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Office 2010 technical preview: First look review

We take a look at what the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 2010, has to offer users.

PowerPoint quirks sorted

Some old PowerPoint problems finally get a solution in Office 2010, including working with video. A built-in player that uses Windows' own video codecs replaces embedded players so you can now apply video effects in your presentations. There's also support for web video, so you can embed straight from YouTube and Vimeo amongst others, bringing viral video straight to your presentations.

One of our favourite Office applications finally gets a promotion. OneNote 2010 will be in all the Office 2010 SKUs. It also gets a bunch of new features, including the ability to link back to source documents and web pages (if you're using Office 2010 and IE8). Notebooks will also be available through a web application, making it easier to share content.

Real-time collaboration

Collaboration and sharing are one of the key features in Office 2010 though you'll need to have a Microsoft stack, or at least access to the Office web applications to use them.

Word and PowerPoint get what Microsoft calls co-authoring where you can see who is working on which part of a document and IM or email them with changes synchronised when files are saved.

Excel and OneNote get a more real-time approach, where collaborators can see each other's changes as they work together on a document. OneNote also gets tools that allow you to explore a shared notebook, highlighting who made what change and when. It also provides a control that lets you slide back and forth through a document's history.

Microsoft has significantly cut down on Office 2010 SKUs, with only five different versions. Volume licensing customers will get access to Professional Plus and Standard, while consumers and small businesses will get Professional, Home and Student, and a new SME-targeted version dubbed Home and Business. The volume licensing SKUs will come with access to on-premises versions of the Office web applications, while consumers and small businesses will have to use the Windows Live hosted versions.

Verdict

Under the various UI tweaks, Microsoft has done a lot of work on Office 2010. Improved collaboration tools are one aspect of these changes, but we won’t really see what they mean until the August release of the Office web applications – and the October arrival of SharePoint 2010. Is this the Office for you? It’s certainly an improvement over Office 2007, but at this point we’re looking at a lot of incremental changes, fine tuning Office’s productivity features and adding better ways of visualising and sharing information.

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