A couple of weeks ago, a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 arrived for review.
I had previously played with a beta-test version of the suite and I was very interested to see whether all the rough edges had been smoothed off. This particular version of the suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and the premium e-mail and calendaring client, Outlook.
With the written word being my business, my first stop was the Word wordprocessing program which I have been using for more years than I care to think about. On firing it up, I noticed that it still had the hated (by me, at least) Office Ribbon interface but that this was minimised.
There is no getting around the need to delve into the ribbon from time to time to access commands I need but, at least, it didn’t start off in my way. Running under the Ribbon was the Quick Access Toolbar and I lost no time adding my most frequently-used commands to it so that I can use it most of the time.
With that sorted, the Word interface looks very clean and neat and gets out of my way when I’m writing. Running along the bottom of the Word window, is a strip with details about where you are in your document, the current word count, and controls to select the view of the document that you want, and the zoom.
There aren’t that many new features that make me excited because I use Word almost solely for writing and not for layout. There are a lot of improvements around special text and picture effects, picture correction and tweaking, and smart graphics, which would be valuable for people who use a lot of graphics and do layouts in their work.
Other members of the Office team that I played with quite extensively are Excel and PowerPoint which are also much improved and share the slick-looking Office 2010 interface. Both programs looked just fine to me and I will certainly use them whenever I need to do a bit of number crunching or create a presentation.
OneNote is a program for collecting together notes and clippings from many different sources and allowing you to access all that stuff when you need to. It will accept text, pictures and audio and video notes, and it seems to do it pretty well.
The trouble is that it is a solution I don’t see a need for but that isn’t to say that others won’t find it very useful. I had been looking forward to the new version of Outlook, having begun to use the previous version at work, but I must say that I have been disappointed so far.
My problem is that I have a fairly complex e-mail setup with Microsoft’s Windows Live Mail running on my computer, checking mail in a number of different places, and downloading selected messages from my Gmail account.
I had assumed that Outlook would be able to import all my mail and settings from Windows Live Mail, but I was completely wrong. I most likely could have gone through the whole setup process again, and downloaded all my mail again, but I chose not to bother.
Office 2010 is good and I will definitely use it but I do have mixed feelings about some aspects of the suite. My feeling is that it is now so huge and complex that it must be extremely hard to update and get everything right.
Word, for example, is supposed to be able to publish blog posts but I was completely unable to get it to do so, for the same blog that I update all the time with the company’s Windows Live Writer. I have written about that and my Outlook adventures on my blog.
One final impression is that the Office 2010 Help feature is not that great and it left me puzzled more often than not. It does not seem to be context sensitive at all, unlike that of many other programs, and it often seems to be missing information that you’d expect to find.
For example, I typed ‘open file’ into it and expected to get instructions for opening files in various situations. It did not even say how to open a file on my computer, far less how to open one stored on the Internet, which is what I really wanted to know. I still don’t, as a matter of fact.