Microsoft Office 2010 beta review

The beta of Microsoft Office 2010 is now available for the public to download. We find out what’s new since the Technical Preview rolled out over the summer.

Editions

There will be six different editions of Office 2010. The free Starter Edition consisting of ad-supported, cut-down versions of Word and Excel is designed to be given away with new PCs. There will still be the -99 Home & Student Edition which gives you three licences for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for non-commercial use within a family.

The remaining four versions are suitable for business use. A new Home and Business Edition has the five major applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook and sits below Standard edition which also contains Publisher. It appears that Standard Edition will only be available through volume licencing. The Professional Edition, which will be available through Retail or Volume Licencing, contains Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher and Access. Professional Plus Edition consists of InfoPath, Communicator and SharePoint Workspace and again this edition is only available to volume licencing customers.

Price chart

No pricing details are available as yet though historically prices have not changed much from one version to the next. Upgrades from previous versions to Office 2007 Professional currently retail for about 188 a seat and to Standard Edition for about 146 so you can expect to pay similar prices for upgrades to Office 2010. Volume licencing customers with Software Assurance agreements will, of course, get the upgrade as part of their deal.

Click here for our review of Windows 7.

Verdict

A lot of new and improved functionality has been squeezed in to Office 2010 above the obvious extension of the ribbon UI to those applications which missed out in 2007. The beta release is proving very stable so far but the usual caveats about beta software apply. (It hasn’t been fully tested and if something can go wrong it probably will when it is most inconvenient.) Overall, this version of Office shows a lot of promise and appears to have something for everyone, particularly if you combine Office 2010 with the huge developments that have been made in SharePoint, even the free SharePoint Foundation 2010. Most of the improvements have been to elements common to all applications, making the applications work seamlessly together and increasing usability and the opportunities for collaboration.

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