Microsoft Office 2010, as revealed by the just-released Technical Preview, brings a set of important if incremental improvements to the market-leading office suite. Among them: making the Ribbon the default interface for all Office applications, adding a host of new features to individual applications such as video editing in PowerPoint and improved mail handling in Outlook and introducing a number of Office-wide productivity enhancers, including photo editing tools and a much-improved paste operation.
Missing from the Technical Preview is what will be the most important change to Office in years -- a Web-based version for both enterprises and consumers. Also missing from the preview is access to Office for mobile phones and other mobile clients. Those features will be introduced in later versions of the software; the final version is expected to ship in the first half of 2010.
This review will concentrate on what is present in the Technical Preview, not what is expected to arrive in future releases.
Office 2007 introduced the Ribbon, a major change to Office's interface that replaced the old menus and submenus with a graphical system that groups buttons for common tasks together in tabs. But Microsoft didn't go whole hog with it back then; Outlook, among other applications, was not given the full Ribbon treatment.
The Ribbon takes center stage
In this version of Office, all applications now share the common Ribbon interface, including Outlook, OneNote and all other Office applications, and SharePoint. Love it or hate it, the Ribbon is here to stay.
In addition, the Ribbon has been tweaked. The Office button in the upper-left corner of the screen has been redesigned; it's now a small, unobtrusive rectangle rather than a large circle. Microsoft says that many people thought the circle was a branding icon, rather than a functional button that can be clicked on. The button has also been moved down slightly from its previous location at the very top of the screen.