Office 2007: 8 Great Reasons to (Finally) Upgrade

Almost a year ago, I wrote a column titled "10 reasons not to upgrade to Office 2007." At that time, ConverterTechnology, a company that assists with enterprise migrations to newer versions of Microsoft Office, provided a list of 10 legitimate concerns decision makers should be aware of before deploying Office 2007. Well, in an ever-changing world, the folks at Converter Technology have revised their position due to a number of recent factors.

The encouragement is not necessarily to wait for Office 2010, which I'm still personally up in the air about, although my esteemed colleagues Randall C. Kennedy (see "Why I hate Office 2010") and Neil McAllister (see "Office 2010: At last, the suite that users built") have made up their minds.

[ Read the InfoWorld Test Center's Office 2010 preview. | See why Randall C. Kennedy hates Office 2010, but why Neil McAllister likes Office 2010. | Judge for yourself: View our Office 2010 slideshow. ]

I have to admit, Office 2007 really wowed me and I switched over immediately. After working with the preview and now beta version of Office 2010, I am hesitant to give a green light just yet, although the collaboration aspects are truly magnificent, especially if you are ready for a SharePoint 2010 deployment as well. What would sell me on the Office 2010 suite is the connection between the server counterparts (Outlook 2010 and Exchange 2010, for example.)

Whatever you think of Office 2010, the folks at ConverterTechnology say not to wait for Office 2010, but instead to upgrade to Office 2007 now. They state:

Software support, file migration, and productivity losses are just a few of the issues that put a company at risk if IT decides to hold off on migrating to Office 2007, the most current version. Just as being an early adopter of new software holds few rewards for most businesses, being a laggard adopter isn't worth the downside, either. Trying to leapfrog several generations of software revs at once could fall short and cost your organization more time, pain and money in the long run.

Here are eight reasons that have been outlined by Chip Bates, ConverterTechnology's director of product development, on why your organization should no longer wait to upgrade to Office 2007, and the benefits you will realize when you make the move:

1. Reduced disk space usage
The zipped XML-based file format, called OOXML, used by Office 2007 can be significantly smaller than the binary files used by Office 2003. The savings in file size varies depending on the application, with text-heavy documents (such as Excel and Word) gaining the largest benefit. Sample files have shown a range of PowerPoint 2007 files that are 18 percent smaller than the PowerPoint 2003 files to Excel 2007 files that are 50 percent smaller than the Excel 2003 versions.

2. The new XML-based file format
Some of the benefits to moving to the new XML-based file format include:

  • Easier integration of content from different sources

  • Accelerated new product designs via easier code reuse

  • Clear separation between business data and markup language, with each document more easily manipulated with custom tools

3. Increased productivity via an improved UI
Average users report a slight decrease in productivity during the first two to three weeks using the new ribbon UI but then an overall increase in productivity. The increased productivity is due to no longer having to drill through multiple levels of menus to find a particular task, features that were unknown to users becoming more obvious, and more logical organization of features on each tab of the UI.

4. New tools and tool enhancements
Several tools' capabilities have been enhanced, and several capabilities added through new tools:

  • The Document Inspector automatically scans document, spreadsheets, and presentations to remove information that you don't want to share with individuals outside of your office, such as comments, hidden rows/columns/editing marks, document properties, and personal information.

  • An enhanced set of themes coordinated across Excel, PowerPoint, and Word make it easier to create a consistent look and feel to all your documents.

  • Smart Art makes it easier than ever to spice up documents using graphics to present information such as org charts, processes, and lists.

  • Save as PDF lets you save documents can be saved in PDF format without having Adobe Acrobat Pro installed.

5. Looming discontinuation of support for older versions
Mainstream support for Office 2003 ended on April 14, 2009. Extended support is available for an additional five years, until April 14, 2014. The extended support includes any security patches released during this period, as well as paid incident support.

6. Easier migration
Each Office 2007 application includes a conversion utility that quickly and easily converts individual documents to the new OOXML format and enables all of the new Office 2007 features. The Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) tool can batch-convert groups of files, with some limitations.

7. Better security
Microsoft introduced new filename extensions with Office 2007 to make it easier to identify files which contain VBA code and could potentially contain dangerous code. Files with VBA code now have an "m" added to the traditional extensions (.docm, .xlsm, pptm). As noted, the new Document Inspector removes sensitive information from documents before publishing them or sending them to customers. The new Trust Center enables users to specify trusted publishers and trusted locations to help ensure that documents are coming from safe locations before they are opened.

8. Improved collaboration
The introduction of Office Groove 2007 enables multiple users, in one or more locations, to work together on a single document; its features include one-click synchronization. OneNote 2007 can create shared notebooks, allowing multiple users to access and updated information while knowing they are viewing the most recent information. OneNote 2007 is fully integrated with other Office 2007 applications, so users can share notes from various sources.

ConverterTechnology's Bates encourages companies not to jump into Office 2010, but instead wait until the bugs get worked out: "Let the early adopters work out the bugs and migration issues of Office 2010 while you upgrade to the stable and powerful Office 2007 platform. Only then should you start considering a move to Office 2010."

These are certainly compelling points. But perhaps you're still thinking, "I'll just wait for Office 2010," and you may have solid reasons for doing that. Please add your comments below so that fellow readers can gain a read on what other IT decision makers are doing and why.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter