Microsoft Office 2010 Rolls Out New Features, New Platforms

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Microsoft Office 2010 Rolls Out New Features, New Platforms

by Jason Brooks

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Back Stage Area

The biggest interface tweak in Office 2010 is probably the addition of a backstage area to replace what had been the File menu drop-down in earlier versions of Office. In each application in the suite, these backstage areas house "meta document" options, such as those for saving, opening, printing or exporting.

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Cut and Paste

In response to research that indicated that the most common action that users take after pasting a chunk of content into an Office document is hitting the undo button, the team added new pre- and post-paste features, housed in context-sensitive Smart Tags, for reducing the need to hit undo.

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Office Without Windows

Office Web Apps boast uncharacteristically broad support for non-Microsoft products-the apps support Mozillas Firefox, Apples Safari and Googles Chrome Web browsers nearly as well as Microsofts own Internet Explorer.

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Format Fidelity

The Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents I tested with rendered well in my test browsers, offering the best route Ive seen for viewing an Office document as intended without having a copy of Office installed. In addition, the print function in the Web Apps does an excellent job converting Office documents to PDF format.

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Silverlight Assist

The Word Web App promised improved performance and rendering if I installed Silverlight, which I did while testing with Internet Explorer 8. Without the plug-in, zoomed-in documents appeared somewhat jagged-looking.

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Office Web Apps and SharePoint

I tested the Office Web Apps from a SharePoint Server 2010 instance running in our lab, and from a test version of Microsofts Windows Live service.

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Navigation Pane

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.

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Excel 2010 packs a handful of interesting tweaks into its PivotTable and PivotChart features, such as the Slicer-a graphical element that allows users to modify data under analysis by slicing it up by particular categories.

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In Excel, I could easily visualize data in compact, single-cell charts called sparklines. I could add detail to my sparkline charts, highlighting, for instance, the high and low points on the curve.

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PowerPoint and Word both have an option embedded in their Ribbons for inserting screenshots of active windows into documents or presentations. Choosing this option spawned a dialog with thumbnails of all the open windows on my test machine.

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Background Removal

With the Background Removal tool in PowerPoint and Word, I was able to click on a person in the foreground area of an image and direct the application to swap out my picture's background for a transparent one.

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Outlook Ribbon

When Microsoft rolled out its new Ribbon UI in Office 2007, Outlook was left Ribbon-free. In Office 2010, Outlook has joined its officemates in taking on the new UI.

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Quick Steps

Outlook includes a new feature called Quick Steps, which offers up some common multistep processes, such as forwarding to ones manager or responding and deleting the original message, as well as a means of creating new Quick Steps.

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