Beyond the Core Apps: Other Office Programs Receive an Overhaul
In addition to improving the core programs of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote), Microsoft is continuing to bring the look and feel of the 2007 overhaul to Office family members that appear in corporate or volume-license bundles (InfoPath, Access, and Publisher) or are sold as stand-alone apps (Project, Vizio). These revamped applications are slated to hit shelves at the same time as the rest of the Office 2010 suite.
All of them now have ribbon interfaces with Backstage view. Publisher benefits most from the suitewide improvements to formatting tools. New alignment technology makes it easier than ever to position design elements precisely, and a Hide Scratch feature lets you see how items that bleed off the edges of pages will look when the page is trimmed. Publisher users will also appreciate the addition of Live Preview capabilities to the application.
Access users, meanwhile, get an extensible Backstage view that permits IT types to incorporate their workflow into the program. A new Add Application Parts feature has the potential to simplify database creation by allowing you to reuse custom components (yours or a colleague's) across the suite. Similarly, the program's new Quick Start feature allows you to add fields or groups of fields to your database easily. Navigation Form, meanwhile, provides simple-to-use tools for creating a layout from your elements; improved conditional formatting and the addition of data bars also help to give your databases visual panache.
The 2010 versions of Project (Standard and Professional) provide enhanced visual features--for example, a Timeline view--to assist in creating schedules, assigning resources, and identifying potential problems. The Professional version adds team-oriented features such as the ability to incorporate SharePoint Foundation 2010 task lists and to publish project plans back to SharePoint Foundation.
Improved drawing tools available in the 2010 edition of Vizio (for instance, the new AutoConnect and the QuickShapes floating minitoolbar) should make creating business diagrams effortless. Auto-alignment technology will help you arrange elements the way you like them, too.
Finally, for Windows Phone users, Microsoft is also launching a 2010 version of Office Mobile, consisting of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and even a new SharePoint Mobile app to facilitate syncing and collaboration on the go.
Overall, Office 2010 shapes up as a pleasing and, in many ways, useful successor to Office 2007. Microsoft isn't offering upgrade pricing, but the Product Key Card versions aren't outrageously expensive, and many people will be fine with either the four-app (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) Home and Student edition for as little as $119, or, if Outlook is a must, the $199 Home and Business suite. Especially if you skipped Office 2007, a switch to Office 2010 is worth considering - even in a recession.