Microsoft's Office 2010, which eWEEK Labs tested in a Technical Preview release, offers welcome enhancements to core Office capabilities, but also breaks significant new ground by pushing Office apps beyond the bounds of the Windows desktop into rich, Web-based versions that perform as well on Firefox and Safari browsers as on Microsoft's own Internet Explorer.
Microsoft's Office 2010, which eWEEK Labs tested in a Technical
Preview release, has quite a bit in common with the past several new
Office upgrades--namely, the new suite is brimming with enhancements to
core Office capabilities, many of which center around exposing the
apocryphal 80 percent of Office functionality that most users overlook.
For example, Microsoft's Office team has put a great deal of work
into the fairly mundane area of cut and paste, calling on the Smart
Tags that first appeared in Office XP to save users the trouble of
rooting through the Ribbon to access the suite's style and formatting
Along similar lines, the charting capabilities that have always
lurked in Excel have undergone a major overhaul in Office 2010. Not
only is there a handful of new chart types from which to choose, but
Microsoft has made Excel charts significantly more useful by
integrating them into spreadsheet data cells.
However, in addition to the incremental improvements that mark every
Office upgrade, Office 2010 breaks significant new ground by expanding
beyond the bounds of the Windows desktop to appear in rich, Web-based
versions that perform as well on Firefox and Safari browsers as on
Microsoft's own Internet Explorer.
Microsoft has not yet made the Web-based versions of Word, Excel,
PowerPoint and Outlook available for testing, but Office product
managers demonstrated these applications for me in our San Francisco
lab offices. I'm withholding further judgment on Microsoft's Office Web
applications until I've had the chance to test them myself, but based
on those demonstrations, I was very impressed with the richness of the
applications' interfaces, both on IE and on Firefox.
What's more, according to Microsoft, the Web versions of Office 2010
applications will be available to enterprises in both hosted and
on-premises versions, as well as in freely accessible versions for
individual users. Somewhat marring the cross-platform appeal of Office
on Web will be Microsoft's offline access solution for the suite, which
will depend on the Windows-only SharePoint Workspace (the application
previously known as Groove).
To see a slide show of Office 2010, please click here.
The Technical Preview release that I tested will be accessible to a
limited group of users, but should be followed by a broadly available
public beta later this year.
Each of the Office 2010 components that I tested include a new
Backstage area, which I could reach by clicking a round Office logo
button at the left side of the Ribbon.
Each Backstage area housed "meta document" options, such as saving,
opening, printing or exporting. In Outlook, the Backstage area contains
account and folder settings, alongside import and export options. In
PowerPoint, I visited the Backstage area of a presentation with
embedded video to shrink the size of my video for different sorts of
As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at email@example.com.