Productivity software

Confessions of an Office 2010 CTP Tester

Microsoft made the beta of Office 2010 available for the general public to download yesterday. However, I have already been using the CTP (Community Technology Preview) version since it became available at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July. Here are my thoughts after four month using Office 2010.

The Office 2010 beta was just released, but I have already been using the CTP version for four months.
I will start by saying that the look and feel of Office 2010 is very similar to Office 2007. Users of Office 2003 will be in for a fairly significant culture shock, but the learning curve for Office 2007 users should be much shorter. That said, let's jump in.

What I Don't Like

No software is perfect, and pre-beta versions have an even shadier reputation. Because it is pre-beta (or even when evaluating the public beta now that its available), I will focus on the elements that are changed on purpose and not on any bugs or quirks which will obviously be worked out as development continues.

Send/Receive in Outlook. Of all of the Microsoft Office applications, Outlook is the one that occupies most of my time. Although I have Outlook configured to automatically send and receive messages every 3 minutes or so, and set up to instantly send outbound messages while I am online, I am somewhat of an email-junky and still find myself hitting that send/receive button on a fairly regular basis.

With Outlook menus being 'ribbonized', it took some time for me to get used to the fact that Send/Receive got its own ribbon tab so those functions are no longer part of the main display. Most of the stuff on the Send/Receive ribbon is never used and I don't think those functions warrant a separate ribbon. I added Send/Receive to the Quick Access Toolbar and never use the Send/Receive ribbon.

Backstage View. The first time I wanted to check out the application options in Word, or start a new blank document, or print something, I had some difficulty figuring out where Microsoft hid those functions. Once I found the Backstage View tab at the far left of the ribbon bar, my confusion didn't end. It took me some time sifting through the Backstage View options to try and accomplish tasks that I already knew how to do just fine in Office 2007.

What I Do Like

One of the primary reasons for jumping on the CTP bandwagon and diving in to Office 2010 was to get an early look at what's new and figure out what works. Again, I don't expect the applications to be perfect--that's why it's a beta test and not an official release--but its nice to see what's coming.

Ribbons. Apparently the ribbon interface that Microsoft introduced in Office 2007 and has expanded in Office 2010 is a source of some passionate controversy. It seems to be sort of like the Windows Vista UAC of Office. Sorry, but I like the ribbon interface (the Send/Receive ribbon issue in Outlook 2010 notwithstanding).

It took some getting used to when making the switch from Office 2003 to Office 2007, but now that I am familiar with the ribbon concept I appreciate having that consistent look and feel across all of the Office applications (as well as other Microsoft applications such as Paint in Windows 7).

Backstage View. No, you don't need to check your glasses. I have, in fact, included the Backstage View as both a 'like' and a 'dislike'. Like most new things, the Backstage View was initially frustrating primarily because it was new. Functions I was familiar with got moved and that made things confusing.

After I became familiar with Office 2010 though, I have come to like the Backstage View. It gives me one-click access to the features I need to manage my files. In particular, I like how the majority of the Backstage View is occupied by a pane that displays all of the various options available for a given task. The result is a more visual and intuitive way of managing things...once you get used to it.

Adapt and Evolve

There are some other features that are promised in Office 2010 that I haven't had a chance to experience yet, but they sound impressive. The Outlook Social Connectors that will integrate social networking functionality and provide a consolidated view of all communications streams for a given contact sounds especially intriguing. Just waiting for those add-ins to be available.

As with any new software, there are some things to get used to. If nothing changed, there would be no reason to release a new version of the product. However, that doesn't mean that Microsoft is changing things just for the sake of changing things to justify rolling out a new version and taking your hard-earned money.

Microsoft will never be able to please everybody, and some people dislike change just because its change. Many of the people who so passionately despise the ribbon interface in Office 2010 today will be the same people who will be clamoring for Microsoft to bring the ribbon back when they change it to something else in Office 2013, or whatever.

Certainly there are changes that suck, but often it is merely hating new features because they're new. After the learning curve and adapting the way I use the products, I generally find that the changes help me to work more efficiently.

Having had four months to play with Office 2010, I can say there is much more that I like about it than the few features I don't like. Much of what I didn't like initially was purely a matter of familiarizing myself with the changes. Now I find most of those things help me work more efficiently and I would miss them if I tried to use an older version of Office.

Tony Bradley tweets as @PCSecurityNews, and can be contacted at his Facebook page .

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