During tests of the second beta of Office 2007, we were impressed with the suites collaboration features. In fact, we believe they will be the impetus for dedicated Windows shops to upgrade when Office 2007 ships later in 2006. The suitewide attention to collaboration will enable users and enterprises as a whole to work with information in new and more creative ways.
There are some potential end-user stumbling blocks, though.
Office 2007 introduces a new interface, including a ribbon comprising a combination of toolbars that changes depending on the task a user is working on and the Office button, which replaces the old File menu. It may be difficult for end users to get used to the new elements, but we found the interface intuitive and eventually grew comfortable working with it.
Microsoft also introduces in Office 2007 a new XML-based file format—Open XML—for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Instead of seeing files with the extensions.doc, .xls and .ppt, respectively, users will see .docx, .pptx and .xlsx. This could be confusing and disruptive if a document in the new format is sent to a user with an older version of Office.
These new file formats will be the defaults for Office 2007, but users will still be able to save in Office 1997 to Office 2003 formats. IT managers will need to decide how to handle the new file formats—for example, defaulting to the traditional .doc file format instead of using the Open XML format.
While were happy to see that Microsoft is finally allowing users to save files as PDFs, wed like to see Office 2007 support OASIS ODF (OpenDocument Format) as well.
Microsoft will release several versions of Office 2007, including Office Enterprise and Office Professional Plus, both of which are available to volume-licensing customers only; Office Small Business Edition (which costs $449, or $279 to upgrade); Office Standard (priced at $399, or $239 to upgrade); Office Professional ($499, or $329 to upgrade); and Office Basic. eWEEK Labs tested Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 Beta 2.
Office 2007 requires a system with Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or higher, a 500MHz processor or higher, at least 256MB of RAM, and a DVD drive. Users should be aware that 2GB of disk space is required for installation and that a 1GHz processor and 512MB or more of RAM are required to run Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager (available with Office Small Business Edition and Office Professional).
During tests, we installed Office 2007 Professional Plus (comprising Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Communicator, InfoPath and Publisher) on a Windows XP SP2-based Dell Latitude D620 laptop with Intels Core Duo dual-core processors. We also installed the suite on a Micron desktop with Pentium 4 processors and an Nvidia GeForce FX5920 Ultra video card running Windows Vista Beta 2. It took about 10 minutes to install the suite on each of the systems.
The Office 2007 experience will vary depending on your operating system. Office on Windows XP SP2 has a blue default theme; on Vista, Office automatically defaults to Vistas Obsidian, or black, theme. We found that Beta 2 of Office 2007 took greater advantage of Vistas Aero Glass capabilities—particularly in the new ribbon—than earlier betas of the suite.
One of the first things users will notice when they use Word 2007 is the replacement of Times New Roman as the default font with a font called Calibri. The interface is completely new, for that matter, but we found it much easier to access commonly used tools than with previous versions of Office.
In tests, we were able to create documents and then save them in a variety of file formats, including as PDF (finally!) and XPS (XML Paper Specification) documents. While office suites such as Corels WordPerfect have allowed users to save files as PDFs for many years now, this is the first time Word users will be able to do so.
Microsoft officials have said that the new Word XML Format will offer a dramatic reduction in file size as well as an improvement in recovery for damaged files. We didnt see an obvious reduction in our file sizes during tests of Beta 2; Microsoft said this will be resolved before Office 2007 is released.
A couple of new features in Word are especially useful: The Document Inspector helps users ensure that all comments and personal information have been removed from Word documents. Word 2007 also now enables users to create blog posts within the office suite and then post them directly onto an online blog. Users must register or have a blog hosted on MSN Spaces, Blogger, SharePoint or Community Server.