Microsoft Office 2010 Beta Is Released at PDC

Microsoft releases the public beta version of Office 2010, asking for feedback from users ahead of the productivity suite's general release in early 2010. While Microsoft Office has traditionally been a desktop-centered platform, new functionality connects its various applications to the Web in new ways, particularly with the Outlook Social Connector, which allows users to see e-mail senders' LinkedIn connections and activity feeds.

Microsoft released beta versions of Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Project 2010, Visio 2010, Office Web Apps for businesses and Office Mobile 2010 at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles on Nov. 18.

The beta versions can be downloaded from this Microsoft site. As with its development of Windows 7, Microsoft is looking to incorporate user feedback from the beta in order to craft a more robust version of the final product. Microsoft executives told eWEEK that the final version of Office 2010 would be available early in 2010, although they declined to give an exact date or price.

While successive versions of Microsoft's productivity suites have been primarily desktop-centered affairs, Microsoft seems determined to embrace both the cloud and connectivity in these new releases. A new feature in the Microsoft Office 2010 beta is the Outlook Social Connector, which displays e-mail senders' meetings, communication history and activity feeds, and gives the option to see their LinkedIn connections. The beta version of Outlook also allows access to Multiple Exchange Accounts, Calendar Preview, Conversation Arrangement and other new features.

Click here to see a gallery of improvements to Microsoft Office 2010.

eWEEK's testing of the Office 2010 beta and discussion of its new features and enhancements can be found here.

Microsoft designed new logos for each of the Office 2010 applications, with an eye toward making them easier for users to identify. A first look at the logos can be found in a Nov. 16 post on the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog announcing Office 2010's beta availability.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had previously announced that the public beta of Office 2010 would be available in November. At that time, Microsoft announced that the beta would include all functionality and be performance-stable.

A stripped-down version of the platform, Office Starter 2010, will come preinstalled on PCs produced by major manufacturers; users will be able to create, view and save documents using free versions of Word and Excel, but upgrading to the full Office 2010 will require a code from a card purchased at a retailer such as Best Buy.

Microsoft is also making browser-accessible versions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint available to Microsoft Live subscribers. While lacking many of the features available in the full Office 2010, these Web applications seem to be Microsoft's attempt to hold off a challenge by Google Apps and other providers of cloud-based productivity suites. One of the betas released during PDC was a version of Web Apps for businesses.