If you were one of those who didn’t take to Office 2007, chances are you weren’t too keen on its new Ribbon interface. In which case we have bad news for you: it’s everywhere in Office 2010. However, while it’s something of an acquired taste for those used to the toolbars of previous Offices, given time it’s easy to appreciate how much more efficient and intuitive the ribbons are. It helps, of course, that Microsoft has fine-tuned ribbons extensively, while also offering more flexibility so you can customise them to suite your needs. Also of great benefit is the quick access toolbar (also customisable) in the top left corner, which gives you access to common functions (e.g. save, undo, redo etc.), leaving the ribbon to deal all those context sensitive bits.
Another addition that spans every application in Office 2010 is Backstage View. This is essentially the ‘File’ tab as seen in Office 2003 et al and, unlike Office 2007 and the Office 2010 Technical Preview, it’s actually labelled as such, rather than as the ‘Office Button’ seen in both of those. This piece of semantics should help people migrating from Office 2003, but Backstage View itself is a massive improvement on the ‘File’ tab of old as it presents a consistent, unified appearance for many of the functions that are universal to all the applications. Particularly beneficial are the printing options, where you can change the page properties, preview the outcomes and execute print jobs all from one screen. This is also where you can manage permissions for collaborative documents, an area that’s much enhanced in 2010.
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Collaboration also brings us neatly onto another new aspect of the Office experience: Office Web Apps. Though one could conceivably use the Web Apps – which comprise versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote – as alternatives to the real thing, they’re really meant to complement the desktop Office suite. Here you can easily access and edit your documents remotely, while also sharing them with those who mightn’t have access to a full version of Office. More impressions on the Office Web Apps can be found later in the review.
One other important development in the world of Office is the presence of a 64-bit version. For various reasons it does lack one or two features of Office 32-bit and Microsoft recommends most users stick with 32-bit, but what it does bring is a lifting of the file size limitations that might have hampered power users when using Excel or Access. In time it might bring further benefits.