Business Software

Office 2010: A Complete Overview of What's New

Photo editing tools

Also enhanced in Office 2010 are the photo editing tools, accessible via the Ribbon. Select a photo or picture you've placed in a document, and a Format tab will appear with tools for editing images in a variety of ways, including sharpening or softening, changing the contrast and color saturation, cropping, eliminating the background, and adding a variety of "artistic effects."

In Office 2007, the tools available for doing this were rudimentary. You could change the brightness and contrast, for example, but without the same degree of control and visual feedback, and you couldn't remove backgrounds or add other effects.

Communications, 64-bit version

Microsoft has also strengthened the links between Office and various Microsoft communication server products. If you use Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2 with Office 2010, you'll be able to see the availability status of other people with whom you work and ways to contact them, such as e-mail and instant messaging. SharePoint is even more intimately tied to Office, and lets people collaborate on Office documents.

One final overall note: Office is now available in a 64-bit version as well.

A look at the new Outlook

If you live in e-mail (and who doesn't?), you'll most likely be pleased with the new version of Outlook, which adds a variety of features designed to help solve the most common productivity problem -- e-mail overload.

And, as noted above, the Outlook interface has changed radically, with the addition of the full-blown Ribbon. This puts most functions within easy reach -- functions that previously you might have had to navigate through several sets of menus to find. Ribbon-haters will not be pleased, although the rest of us will welcome it. Apart from the addition of the Ribbon, Outlook's overall interface remains the same, with the same paned layout.

Faster mail handling

One of the most useful new features is called Quick Steps, which speeds up mail handling considerably. Right-click on a message, and you can choose from a variety of actions to take on it -- moving the message to a specific folder, forwarding it to your manager, setting up a team meeting with its recipients, sending e-mail to an entire team and so on.

You can easily add new items to the Quick Steps menu by choosing from a set of predefined Quick Steps or by creating your own using a wizard-like interface. You can also delete existing items or edit the items.

Better message threading

This new version of Outlook also tackles one of Outlook's perennial problems -- how poorly it follows threads of messages. In previous versions, the interface for doing this was confusing, so much so that most people I know, including me, rarely used it.

In this version, following a thread is exceedingly easy. Right-click on an e-mail and select Find Related --> Messages in this Conversation, and you'll see a view of all messages in the conversation that can easily be followed, collapsed or expanded. You can also choose to arrange all your mail by conversations, using the Conversation View. The ability to follow threads may seem a small thing, but it's one of those small touches added in this version of Office that should pay big dividends in increased productivity.

There's a related feature that helps cut down on e-mail clutter -- the ability to "clean up" a conversation. When you do this, you delete all of the unnecessary quoted and previous text in long e-mail threads; only unduplicated versions remain. However, once you do that, all of the quoted and previous text and e-mails are actually deleted, not just hidden, so use this feature carefully. It would be more useful if you were given the option of hiding the text, not completely deleting it.

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