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Microsoft Office 2007
Dramatic new looks and powerful collaborative features
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Microsoft has updated the popular productivity applications that are part of the Office suite. This version of Office marks a dramatic upgrade, as it features not only a new interface, but also a new XML file format. Office also features a powerful server, called SharePoint, that is designed to improve group collaboration. All of the applications in the Office suite have been updated to take advantage of these new features.

The interface, named “Ribbon” by Microsoft, features a results-based design that is designed to better organize common functions. Each Office application features its own unique Ribbon toolbar. In this toolbar there are tabs that allow you to access common functions. All the tools you need to perform that function are present in its tab, giving you easy access to the tools you need. This takes the guesswork out of locating a function in a specific menu or toolbar.


Office also features the Office Button. This button, which replaces the File menu found in older versions, gives you quick access to features that are common among all Office applications. These features include opening, saving, print and sharing documents. It is also possible to choose a custom color scheme from this menu.

The new file format, Office OpenXML results in files that can be up to 75% smaller than comparable documents in older versions of Office. The format also allows for greater interoperability between applications. Developers will be able to use custom XML vocabularies to build documents with custom-defined schema. End users will appreciate the fact that Office documents will be smaller and easier to transmit via e-mail.

The SharePoint server facilitates more efficient group collaboration when working in Office. Multiple users can work on the same document simultaneously, with the Document Alert Bar letting them know about changes that others have made. SharePoint also tracks document changes via n information panel, allowing you to see who has changed what in a document. With group work being the norm rather than the exception in most corporate environments, this feature will help to streamline communication and collaboration in many instances.


Office Applications and Versions
Access is a powerful database creation application. It allows you to work with databases without the need for programming knowledge. It features tools that allow you to create a database from scratch. Access also includes prebuilt applications that can be customized to suit your needs. The software includes a powerful reporting tool that allows you to analyze, filter, sort, group and share information. Access is included in the Professional and Ultimate editions of Office 2007.

Accounting Express is a financial management tool for small and home businesses. It allows you to perform daily financial tasks and gives you a central location to store your customer and financial location. It even includes tools to help you sell items through eBay. Accounting Express is included in the Small Business, Professional and Ultimate editions of Office 2007.

Excel
is the premiere spreadsheet application for Windows. The software gives you powerful tools that you can use to create and format spreadsheets and analyze and share data with colleagues. The software features enhanced security features to allow you to share sensitive data with coworkers, customers or business partners. Excel 2007 also supports Microsoft's Excel XML file format, which reduces the size of spreadsheets and improves interoperability with other data sources. Excel is included in all versions of Office 2007.

InfoPath is an information-gathering program that can create and deploy electronic forms for the purposes of information collecting. The software works with the SharePoint Server to extend business processes outside your corporate firewall. This allows you to deliver forms via Outlook e-mail, web browser forms or forms for mobile devices. InfoPath is included in the Ultimate edition of Office 2007.

Groove is a software package that is designed to allow teams to collaborate on projects. The software allows you to create workspaces that allow team members to communicate and collaborate effectively and efficiently. Groove functions without the need for a dedicated server. You can even use it offline; the software automatically autosyncs changes between you and the other peers in your workspace. Groove is included in the Ultimate edition of Office 2007.

OneNote is a digital notebook that allows you to organize your life, schedule and tasks. You'll be able to store notes, pictures, digital handwriting, audio, video and more. This gives you a central application that allows you to record class or meeting notes. You'll also be able to sync data with your Windows Mobile PDA and quickly search through information. OneNote is included in the Home and Student and Ultimate editions of Office 2007.

Outlook is an integrated solution for calendar, address book and e-mail management. The software gives you all the tools you need to communicate with colleagues, schedule meetings and organize your daily workflow. It supports Internet calendar integration, color coding of information and cell phone text messaging. Outlook also features an advanced spam filter to protect you from junk e-mail and powerful search tools to help you locate important data in an efficient manner. Outlook is included in the Standard edition of Office 2007.

Outlook with Business Contact Manager adds a powerful address book to Outlook. This virtual Rolodex allows you to track client information from a single interface. This version of Outlook is included in the Small Business, Professional and Ultimate editions of Office 2007.

PowerPoint allows you to create dynamic presentations using an intuitive interface. It features powerful graphics and formatting tools that will help you to create visually stimulating presentations. It supports custom layouts, SharePoint serving and custom slide layouts. Document themes allow you to apply a consistent look and feel to your presentations that matches your corporate identity. PowerPoint is included in all versions of Office 2007.

Publisher is a powerful desktop publishing software suite. It allows you to create, personalize and share publications and marketing materials. You'll be able to distribute in print, Web and e-mail. This gives your in-house marketing team the tools to build a brand identity, manage customer lists and track marketing campaigns. Publisher is included in the Small Business, Professional and Ultimate editions of Office 2007.

Word is the industry-standard word processing application. It features tools to produce professional content using document styles and themes, an equation builder, word count and spell check. Document formatting can be done quickly, allowing you to concentrate on content. Word also features tools to securely share sensitive documents among coworkers and colleagues. Word is included in all versions of Office 2007 (click here to see a chart showing what's included with all the different versions of Office 2007).

Pros and Cons of Upgrading
The benefits to using the latest version of Office are readily apparent. The new user interface is more intuitive and should allow you work more efficiently. Office also features a new user assistance system that eliminates Office Assistants and replaces them with an extensive help system. This system is based on the use of Super Tooltips, which are one-paragraph explanations of how a particular function works.

Office also offers a plethora of document themes and styles to choose from. You'll find yourself spending much less time worrying about document formatting and more time concentrating on work with these themes and styles. An Office Theme file format is implemented so that you can share themes beween various applications. This helps you to more easily present a consistent identity when sending out business documents.

The major drawback with Office is the fact that the new OpenXML format cannot be read by older versions of the program. This can make sending documents to users with older versions of Office difficult. Office does provide support for the XPS format, but a special viewer must be downloaded in order to view this format. Currently this viewer is only available for Windows systems. Office does not support saving as PDF. This simply means that if you choose to upgrade, you'll have to be aware of whom you are sending documents to. In cases when you do have to send documents to users of older versions, the software does support saving copies of documents in the older file formats.

Which Version?
There are several versions of Office to choose from. Choosing one is simply a matter of deciding which applications will be useful to you. Most home users will want to look at the Home and Student edition first. This includes the most common office applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Users who require a bit more power should consider moving to Standard, which replaces OneNote with the more versatile Outlook. This is ideal for users who need to connect to an Exchange server to access their business e-mail and calendar.

Office Professional adds Access to the mix for database work. It also includes Accounting Express, Publisher and a version of Outlook with a Business Contact Manager. This is a great option for anyone running a small business with many of the tasks done in-house. You'll be able to handle databases, accounting needs, client contacts and desktop publishing with the included software.

Office Ultimate gives you even more applications to work with. It includes everything that is in the other versions and adds InfoPath and Groove. InfoPath allows you to send and retrieve the results of forms; Groove features even more tools to perform group work.

Regardless of what your specific needs for productivity applications are, you'll be able to find a version of Office that suits them. Microsoft has put out a line of suites that are appropriate for anything from home and school use to life in the corporate world.

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