Office 2010: A Complete Overview of What's New

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Also of note

Microsoft also says that Outlook now includes Mail Tips that warn you against sending out e-mails that you perhaps shouldn't send. So, for example, if you're sending a message to too large a group so that it seems as if its spam, or if you're sending mail to someone who is out of the office, or if you're sending an e-mail to external parties and doing so might compromise confidential information, you'll be warned. It works only with Exchange, so I could not test this feature.

There's one thing that didn't change in this version of Outlook that many people wish had -- the exclusive use of Word as your e-mail text editor. Before Outlook 2007, you had the choice of using Word or the Internet Explorer rendering engine for creating and displaying e-mails composed in HTML. In Outlook 2007, it became all Word all the time, and in Outlook 2010 that remains unchanged. Some people complain that Word doesn't handle HTML rendering as well as IE.

One important feature that this version of Outlook doesn't have that it should is integration with social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. There is, however, a free, third-party Outlook 2003/2007 add-in called Xobni that grabs information from those sites about people with whom you correspond, so that you can get a great deal of information about people with whom you're communicating, right within Outlook. A Xobni representative said the add-on will be updated to work with Outlook 2010 by the time it ships next year. Don't be surprised if Microsoft adds a feature like this in a later version of Outlook.

Minor, but useful, changes to Word

Word hasn't received nearly as significant changes as has Outlook. But there are some tweaks.

Search has gotten a nice boost with a set of features that let you search charts, tables, footnotes and other content. The search interface has changed as well. It now opens as a left-hand pane, with options for narrowing the search. It also displays a navigable map of thumbnails of your document.

Those who like to pretty up documents will be pleased by a few new additions. You can now add special effects such as bevel, glow, reflect and shadow to text. There's also support for more sophisticated typography, such as using ligatures and small caps.

Also new is a tool that lets you take screenshots and insert them into Word documents. From the Insert tab, select Screenshot, and you'll see a list of screenshots you've already taken, even if they've been taken with a different program. You can then insert any of them into Word. In addition, you can select the Screen Clipping option, which allows you to take a screenshot anywhere in Windows and insert it into your document.

Document sharing has also been enhanced, with multiple people able to work on a document simultaneously online, although I was not able to test that feature. There are other, smaller enhancements as well. But overall, Word 2010 isn't much different from Word 2007.

Not much new in Excel

Excel hasn't been touched as much as the other major applications in Office 2010, but there have been some useful additions. The most important is called "Sparklines" -- small cell-sized charts that you can embed in a worksheet next to data to get a quick visual representation of the data. For example, if you had a worksheet that tracked the performance of several dozen stocks, you could create a Sparkline for each stock that graphed its performance over time, in a very compact way.

Conditional formatting -- the ability to apply a format to a range of cells, and then have the formatting change according to the value of the cell or formula -- has been improved as well, including the addition of more styles and icons.

As with other Office 2010 applications, Excel has new tools for sharing data with other people, including multiple people working on a document at a time.

For businesses, Microsoft is touting a Project Gemini add-on for Excel 2010 that can handle very large amounts of data -- even worksheets that include hundreds of millions of rows. It will ship as part of SQL Server 2008 R2 in the first half of 2010; a community technology preview will be available in the second half of 2009.

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