Office 2010: made for social media?

20 May 2010

Did you know that most people in a working week spend more time with their Outlook than their spouse? Did you know that globally some 15 million people every day open Microsoft file formats 15 years old or older?

This is surely a tribute of some kind to a productivity suite that debuted for Windows in 1990. Few people are even aware that the very first version of Microsoft Office debuted in 1989 for the Mac!

Either way, for many people, Microsoft’s Office family has been with them for much of their working lives.

Being a journalist, most of my exposure to Office has been through Word, Outlook and, grudgingly, Excel. PowerPoints are things I am made to sit through, sift through but rarely create. So I can say I’m a half-way veteran of the platform.

What has evolved?

To my mind little had changed over the years on the Office front – apart from that annoying paper-clip character that came in 1998 – things had gotten more colourful, but everything was where I knew it would be.

Then came Office 2007 – everything had changed, utterly. Where the file and format bars had been in Word there was this ribbon thing that shuffled everything around the place.

What’s the deal?

So, what does Office 2010 hold in store that’s different? Well, I can tell already that its structure will hold true for a couple more versions of Office, it’s very similar to 2007 only now the ribbon that came on Word and Excel also features on PowerPoint and Outlook. The appearance of the new Office family is a lot smoother and crisp looking. The ‘File’ tab has made a welcome return.


A seamless transition

The key thing to realise with Microsoft’s ribbon strategy is that the software giant is working to create a seamless experience between online and offline. Not only would this be critical for organisations where people work at a team level but it effectively creates a new defence against the growing threat of Google, which, with its Docs products, has made no secret of its desire to win business from Microsoft.

Another smooth feature is the ability to customise the ribbon to create a tab and add commands. Outlook also features a more internet-like ability to show conversations in threads and the contacts database is now configured to use instant messaging and presence technology and connect with the phone you use at your desk.

PowerPoint’s most notable change, in my opinion, is the ability to edit videos and an application called Backstage helps you make use of media such as compressing a 25MB file down to 3.1MB.

To me, one of the most exciting aspects of Office 2010 is the inclusion of OneNote, an electronic notebook application.

Office 2010 is a smooth transition from Office 2007 and many of the new features make sense in a world where being connected at all times is a must. The new internet-friendly features like integrating IM are very relevant. All in all a strong proposition.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years