Need to Know: Microsoft Office 2010 Beta

Microsoft’s Office 2010 beta is now available for anyone to download and use. We explain what it’s all about.

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Next year, Microsoft will release a new version of its Office suite, which will imaginatively be called Office 2010. However, you don't have to wait that long the beta is available to download now.

Another version of Office? Really, another one?

You might have just got used to Office 2007 but hold onto your hats as here comes another one. It's not the final release though, which will actually will be out in 2010 as the name suggest, but it's beta, so at least you can try it for free now.

Where can I get the beta and how long can I use it for?

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You can download the beta from here and you can use it until 31 October 2010 when it is set to expire.

What versions will be available?

There are three versions Office 2010 and each one will be available as a separate beta. Office Home and Business will include, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, Office Professional will add Publisher, and Professional Plus will further add InfoPath, Communicator, and SharePoint Workspace.

So what's new in Office 2010?

Every application has had some kind of work done but some have changed more than others. Highlights include Outlook now being able to handle more than one Exchange account and getting threaded messaging support. OneNote is now available in all SKUs and had enhanced sharing features for SharePoint users. Video now works properly in PowerPoint. Word and PowerPoint also now get a co-authoring mode, and image tools are enhanced so you don't need to leave word to work on pictures.

There's also an enhanced Backstage' the place across all apps where you click to do basic tasks such as printing but also to connect to web services and edit metadata.

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Oh, and it looks prettier too. Visual tweakery includes an improved and updated ribbon interface, with enhanced colours to make things clearer to see.

For the full low-down, check out our review of the betahere.

OK, that's all fine but I thought all apps were online now?

While some organisations may have moved to cloud computing-style services such as Google Docs, Microsoft is only going to go that way fully when it's good and ready. In the meantime, it's got another client side application suite to sell you, and yes, that's Office 2010, also known as the Cash Cow.

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However, it isn't ignoring the cloud - part and parcel of the new release are the new Web Apps, which are online versions of your favourite Office Apps. Well, Word, Excel and PowerPoint anyway. The main idea is that you'll be able to work on and offline more easily, share documents and collaborate with colleagues. The Web Apps will work in IE and Firefox, but not Chrome or Safari.

Will I have to upgrade my hardware?

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Probably not. This is the first office suite to be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but all processors sold in the last few years are 64-bit compliant so that shouldn't be a problem. 500MHz and 256MB of RAM are listed at the minimum requirements, but we'd recommend at least a 1GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM to get the best out of it.

Can't I just stick with Wordpad?

Actually no. All new PCs will ship with a free, though ad-supported and heavily cut-down version of Office 2010, called Microsoft Office Starter 2010. It will look like Office 2010 with a Ribbon interface, but you'll be able to upgrade directly from it to full Office, in case you feel that Microsoft isn't rich enough.

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