Microsoft Office 2010 brings collaboration into the suite

Microsoft has long been the standard among office suites, and Microsoft Office 2010 is no exception. As office suites go, Microsoft offers more than just a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program and e-mail client database. There is also a large library of document, spreadsheet, database and presentation templates online.

More importantly, Microsoft Office Professional maintains an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to use basic and common features and learn new tricks and capabilities. The new advancements in 2010 are a cloud capability with which you can view and edit Microsoft apps via your browser, for no extra charge, and a push toward collaboration by providing a real-time post-and-share feature with SharePoint 2010.

Office 2010 Professional Edition

Pros: Cloud computing apps; real-time collaboration with SharePoint 2010; video editing.
Cons: No upgrade capabilities; Excel crashes with desktop Bluetooth add-ins; data analytics package not default.
Features: A+
Performance: A
Ease of Use: A-
Value: C
Price: $500

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A good test of an office suite's ease of use is to try to build a database with its database tool. We were impressed not only with the relative ease of building a database but also, more importantly, with how easy Office 2010 makes it to coordinate activity across a network.

Microsoft has upgraded PowerPoint with a new browser version and the capability of editing video and images in PowerPoint with a basic editing tool. For still images such as JPEGs, Microsoft included a simple image-editing tool that now lets you more easily crop and select borders. I found these advancements nicer than video because 95 percent of my presentations have still images.

Microsoft also gives users the ability to launch a live sharing feature with other users on SharePoint 2010. You can essentially create a slide show in PowerPoint and share it with other people in real time as opposed to needing to check it out in a read-only format.

Office 2010 also lets you upload your documents to a cloud environment and provides security so you can determine whom you want to view, edit or change your file. Those features are universal to applicable Microsoft suites and not just limited to PowerPoint 2010, a nice plus.

This collaborative sharing works — for example, with PowerPoint — via an e-mail message that contains a link to your deck on the cloud. Once your recipients click the link, they will see the slide show version of your presentation in their browser. That feature also can be used on a mobile phone’s browser, although for the purposes of data integrity and security, many enterprises might want to disable this capability.

It’s important to note that the browser version of PowerPoint doesn’t include the video-editing features, but most of the functionality that you would find in an older version of PowerPoint is available.

Just like PowerPoint, Excel spreadsheets can now run in the browser, and similar to PowerPoint, you can publish spreadsheets to a browser via the desktop version of the software. Despite limited features on the browser version of Excel, we noticed that the functionality to create a detailed spreadsheet is still there.

Unlike PowerPoint, Excel was buggier and crashed a couple of times. I was puzzled as to why it would open for a second or two and then crash, until I got a pop-up, “Excel experienced a serious problem with the ‘Send to Bluetooth’ add-in.” After disabling the add-in, the spreadsheet program's performance improved dramatically.

Another problem I had with Excel 2010 is that Microsoft still has not included the Data Analysis package as a default add-in when you open the program. This package provides incredibly useful tools that set Excel apart from its competitors, such as the ability to do fast correlative analysis or regression analysis to determine the relationship among variables. This package also provides a quick ability to do descriptive statistics on a set of variables so that you can determine mean, median and range in a flash.

To access the Data Analysis package, you need to dig through the options in the File menu and select Data Analysis. On the plus side, you don’t need to reboot the software after installing an add-in, which was a common trait in previous versions of Excel.

The big change with Word is that Microsoft updated the desktop version to offer a collaborative feature that allows multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. On the desktop, Word notifies all users when there are changes that need to be synced with their document. I’d like to see that feature available in the Web version because it would really put Microsoft ahead of its completion on collaboration.

The new version of Outlook 2010 now has a ribbon user interface like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Likewise, viewing e-mail conversations has changed so that users have an easier time interpreting sent and incoming e-mails. But perhaps the most important change is the ability to preview calendars in e-mails. One of my biggest pet peeves surrounding Outlook was the inability to see what my schedule looked like when I got mail. Now it’s all there in the same window.

Despite not receiving a Reviewer’s Choice designation, Microsoft has made Herculean strides in reinventing the office suite into a collaboration platform. The result is a well-honed piece of software worth the steep $500 price.

Microsoft, www.microsoft.com


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