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Office 2007: Bells And Whistles

With 13 desktop apps and hundreds of new features, Office 2007 is more than Word. Then there's the promise of more integration to come.

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Office 2007 is much more than Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. It comprises 13 desktop applications, available in eight suites, and hundreds of new and improved features. Microsoft also sells nine servers as part of the all-encompassing Office System.

There are alternatives. Novell sells GroupWise. Sun, StarOffice. And Google has begun to offer no-cost online applications.

Office looks better. 2007's Ribbon interface uses icons instead of pull-down menus and toolbars. There's a new navigation pane at the top of the screen and more real estate. Icons change depending on what you're doing. Click on an image, for example, and you'll get icons related to picture editing.

Documents are more foolproof. An inspector scans Word, Excel, and PowerPoint docs for comments and revisions so that you don't inadvertently distribute content not intended for viewing.

A better programming model, Visual Studio Tools for Office, gives developers a greater level of confidence that applications will do what they're supposed to. VBA was a throwback to programming models of a decade ago. The new tools bring Office "into the Visual Studio and .Net era of programming tools," says Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly.

Beware the dependencies. Certain apps and features work only when used with the Office System servers. Office SharePoint Server (formerly SharePoint Portal Server) is the linchpin. Excel spreadsheets can be managed centrally, but only via SharePoint's Excel Services. PowerPoint's Slide Library requires SharePoint, too.

OneNote (above) saves notes, images, and URLs. With Vista, images pop up (right) when you mouse over icons.
(click image for larger view)

OneNote (above) saves notes, images, and URLs. With Vista, images pop up (right) when you mouse over icons.
Office 2007 will increasingly serve as a front end to Microsoft's CRM and ERP applications. Today, integration is quite limited; you might use Outlook to view information from a Microsoft Dynamics app. Office OpenXML and SharePoint Server promise to take data sharing a step further.

Office 2007's improved document management is worth considering as regulations force companies to do a better job of archiving. Systems administrators and users can set data-retention and data-deletion policies.


say Office 2007 is important to their Vista plans

Some of what's here is available as a service. Office Live, launched on Nov. 15, is a hosted version of Office SharePoint Server. Microsoft's desktop apps are available only the old-fashioned way--on PCs.

You don't need Vista to run Office 2007, but some features will benefit from the pairing. Outlook 2007 and OneNote 2007 tap into Vista's search engine. Office 2007 documents appear as "live" icons in Vista. Other areas that work better: Windows SideShow, RSS feeds, and open/save dialog boxes.

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