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Microsoft Office is the most popular office productivity suite on the planet, and if you’ve never heard of it, you must be from another planet. Office provides the tools you need to run a business efficiently. All of the tools are tightly integrated, sharing a common interface. Microsoft Office 2010 just became available, and a great deal of new functionality has been added.
The most significant change to Office 2010 is the addition of Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. But you don’t have to purchase Office 2010 in order to use these applications—because they’re free, meant to compete with Google’s free Google Docs online Web applications. Documents are stored on Microsoft’s Skydrive service, which you can log into using a Hotmail or Live password. However, working with the online applications is easier if you do own Office 2010. Using Office 2010, you can create documents locally and save directly to Skydrive where they can be shared easily. The online application only works with files created in Office 2007 or higher, so if you’re using an older version of Office, now would be a good time to upgrade.
Office applications allow co-authoring, which lets you collaborate on documents with others. You can check on the availability of other collaborators and initiate a conversation with any of them without leaving the application—or your chair.
Three versions of Office 2010 are available. The least expensive version is Office Home and Student for $149.95, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The Office Home and Business edition, for $279.95, includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. Office Professional, for $499.95, contains the full suite of applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting new features.
Word 2010 offers a new and improved Find feature that displays a summary of search results in a single pane, any of which can be clicked on for quick access. Should you close a document without saving, you can easily recover draft versions of any recently edited files.
It's easier now to work with pictures and graphics. Formatting effects such as shadow, bevel, glow and reflection can be added to your text, just as you would apply bold face, or underline characters. SmartArt Graphics lets you create fancy diagrams simply by typing a bullet list. Pictures can be adjusted for color saturation and temperature, and it’s easier to crop and correct images. You can also capture and insert screenshots into your documents directly from Word.
Working with different languages in Word is easy. You can translate a word, phrase, or document and have different language settings for Screen Tips, Help content and text displays. An English text-to-speech converter lets you hear what you type, which is ideal for situations where English is a second language.
The new 64-bit version of Excel 2010 lets you analyze datasets greater than the 2GB limit of previous versions of Excel. New data analysis and visualization tools make it easier to analyze information and track any important data trends. A new feature called Sparklines lets you create small charts in individual cells to help reveal patterns in the data. Conditional Formatting gives you more control over styles and icons, improved data bars, and the ability to quickly highlight specific items.
PowerPoint 2010 contains new and improved tools for video and photo editing, new transitions, and realistic animation effects. You can now embed and edit video files directly in PowerPoint. When you’re done with a presentation, you can broadcast it by sending a URL that lets people view it on the Web, even if they don’t have PowerPoint installed. Presentations can be converted into narrated video that can be shared by e-mail, the Web, or DVD. PowerPoint 2010 gives you a completely separate window for each presentation you’re creating. That way you can edit multiple presentations independently, side by side, or on separate monitors.
The feature that will probably be most talked about in Outlook 2010 is the Outlook Social Connector. This lets Outlook communicate with social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace. So in addition to checking your e-mail, you can now use Outlook to keep track of your family, friends and business associates. In the realm of e-mail, Outlook can manage multiple accounts from services such as Hotmail and Gmail. A new Conversation view helps you manage high volumes of e-mail by allowing back and forth conversations to be condensed and categorized with a single click.
Microsoft OneNote 2010 lets you create notebooks that store information in one location to easily keep track of text, images, video and audio, and the OneNote panel can now be kept available at all times on the side of your screen. A Linked Notes feature lets you jump right to the source of your information with a single click. When you open a shared notebook, automatic highlighting shows you the changes that have been made since you last opened it. Edits to shared notebooks automatically synchronize when you’re online.
With Microsoft Access 2010, you can access new database templates online for use with common tasks, or customize community-submitted templates to suit your needs. You can also create easily accessible Web-like navigation forms and reports without writing any code. Choose from six predefined navigation templates with a combination of horizontal tabs or vertical tabs. An improved Macro Designer makes it easier to create, edit and automate database logic, while reducing coding errors. Also new is the ability to integrate Access data with live Web content.
Microsoft Publisher 2010 makes it easy to create publications and marketing materials such as brochures, newsletters, postcards and greeting cards with no experience in graphic design. New tools make it easier to modify photos and text, and new object alignment technology makes it a snap to align objects, images, and text boxes. A Design Checker automatically identifies common mistakes and problems, and gives tips on how to eliminate them before you publish.
Microsoft Office Professional 2010 doesn’t require a very powerful system, but it does need plenty of disk space for a full installation. The minimum requirements are a 500MHz system with at least 256MB of memory—that’s fairly ancient. But it also needs 1.5GB of hard disk space. The software is compatible with Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista and Windows 7.