The big day is at hand and all eyes are on Microsoft for tomorrow's launch of two eagerly-awaited new software titles — Windows Vista and Office 2007.
While both are big deals — and both are major accomplishments — one of the two is extra special. It's the one you're going to want to own today. The one that will noticeably change the way you work.
Vista, Microsoft's new operating system, builds upon Windows' strengths and is an evolutionary product. The user interface for Office 2007, however, is a ground-up reworking of Microsoft’s ubiquitous software suite that includes Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It's something special. It's revolutionary.
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Microsoft calls Office's key new design element the Ribbon, which is an easily accessible, feature-rich, setof tool bars that run across the top of every document.
This feature is terrific. The Ribbon lays out most of the software's formerly hidden features. No more wading through esoteric dialog boxes or a maze of pull-down menus. The overall look, feel and demeanor of Office 2007 applications has been transformed and improved.
The drop-down file menu in Word, Excel and PowerPoint has been replaced by a large, round Office 2007 logo button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. There you’ll find the most common commands as well as a list of the last open documents you’ve worked on. If there’s a command you usually use that isn’t easily accessible in the Windows button or any of the toolbar tabs you can add it to a new, user configurable Quick Access Toolbar.
I have had the chance to live with final versions of both Office and Vistafor a few weeks now. I’ve been using them long enough that they have become second nature to me. I no longer think to myself, “Wow — this is a great new feature.” I just use it. Even so, I marvel at how much easier Office 2007 has made my work. (For the record, Office 2007 also works perfectly with Windows XP.)
For this job, I primarily use both Outlook and Word. The new global mail search feature is a welcomed addition. It helps me find important messages instantly without having to figure out where I stashed important information. That feature alone is worth the price of admission.
I also love the user-configurable toolbars at the top of every Word document. I was able to add shortcuts for some of the special MSNBC.com commands so that they now appear at the top of any document. Same for easily locating most of Word’s edit tools in the new tabulated system featured at the top of every page.
These toolbars save me a lot of time. Multiply that time saved for each little improvement and you’ll begin to see why I like this new Office suite.
Here are some of the highlights of Office 2007's big four titles:
- The Office Button (upper left hand corner) replaces the File menu. It provides easy access to a set of tools for working with a document. In addition to commands for sending, saving and printing, the Office Button includes features for finalizing the work, adding protection, sharing it with others or participating in a workflow process.
- The new Live Preview feature allows people to see changes before making them.
- Blogging now provides enhanced picture support.If the blog provider supports adding pictures to your blog, you can now upload your images there. (I didn't even know you could use Word to blog!)
- The Save As PDF or XPS format option gives you the ability to share your documents with people who may not have Word.
- Contextual Spelling Checker helps you avoid common mistakes and misuse of similarly spelled words. (Like where and wear, etc.)
- The Document Inspector featurehelps you detect and remove unwanted comments, personally identifiable information, hidden text, or other information from documents so that private information stays that way.
- Outlook appointments and meetings now have time zone controls, allowing users to schedule appointments and meetings in the context of another time zone.
- Instant search makes it possible for you to search through all of your e-mail, e-mail attachments, calendars, contacts, and tasks tohelp you find the information you need much faster. Instant Search indexes content and uses “word-wheeling” so results appear as soon as you start typing a search term. Quickly locate email, calendar, contacts or tasks not only in Outlook, but on mobile devices with Exchange Server 2007.
- To-Do Bar gives you a consolidated view of your daily priorities by integrating tasks, e-mails flagged for follow-up, upcoming appointments, and calendar information in one convenient place. It also connects tasks you may have stored in Project, OneNote, and SharePoint.
- SMS Link for Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 is a service that lets you to send and receive text messages from Office Outlook 2007 as well as receive SMS text message notifications of appointments, contacts and tasks on any SMS text messaging-capable mobile phone.
- RSS feed integration enables Really Simple Syndication (RSS) subscriptions to be delivered directly to your inbox.
- New charting engine: Add visual enhancements to your charts such as 3D,soft shadowing, and transparency. Create and interact with charts the same way, regardless of the application you are using, because the new charting engine is consistent in both Word and PowerPoint 2007.
- Increased spreadsheet row and column capacity of one million rows by 16,000 columns enables you to import and work with massive amounts of data and achieve faster calculation performance. Wow!
- Page Layout Viewhelps ensure that what you see on the screen is what you’ll get in printed output. That means any headers and footers you add or edit are displayed in plain view.
- The drawing and formatting tools are now on the Home Tab. You can draw shapes, use shape styles and do things like group/ungroup right from the Home Tab.
- SmartArt graphics and other shapeeffectsgive you the ability to add 3D effects, glow, shadowing, and other powerful visuals to your presentation elements.
- PowerPoint Slide Libraries help you publish and share slides and layouts while easily accessing content from other presentations.
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