Word 2010 sports a handful of nice enhancements to its sidebar interface element, starting with the application's Navigation Pane, which replaces Word 2007's Document Map feature. I used the Navigation Pane to traverse Word documents by jumping from heading to heading. I liked the way I could reorganize topics within a document by dragging the headings around within the pane. Also situated in this side pane is a useful search feature. I typed the words I sought in my document, and the search pane would fill in with results and a bit of context from around the found term-more or less like search engine results do. By default, the search pane tool looks for text, but I could also seek out graphics, tables, equations, footnotes and comments by selecting one of these options from a drop-down menu in the search box.Word 2010 also sports contextual spell-checking. I typed the sentence, "I can't wait to meat you," and Word duly corrected me with a blue squiggly line instead of the red one with which it would mark a misspelling. I also took note of Word's cut-and-paste enhancements-for instance, in Word, I copied to my clipboard a chunk of text, bullets and images from one document, and shifted to a new document. Right-clicking in the part of my new document in which I meant to paste the content pulled up the familiar menu of options, with a few additional Paste Preview choices. I could retain the formatting from my source document, shift to the formatting style from my new document or retain only text. For each option, I could preview the outcome by hovering my mouse over each paste option. I was also able to switch among these paste formatting options after I'd pasted the content, again via a Smart Tag. Excel Excel 2010 packs a handful of interesting tweaks to its PivotTable and PivotChart features. I checked out these changes by linking a fresh Excel spreadsheet to a set of NBA statistics from last season. I then created a quick PivotChart to display players' average offensive rebounds per game. With a few hundred players in my data set, I was faced with a rather unwieldy chart-and a great opportunity to try out Excel's new search filter capabilities. Clicking a "Player" button on my PivotChart brought up a menu with a bunch of sort and filter options. I used these options to trim my set of Players to the top five performers in terms of average offensive rebounds per game. From the same menu, I could remove certain players from consideration by unchecking boxes next to the players' names in the dialog. As with the filter button, I could modify other aspects of my PivotChart (and the PivotTable underlying it) using buttons situated on the chart. All in all, I expect that the new options for manipulating charts will help flatten out the learning curve for users who haven't quite gotten comfortable with these Excel features. Another addition to Excel's PivotTable and PivotChart toolbox is the Slicer-a graphical element that allows users to modify data under analysis by slicing it up by particular categories. I inserted a Slicer into my offensive rebounds chart that let me consider only wins or losses in determining my top five performers. For example, when taking into account only losses, Golden State Warriors' Andris Biedrins was second in the league in offensive rebounds per game. Considering only wins, Biedrins didn't crack the top five. Some of my favorite new sets of features in Office 2010 are those that involve data visualization in Excel. Microsoft has enhanced the conditional formatting capabilities of Excel with easy-to-apply visuals such as in-cell data bars. I imported a set of NBA statistics into an Excel spreadsheet, highlighted the rebounds column, and then applied a data bar conditional formatting element to the column. A bar appeared in each cell representing the size of the cell's value relative to the rest of the values in my selection. Elsewhere, I imported the statistics for a single player across a 10-year span, and illustrated the rise and fall of that player's stats in a compact, single-cell chart called a sparkline. I could add detail to my sparkline charts, highlighting, for instance, the high and low points on the curve. For a look at Excel's new PowerPivot add-on, which enables the application to take much larger data sets, see my review here.
For example, if I were converting a large Word document from a previous Word format, I could select "graphics" from the drop-down menu and cycle through each graphic in the document, looking for needed placement tweaks. This is especially useful, since slight graphics misplacement is one of the most common format-conversion casualties.