FAQ: Microsoft Office 2010 Beta

What's this Click-To-Run you keep talking about? Click-To-Run is a new technology that Microsoft debuted in the Technical Preview that went out to a small group of testers in July. Essentially, it "streams" pieces of the suite as you begin a download, letting you start using the suite within minutes. While you work with the trial, the remainder of the code is downloaded in the background by Click-To-Run.

Microsoft has said it will use Click-To-Run to deliver free trials of Office 2010 when the final bits ship next year, and hinted earlier this month that it would use the technology to offer the beta of Office Home and Business 2010 this week. That didn't happen.

"We're working to make that available as soon as possible," said Numoto, who declined to explain why Click-To-Run wasn't being used immediately.

An interesting facet of Click-To-Run is that it not only speeds up the process of starting to use Office 2010, but also runs the application in a virtualized environment, separating it from the rest of Windows, and thus, other applications.

"This means that [users] have private copies of their files and settings, and that any changes they make are captured in the virtual environment," said the Office 2010 engineering team in a blog post two weeks ago. "The effect is [Click-To-Run applications] don't end up modifying any other software installed on the system. With few exceptions, only user data actually passes through the virtual environment to the local system."

Click-to-Run adds a virtual drive to Windows, marked as the "Q:" drive.

According to Numoto, Click-To-Run will be used at some point to deliver the beta of Home and Business, the edition that includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote.

What languages are supported? Microsoft has limited the beta to English, Chinese, French, German, Russian and Spanish. Japanese had been on Microsoft's list as recently as last weekend, but by Wednesday, that version had vanished.

Does Microsoft provide support for Office 2010 Beta? Microsoft doesn't do its usual technical support for pre-release software, so your only option is online. You can browse the support material on Office.com, or ask other beta testers for help in the user-to-user forums .

When does Office 2010 Beta expire? Halloween 2010.

Microsoft's pretty adamant about that. In the end-user licensing agreement (EULA) that accompanies the beta, the company starkly says: "The software will stop running on 31/10/2010. You will not receive any other notice. You may not be able to access data used with the software when it stops running."

No warning? Really? That's not what Numoto said. "You do get warnings as the expiration date approaches," he said in a follow-up e-mail message yesterday.

Do I get to try Microsoft's online edition of Office? Yes and no.

In September, Microsoft launched an invite-only test of Office Web Apps, the name it slapped on its Google Docs competitor. But with Office 2010 Beta, the company's opening three stripped-down Web-based programs -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- to the public.

Although enterprises will be able to test the full Office Web Apps -- including OneNote Web App, which Microsoft only recently finished -- by running them from a SharePoint 2010 server, consumers will have to wait. "We should have a full-featured beta [of Office Web Apps] for consumers early next calendar year," said Numoto. "Until then, consumers will continue to get the Technical Preview of Office Web Apps."

Microsoft has posted more information about deploying Office Web Apps on a beta of SharePoint 2010 in a blog post.

Will Microsoft release an updated preview before it ships the final version of Office 2010? No. "We'll be going from beta to RTM," said Numoto, referring to the "release-to-manufacturing" tag that Microsoft slaps on finished code.

There will not be a release candidate, or RC, preview of Office 2010, Numoto added.

How do I get rid of the beta if it's junk? Get to Windows' Control Panel and pick the uninstall applet. On XP, it's called "Add or Remove Programs," while Vista dubs it "Uninstall a Program." Windows 7 hides it, though: Click "Programs" from the Control Panel, then "Programs and Features;" pick Office 2010 and click "Uninstall" at the top of the list.

You'll have to reinstall your previous version of Office using the original media if you replaced it with the beta; even if you only added Office 2010 so that the two were side-by-side, you'll have to reinstall the older edition of Outlook.

When will Office 2010 ship? No news there. Yesterday, Microsoft stuck to its vague timeline of the first half of next year. Nor will the company be announcing pricing for the various editions of the new suite until that release date gets closer.

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