This is how the documents are referenced and stored on the PC. Word, Excel and PowerPoint files will now be stored as XML files held in a ZIP folder. Using ZIP compression means that files will be roughly one quarter the size of previous versions and, Microsoft claim, will be more robust and therefore less prone to corruption during transmission.
This does inevitably raise some issues with compatibility with older versions of Office. 2007 will happily open documents created in older versions and save back into a binary format, but new documents will only be available to older versions via a converter tool that you will need to download. When this ships commercially this converter tool should be included. You need to be aware of this if you do intend to have a go at a trial version of the suite.
Trial versions of Office 2007 are downloadable from www.microsoft.com. Retail prices (in US Dollars) are likely to start at $399 for the Standard version running up to $499 for Professional, these are for new purchases and upgrades will be roughly two thirds of these figures.
So, do you need to upgrade? The short answer is no, obviously not. Recent versions are perfectly workable and a newer version of Word won't improve your grammar but (there's always a 'but') change is inevitable. If you work in an office and currently use Word or Excel don't be surprised when your company rolls out this latest version sometime next year. Microsoft don't enjoy supporting a huge backlog of old software and will push hard for corporate licence holders to upgrade. As new versions come out so Microsoft stop supporting their back catalogue and few companies will want to run unsupported software. For the domestic user the need to upgrade is less clear, the new version looks better and is easier to use but whether that justifies the expense comes down to personal choice. Personally, I think Office 2007 is a significant step forward and the more I use it the harder I'm finding it to return to the 2003 version.