Is an Upgrade to Office 2010 in Your Future?

LOS ANGELES – It has not even been three years since the release of Office 2007 but already a new version is in the works. One of the great challenges Microsoft always faces when releasing a new version of Office is convincing people to buy a new version when the old one works just fine. How many more features, for example, does a word processor need, after all?

But with Office 2010, as with all releases, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) believes it has a good argument to upgrade. For this version of Office, Microsoft is modifying its “three screens” motto, from PC monitor, TV and phone to monitor, browser and phone.

“Companies looking to be more productive will find this an asset,” Janice Kapner, senior director of information worker communications at Microsoft’s business division said here at an interview during Microsoft’s Professional Developer’s Conference.

“Clearly there is a demand from customers to go to the browser or do some work from a smartphone, and that is the aim of Office 2010, where it’s the same experience from one screen or another.”

Microsoft is facing a challenge on a front it knows well: free products. OpenOffice and a number of browser-based products are making a run for Microsoft’s business. Kapner believes Microsoft can hold off the charge from these products through its “three screens” strategy.

“We are trying to give customers what they want, and what they want is that same experience regardless of device,” she said.

New functions across the board

Office 2010 will feature a tweaked ribbon interface, which was introduced in Office 2007, will come in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions and offer new functions across the board. Outlook, for example, will have the new Social Connector to connect with LinkedIn and the ability to group messages from a single person or a number of messages in a discussion thread.

PowerPoint will come with a bunch of new transitions, which were on display at PDC during the demos. It also will support embedding videos as well as editing the video in PowerPoint, rather than requiring a separate video editor.

Word will offer an improved search feature for document searches, the ability to access, edit and print from the Web or a mobile phone, add visual effects like shadows, bevels, glow and reflection to your document text, and will come with an improved lost data recovery utility.

All of these apps will be supplemented by a new structure called Backstage, which takes various setup and configuration menu items normally scattered around each app and puts them in one place. Now everything from page layout to autocorrect functions to help will be in one location.

The complete beta of Office 2010, along with SharePoint, Visio, Publisher and OneNote, are all available for download now.

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