Microsoft Office 2007 Beta (for Windows) is available for free download and testing. If you use a lot of pivot tables, apparently Excel 2007 Beta2 is still pretty buggy, but there are some other features that look sorta cool and appear after brief testing to be stable. (Maybe not cool enough to spend money on yet, but of course this is free beta software, so it isn’t for sale… yet!)
You have to use a MSN “live ID” to download the software. A MSN passport (which you need to setup a MSN IM account, I think) works fine.
One of the first features I notice that is different about Office 2007 is that there are no more drop down menus on a menu bar at the top of the screen: instead everything is available as “ribbons.” Ribbons are like toolbar buttons, except some of them work when you mouse-over them instead of having to actually click them.
Perhaps the most needed and welcome feature in Office 2007 from my perspective is the search feature in the updated version of Outlook. One of the handy things about Mac OS X is “Spotlight,” a technology that lets you quickly (as long as your computer is relatively fast) search not only document titles but also document contents for keywords. While not as powerful as Spotlight, Outlook 2007 does have a much-enhanced search feature. In this example, I have quickly searched a folder of email messages for the text “pen drive,” and it resulted in matches from both subject lines and message text:
Another new feature that looks nice involves formatting in Excel with “data bars.” Choose the ribbon button “conditional formatting” after highlighting a range of cells, and choose a a color to display relatively scaled data bars within the spreadsheet cells:
One of the programs included as an optional download is MS Groove 2007, touted as a collaboration tool for geographically distributed workgroups. Microsoft (in typical Redmond style) purchased Groove and is now integrating it as part of their productivity suite. The Groove website describes Groove this way:
Everything your team needs to share files, manage meetings and projects, track data and processes, and get work down as if you were all in the same location. Your team stays in sync. Your information and conversations stay secure.
Sounds a lot like commercial web 2.0 with a proprietary Microsoft label and pricetag. I’ll probably pass on this one. The price isn’t right compared to the amazing dearth of free read/write web tools that appear to offer similar functionality. I suppose corporate folks more interested in protecting intellectual property and trade info would be interested in this…..
More info is available on the 2007 MS Office System preview site. Thanks to Shane Hammontree for sharing these tips!
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