Users are often skeptical of newer Office versions, but they can relax this time around because Office 2010 developers made the necessary preparations to ensure a smooth transition for power users, casual users, and everyone in between.
The result is a kinder, gentler Office suite, with a lot less drama (read: no major interface changes to slow you down) and plenty of "wow" factors that will make you glad you moved up to Office 2010.
Top 12 Reasons Defined
Office 2010 puts the focus back where it belongs: productivity. Here are some of 2010's most beneficial features.
1. Loads faster. Having an office suite that loads quickly is a necessity, and 2010's loading time is much faster than previous versions.
2. Work in the cloud. Take advantage of Office Web Apps on Windows Live SkyDrive, a free service for Office users who need access to their Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files when they're away from the office. (See "Free Perks" later in this article.)
3. Receive better security. Protected View displays whenever you try to open a file that might be unsafe, such as an email attachment.
When Protected View activates, you won't be able to edit the file, and the file can't run macros, ActiveX controls, and other potentially dangerous apps. If you find this intrusive, disable or tweak the feature accordingly.
See "Microsoft Office Outlook 2010" for a review covering Outlook 2010's security and privacy features.
4. Do more with fewer applications. You can access extra functions within the core of each Office 2010 app. For example, you can now edit photos and video and add special enhancements to presentations without ever having to leave PowerPoint to access tools elsewhere.
For more information about these and other PowerPoint 2010 tools, see "What's New in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010?" for detailed descriptions and graphics.
5. Store ideas in one spot. OneNote is ideal for users who need a place where they can store all their ideas—in the form of text, audio, video, photos, and links—and keep them easily accessible for use in other apps.
6. Plan your schedule with ease. Until Office 2010, users had to toggle from invitation message to calendar to check their schedules, but now that Outlook presents a calendar preview, users will see a small image of calendar appointments whenever they are considering an invitation sent via Outlook.
7. Create charts with Excel's Sparklines tool. With Sparklines, it's easy to create a miniature chart or graph within a single cell that sits near related data. Using this tool, you can even create small comparison graphs of products.
To find out how, see "Excel's Sparklines Tutorial" for specific instructions.
8. View grouped email conversations. Outlook now has the ability to group emails so that one message includes all related replies and forwards; just open one email to review an "email conversation" rather than having to open a dozen messages.
9. Customize it your way. Even though developers couldn't eliminate the Ribbon panel introduced with Office 2007, at least they made it customizable. Create tabs that include your favorite tools, hide or show commands, or collapse the Ribbon altogether. You also can export these customizations to other computers (that have 2010 installed).
To find out more about interface improvements, see "What's New in Word 2010?" for other customization options.
10. Access more keyboard shortcuts. In Office 2007, users gained access to keyboard shortcuts by pressing the ALT key and viewing shortcut hints on the Ribbon in the form of framed letters. Office 2010 includes even more shortcuts.
11. Eliminate unnecessary third-party apps. Better graphics enhancement tools and video-editing features make third-party software unnecessary for many users. One of the coolest options is the background-removal tool, which helps users easily edit out distractions in a photo's background.
12. Use the one-stop menu source. The Backstage menu makes it easy to access storage, printing, and sharing options. Word users, for instance, will appreciate having these options grouped together whenever they need to print a large project or collaborate on edits and revisions.
Try Before You Buy
Windows users have 60 days to try Office 2010 for free, and Mac users get a free 30-day trial period.
The Windows Office 2010 versions available are:
- Home and Student edition ($149.99; includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote)
- Home and Business edition ($279.99; has the basic four apps, plus Outlook)
- Professional edition ($499.99; with all of the aforementioned applications, as well as Access and Publisher)
The Office for Mac 2011 versions include:
- Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 ($149.99; includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)
- Office for Mac Home and Business 2011 ($279.99; with the basic three apps, plus Outlook)
Office Mobile 2010 is a free upgrade for users of Windows Mobile 6.5 phones (and newer) with an older Mobile version. The upgrade includes mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and SharePoint Workspace and is compatible with phones running Windows Mobile 6.5 and 6.5.3; Outlook Mobile 2010 is already installed on these phones.
Windows Phone 7 users already have Office Mobile installed. To access its mobile apps, they simply open the phone's Office Hub.
Office Mobile apps don't support all the features of their desktop look-alikes, so Microsoft encourages users to follow Mobile's prompts and save mobile files as new files.
The other free perk, Office Web Apps on Windows Live SkyDrive, is a service for users to view, edit, and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files via a Web browser through office.live.com. To use it, create files in Office 2010, post them online via SkyDrive, and download them wherever you have Internet access.
Although the mobile files accessed using Office Web Apps and SkyDrive's service aren't fully functional like Office 2010 files, Microsoft is working on this shortcoming.
Microsoft announced plans to release a Phone 7 update by the end of 2011 that will enable users to work on Office files in the cloud. Microsoft also plans to expand support for Office Web Apps and SkyDrive but didn't offer a tentative date.