Business Software

Office 2010: A Complete Overview of What's New

Office on the Web -- not yet

One of the biggest changes to Office isn't yet available in the Technical Preview -- the Web version of Office. With Google Docs finally making its way out of beta, and Google pushing it as a serious Office competitor, Web-based access to Office has taken on increased importance for Microsoft.

Details at this point are scarce, but there will be at least two kinds of Office access. For enterprises, the Web-based version of Office will run on top of SharePoint, and the rights to run Office in this way will be part of the license enterprises sign with Microsoft. Consumers will be able to get free access through Windows Live, using their Windows Live ID.

It's not clear at this point which Office features will be available via the Web and which won't, or how the consumer offering will differ from the enterprise version. Microsoft says that the Web versions will offer "lightweight editing" and "high-fidelity viewing," which clearly implies that the Web versions will be a subset of the full version, most likely lacking many advanced features. But we won't know what those features are until a later release.

In addition, there will be mobile versions of Office that will allow you to view documents on a smartphone or other mobile device, and copy and paste between applications. Outlook will run on mobile devices as well. That's all we know at this point; we'll have more details when they're available.

The bottom line

The most important change to Office 2010 -- Web-based access -- is not yet available, so it's difficult to make a judgment about the latest version of Office. Apart from that, this new version of Office adds some very useful new features such as video-editing tools in PowerPoint and much improved e-mail handling in Outlook. Global additions such as Paste Preview and the extension of the Ribbon to all Office apps are good ones as well.

So this version of Office might not wow you, but the improvements are solid ones. If you want to see the future of Office, this is well worth the download, although the usual caveats apply about not using it on a production machine. You'll find bugs here -- no surprise for a Technical Preview -- but you'll also likely welcome most of the changes.

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