To be published in the Feb 1st edition of The Planet Weekly
Microsoft Office is one of the most commonly used Office Suites available. It seems as if almost everyone has heard of it or used it. From the earlier days of Microsoft Office 95 to the presently used Office 2003, Microsoft has taken this Office Suite through many versions. With each version similar to the last, transitioning from one version to another could be done with ease.
For each newer version of Microsoft Office, the biggest question asked by many was, “Why should I upgrade?” Whether the answer was for security reasons, for more features, for better compatibility, or for other reasons, a large majority of people today are using Office 2000 or Office 2003. Once again, with the upcoming release of Microsoft Office 2007, one has to wonder, “Why should I upgrade?”
For most people (and departments at work), upgrading means dishing out more money and either reinstalling Microsoft Office or updating an older version. Not only can this be a financial blow to a student, but for businesses as well. With different editions (Basic, Student, Professional, Small Business, Ultimate, etc. ) ranging from $149.00 to $679.00 for an upgrade or full version, one has to wonder if this new version – Office 2007 – is any different from previous versions. And, the answer to that is yes, this new version of Office is a lot different from any of the older ones.
Here comes the technical stuff:
As of this writing, I went to Microsoft’s Office Website ( http://office.microsoft.com ) and clicked on a link “Get office: Download a free trial or try it in your browser” to download a free trial version that expires March 31, 2007. For the minimum requirements of a PC, you must be running Windows XP or higher and have a PC with:
- a 500 MHz processor
- 256 MB of RAM (or more)
- 1.5 GB or more of space.
- For the grammar and contextual spelling in Word to work, the website states you must have 1 GB of RAM. You can download individual applications (Word, Excel, Power Point, etc. ) or the whole Office 2007 Suite in different editions – Student, Professional, Small Business, etc.
For the Microsoft 2007 Professional Suite, the first download - at about 388 MB - is the actual Office Suite. This contains:
- Access 2007
- Excel 2007
- Power Point 2007
- Publisher 2007
- Word 2007
The second download - at approximately 385 MB – contains:
- Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express
- Dot Net 2.0 installation
- Accounting 2007
- Web Components
- Pay Pal Add-in
- Equifax Add-in
- Fixed Asset Manager
- ADP Payroll Add-in
You can use the Microsoft Office 2007 Professional without installing the second CD. In this article, I will focus mainly on the first CD.
Now, let’s skip to the better part shall we? This part is the part I am looking forward to – the part I actually get to work (ok, play) with.
For those of us that are used to seeing the File menu at the top, it has now been replaced by The Button in the top left hand corner in most of the Office Applications. (Strangely enough, Publisher 2007 still has the older version of the menu instead of The Button. Will the conversion to The Button be a future update for Publisher 2007? Time will tell.)
The Button allows you to Open a new document, Save, Print, Email, and more. This is where the phrase “less is more” comes to mind. From Office 95 to Office 2003, I really noticed a big change in the number of tasks that were added in the File menu.
As the button seemed pretty easy to get used to, the newest part of Office 2007 that made the look drastically change is what Microsoft calls The Ribbon. For example, in Word 2007 (as well as the other applications in Office 2007), the menu at the top - which has changed very slightly throughout previous versions: File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, etc. - has now been replaced by The Ribbon. Microsoft has deemed that The Ribbon will let you accomplish your tasks with less mouse clicks than the previous menus did.
When you click on different tabs, Home, Insert, Page Layout, etc., you are given different menu items as icons that correspond with each tab. My first task, as I began writing this, was to find where the “double space” option was for the page. Thankfully, there is an extensive amount of helpful documentation. Although Clippy the Office Assistant is now gone, there is a small question mark in the upper right-hand corner that will let you search for what you need. That question mark replaces the Help menu from the older versions. The ribbon definitely takes some getting used to. Now, whether you want or have the time to get used to this may be a different story.
Themes in all of the applications of Office 2007 seem to also have taken a pretty nice leap with a more of a professional look. From the matching of the colors to the shadings and quality of the graphics, this is a very big improvement from even Office 2003. While trying out Power Point 2007, I was able to create a more professional slide show with less effort compared to creating the same slide show in Power Point 2003. Although a slide show is more about the content than the “look” of the slide show, the more professional it looks, the better. And my slide show from Power Point 2007 sure looked a lot better with a lot less effort!
As for templates, I tried out the two applications where I use templates the most, Publisher and Word.
Regarding templates, Word 2007 seemed to have a lot more at first glance than did the previous versions. All of the different templates were in a list that let me preview the templates when I clicked on The Button and “New” in Word 2007. I even noticed a new feature, the ability to create a new Blog Post. According to a Wikipedia article on Office 2007 , ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Office_2007 ), the newest version of Word lets you create and edit blog posts and then upload them to various services such as Windows Live Spaces, SharePoint, Blogger, Community Server, and more. With previous versions, this ability could be performed with an add-in.
As for Publisher 2007, at first glance, I thought I had opened Word 2003 by mistake. I did not see The Button or The Ribbon. I even went so far as to look on Wikipedia’s screenshot of Publisher 2007 to make sure this was the way Publisher 2007 was supposed to be – just to make sure that my installation had not created some hybrid of Publisher 2003 and 2007 by mistake.
I will say though, I do like the way Publisher 2007 looks and feels much better than previous versions. I have been using Publisher since Publisher 97 was out; and although I can tell many differences over the last 10 years, I feel this one makes creating a new document the easiest and is the most user-friendly. While creating a few new documents (brochures, business cards, business forms and newsletters), this version of Publisher seemed to have more choices for templates and was much better organized for choosing a new one. As much as I use a computer, the less keystrokes and mouse clicks I can make, the more time I save and it is easier on my hands!
As a student, the college I attend uses the APA format instead of the MLA format for all submissions. Previously, I had to use a plug-in for the APA format, or create it by hand – which was very tedious. In Word 2007, it is nice to be able to format the document using an APA Style or MLA style preset.
Another nice new feature I found in Word 2007 is when you left click and highlight words – say to change the font, size, or style – you get a “live” preview. You actually see your highlighted choice change on the screen as you scroll through the fonts or sizes. In the older versions, you had to apply the font first for the change to take effect before you could see how the font looked. That became a hassle when you had a lot of fonts and wanted to see how different ones looked. You would apply them, then un-apply them, and try the next one. This way is so much easier, and it saves a lot of time.
New Default File Formats
By default, Word 2007 also saved the document in the *.docx extension instead of *.doc extension the previous versions used. This new default extension (*.docx ), as well as Excel’s new default document extension ( *.xlsx ) and Power Point’s new default extension ( *.pptx ) are part of a new file system based on Microsoft using OpenXML. Based on XML and the zip container, the idea is the new OpenXML based-files are smaller.
- A 276 KB Word file in the *.doc extension is equal to a 249 KB sized file in a *.docx file extension. (This article)
- A .99 KB Power Point file in the *.ppt extension is equal to a 34.4 KB sized file in a *.pptx file extension.
- A 16.5 KB Excel file in the *.xls extension is equal to a 8.09 KB sized file in the *.xlsx file extension.
The disadvantage here is if you create a file in the new file format ( .docx, .xlsx, .pptx etc.), it must be opened by an application that is from Office 2007 which will read this format. You can also download a plug-in from Microsoft that will let older versions read this new format. The other alternative is that you can use “Save As” to save the document in a version compatible with an older version of Microsoft Office, but you may also risk losing some of the layout features.
Although I have not covered all of the features of the new Microsoft Office 2007, I have highlighted many of the more noticeable changes. After a few days of using Word 2007 to write this article, I can see a few advantages and disadvantages.
- I like the smaller file sizes that are created using the *.docx extension. %33 to %50 smaller files will mean smaller files to save on disk as well as email. With very large files, this can mean the difference between a 100MB file and a 50-75MB file. Smaller files are quicker to upload, send in email, or share on a network.
- The look of The Ribbon does take some getting used to. The amount of time it takes to become familiar with all of the new features and the location of older features in The Ribbon will vary from person to person. Some people may feel they do not have the time to get used to a new interface. But, after getting used to The Ribbon, any changes, inserts, or sharing of the file in collaboration with other users is much easier and faster.
- Creating new documents and presentations in Office 2007 is much easier (and more graphically pleasing to the eye) than older versions.
- The price is a bit high. Although students and teachers can get a student discount, large businesses and home users may not have the budget for the new software. And, since there is a free plug-in that can be added to older versions of Microsoft Office to read the new document format, it is not a necessity to own the new Office 2007 to read the new file extensions.
If you are a person who can adjust to change, one who prefers less work (less keystrokes and mouse clicks), or a person that emails or saves a lot of files and prefers smaller sizes, the new version of Office 2007 does seem to be a good investment at this time. Although at the time of this writing it is still in trial, you can test drive the new Office 2007 online in your browser by going to http://office.mircrosoft.com and clicking on “Download a free trial or try it in your browser.” Give it a try today and see what you think of it.