NOVEMBER 3, 2010 (COMPUTERWORLD) by Microsoft Expert Mary Branscombe of TechRadar, UK - It's been a long-time coming, but how does Office 2010 measure up?

Like Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 has been available in beta so long and so publicly (and has run so reliably) that the actual launch might almost seem an anti-climax.

Around 7.5 million people have downloaded various versions of it, and the Office team has had 650,000 individual feedback reports - and those have changed things, particularly in Outlook and OneNote.

Office 2010's UK release date is 12 May (although large businesses and developers can get Office Standard and Professional Plus 2010 already) and three versions, Office Home and Student 2010, Office Home and Business 2010, and Office Professional 2010, will be in the shops in June.

Microsoft Office 2010 prices:

•Home and Student: £109.99 (US$176.412961)

•Home and Business: £199.99 (US$320.763961)

•Professional: £429.99 (US$689.660961)

That's also when the free Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote web apps will be available on Windows Live.

They have fewer features than the desktop apps, but they mean you can view and edit Office documents on any machine, you can use them to co-author documents online, and you can keep a OneNote notebook online and work on it in the desktop OneNote app at the same time as a friend or colleague.

RIBBON: All the Office apps now have the ribbon interface and an updated version of the Office menu (called Backstage, but opened from a tab marked File because that's what people look for) The Home and Student version of Office includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote; Home and Business adds Outlook. Professional, which we review here, gives you Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher.

Whichever version of Office you get, you're getting something you didn't get before: OneNote and the web apps in all the versions, Publisher in the Professional version.

RIBBON: Create your own tabs on the ribbon, add tools and pick an icon to use for the dropdown if there isn't enough space to show all the icons individually There's also a cheaper academic version of Office Professional, but the best way for most people to save money is to get the Home and Student version - or instead of paying for the box and the media, buy a product keycard with the licence number to unlock a pre-installed copy of Office Starter on a new PC.

Office Starter is the basic version of Word and Excel that ships on new PCs. It doesn't have the References, Review and View tabs on the ribbon, it lets you edit tables of contents and smart art that's already in a document but it doesn't let you create them from scratch and you can't create pivot tables in Excel. It does have task panes - and it always has a little ad for Office in the corner.

BACKSTAGE: The Backstage menu is one place for all the things you might want to do with your document, explained in handy detail It's very much a replacement for Works - or for WordPad - and if you want the full new feature set of Office 2010 then you want one of the full versions.

The question is, with free apps like OpenOffice, free online apps like Google Docs - and the free Office web apps themselves - what do you get from Office 2010, and do you want it?

REVIEW OF MICROSOFT WORD 2010 by Microsoft Expert Mary Branscombe  (TechRadar, UK)

There are a lot more SmartArt diagrams in Word, Excel and PowerPoint - and all three apps get powerful new image editing and style tools.

This includes standard correction options but the most dramatic are the Artistic Effects - Photoshop-style filters that turn images into pencil sketches, pastel or oil paintings, mosaics or rippled glass - and the amazing Remove Background tool.

This does what it says on the tin, removing the background from images; the automatic removal isn't perfect but it often gets the object you want first time and you can easily add and remove areas.

The new word processing features in Word are mostly about the look of text. Text effects replace the tired old WordArt with the same image effects that Word 2007 had for objects like shapes.

BACKGROUND REMOVAL: To do this you need an object with sharp edges and a little patience but you can cut out complex objects very quickly There's a drop-down gallery of presets on the ribbon, but you can set the reflection, glow, soft edges, bevels, gradient fill, custom shadow and other options to get the look you want.

OpenType support means if your font has ligatures for combining two letters more smoothly (like ff or if), kerning values for letter spacing, stylistic sets (like the fancy, curlicue-embellished alternate letter forms in Word's new Gabriola font) or different spacing and shapes for numbers when you use them in the middle of text or on their own, you can choose different options.

PICTURE EDIT: Turn photos into graphics with the Artistic Effects in Office 2010 Word also gets a new navigation pane that pops up when you use Find; this gives you snippets of text around all the places the word you want is found or you can use it to browse by thumbnails and headings.

This works very well, but find and replace is still a separate command, in the old dialogue box; plus as soon as you make any edits to the document you lose the results in the navigation pane. We'd also prefer to see Word repeat the find automatically rather than making you do it by hand.

SECURITY: Word opens downloaded documents as read only and it blocks macros by default In Word (and PowerPoint and OneNote but not Excel) you can edit a document at the same time as someone else as long as it's stored on SkyDrive - and it's easy to save documents straight there from the desktop menu, so collaboration isn't limited to businesses with SharePoint.

Word locks the paragraph that one person is typing in and if you hover over it you'll see an Outlook-style mini contact card for them that lets you mail them or start an IM or voice through Windows Messenger so you can have a chat.

SMART ART: There are more diagram types making Smart Art more useful When you open a file in Word or any of the Office apps that you received in email or downloaded from the internet, or if it has active content like macros or a connection to a web service (like an embedded web video in PowerPoint, not just a URL in a document), it opens in a new Protected View, with a warning info bar at the top of the window.

You can't save or print a protected file, still less edit it, but you can read it and search it.

That means you can safely open any Office file that you find online without anything malicious being able to run. If you believe the document is safe, you can choose Enable Editing from the info bar once; you don't have to do this every time you open the document.

The very first version of this in the beta had problems; we're happy to say that all of those are solved and the protection is reassuring without being intrusive.

TEXT ART: WordArt used to be very cheesy; now it has powerful and flexible effects for text headings. Cheese optional


Microsoft's Office for Mac 2011 'best Office ever,' analyst says Suite adds ribbon and Outlook for Mac, restores long-demanded Visual Basic macros By Gregg Keizer October 26, 2010 01:30 PM ETComments (16)Recommended (29)FacebookTwitterShare.Computerworld - Microsoft today launched Office for Mac 2011, the newest version of its application suite designed for Mac OS X.

One analyst immediately dubbed it "the best Office ever."

Office 2011 is Microsoft's first for the Mac since January 2008. Microsoft added the once-scorned "ribbon" interface that debuted in Windows' Office 2007, dropped the Entourage e-mail client in favor of a Mac flavor of Windows' Outlook, and restored Visual Basic-based macros.

Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said the new suite is Microsoft's most impressive suite effort to date.

"This is the best Office ever, not just on the Mac," said Gartenberg. "It brings the Mac version to parity with the Windows version, but it still feels like Mac software, not a Windows port. Mac Office doesn't feel like you walked into your house in the dark and someone rearranged all the furniture."

Several new or restored features in Office for Mac 2011 were long requested by veteran users, particuarly a closer cousin to Windows' Outlook and the return of macros. Both were especially important for IT staffers who had to figure out how to integrate Macs into their organizations and users bent on having tools equal to their Windows brethren.

"I think the improvements show that Microsoft listens to its customers," Gartenberg said, pointing to the reappearance of Visual Basic macros, a feature Microsoft ditched in Office 2008 but reinstated for 2011. "Enterprise customers were not happy when that was removed," Gartenberg noted.

Microsoft defended the 2006 decision to abandon Visual Basic by saying that to bring the technology to Intel-based Macs would have delayed Office 2008 by two years. In the end, that edition was delayed, although not to that extent, when Microsoft realized that the Office code quality was subpar and called off a 2007 launch.

Shortly after Office 2008's debut, Microsoft promised to reinstate macros in the next version.

"What impressed me was the overall refinement of the product," said Gartenberg when asked whether there was a stand-out enhancement or addition that wowed him. "It's Office, isn't it? It's not a revolutionary product. But this is the ultimate refinement."

Microsoft didn't hesitate to tout features, including integration with several cloud-based services that Windows users can access from Office 2010. Among them: The free Windows Live SkyDrive online storage service, SharePoint collaboration tools and Office Web Apps, Microsoft's attempt to compete with rival Google's Docs.

"Office isn't just about what runs on a desktop machine or laptop," said Eric Wilfred, the general manager for Microsoft's Mac Office team, in a statement Tuesday. "Office shows up across your computer, on the Web browser, and on your mobile device."

Platforms Microsoft has not committed to include Apple's iPhone and iPad. While Word and PowerPoint documents can be viewed from the iPad's browser via Office Web Apps, they cannot be edited. Nor has Microsoft publicly discussed bringing its Office programs to the iPhone.

Gartenberg thought Microsoft should explore both the iPhone and iPad. "It wouldn't surprise me to see Office apps under iOS," he said, referring to the mobile operating system that powers both devices. "That would be a huge opportunity for Microsoft."

Although Microsoft's Mac Business Unit (MacBU), the development group in charge of Office for the Mac, was shifted from the company's entertainment group to its business division earlier this year, it still retains considerable independence. Microsoft's business group is responsible for Office, among other parts of the company's portfolio.

"MacBU isn't part of the mobile group, it's not part of the OS group," Gartenberg pointed out. "So it might be allowed to do anything that enhances Office. I would not be shocked if they moved on iOS at some point."

The new suite comes in two editions, down one from its predecessor: the $150 Home and Student and the $280 Home and Business. The latter includes Outlook and a longer stretch of free technical support. An academic version identical to Home and Business sells for $100 to college students.

Today Amazon priced Home and Student at $110 and $130 and for one- and three-license editions, respectively, and Home and Business at $175 and $240 in one- and two-license versions.

Microsoft announced last summer that it would not sell upgrade versions of Home and Business, a departure from past practice but in line with moves it made earlier in the year with the Windows edition, Office 2010.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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