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Microsoft Office 2010 arrives in stores

It's been a long three years, four months and 17 days between Microsoft Office 2007's retail debut on Jan. 29, 2007, and Office 2010's arrival in stores today. Finally, you can upgrade to your choice of new Office versions: the $149.99 Home and Student bundle of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote; the $279.99 Home and Business edition, which adds Outlook; or the $499.99 Professional release, including all of the above plus Access and Publisher.

Well, unless you didn't rush out to buy Office 2007 when that sometimes-refreshing, sometimes-irritating release replaced Office 2003---which itself wasn't the most exciting update ever. Or if you don't remember what version of Office you run today. Or if you've already switched to a competing program, such as Google's free, Web-based Google Docs or the free, open-source OpenOffice.org.

office_2007_2010_compared.png

More so than in earlier Office debuts, Microsoft has a tricky job arguing this update's relevance. For one thing, Microsoft took some of the wind out of its own sails by shipping a set of free Web productivity programs, the disappointing Office Web Apps, last week. For another, even by the standards of past Office updates, Office 2010 looks remarkably like its predecessor.

The screenshot above shows the 2007 and 2010 versions of the three oldest Office applications--Word, Excel and PowerPoint--stacked to show their "ribbon" toolbars. Aside from 2010's use of a light-gray background and its replacement of 2007's "Office Button" with a more-standard File menu, not much visibly distinguishes the old from the new.

Now, that one illustration conveys neither the extent of the changes in Office 2010--for Microsoft's view, see such PR handouts as its "Top 7 Reasons to Try Office 2010"--nor my overall evaluation of the product (you'll have to wait until Friday to see that) but it does illustrate the marketing problems Microsoft faces.

Does Office 2010 interest you? If the answer is "yes," what are your main reasons to switch to the new version? If the answer is "no," what sort of changes to this software could have had you thinking otherwise? (Comments from those who have already installed Office 2010 are, of course, also welcome.)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 15, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Productivity  
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Comments

Honestly, what major additions can you give a word processor or a spreadsheet that wasn't done 10 years ago? Office is a fundamentally mature product line. The only real advancements are going to be in collaboration (Sharepoint), business intelligence (PowerPivot) and colud computing (Azure) -- which non-starters to the average Office user and completely intangible features to all but a handful of IT professionals.

Posted by: BurgundyNGold | June 15, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Agree with Burgandy...not much room to improve on here...so what's the point.

As an IT guy, most nearly all of my clients have been on 2007 for the past 2 - 3 years and are happy with it. Many, if not most had a bit of a rough learning curve at first...but nearly all appreciated the upgrade after a month or two.

In a panic, some called me soon after I'd left their office asking, "How do I print"? But once they realized that most of their activity was within the colored marble...they were good to go.

My wife, an attorney, went through all the online tutorials and noted that overall, Office 2007 was a very powerful product...with features and tools that many would find really useful if they knew they existed.

I installed the 2010 version a month or so ago and was underwhelmed. Really seemed like a step backward as far as the visual aspects...and really didn't like some of the dumb things they did to Outlook. I won't bother with details here...but struck me more as change for the sake of change, and not an improvement. I'll admit I didn't go really deep under the hood with all the bells-n-whistles that may have changed or been tweaked...but as a mid-level user, no biggies here.

Couldn't wait to go back to 2007. Save your money folks. Even if buying a new computer, get 2007 and be happy for the next several years or more.

Posted by: postgettingworse | June 15, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Microsfot is at the bottom of a creative hole. They haven't had a new idea in years. Pray that they keep digging. And faster...

Posted by: NotClyde | June 15, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

I used Office 2000 until 2008 when I switched to Openoffice. Best thing I ever did.

Posted by: fudador | June 15, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

It always kills me when someone talks about "IT professionals" in the context of something like Microsoft Office. IT professionals aren't using Microsoft Office. Office is for secretaries or kids writing term papers. IT professionals are using EMACS or "vi" to write code or configure operating systems. Why pay for "Outlook" when there is "mailx" and "sendmail".

Posted by: oldno7 | June 15, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Been using Office 2010 approx 30 days now. Since as upgrade customer installed immediately to test. It's like they did with Vista, cleaned up crap and created Windows 7. Same thing here, biggest and most frustrating problem with Office 2007 was the damned ribbons. Now you can easily customize these and easily use all the functions. I refused to upgrade my network to Vista or Office 2007. I now plan to move quickly to Win 7 and 2010 Office. Seems to be good solid upgrade.

Posted by: ksobserver1 | June 15, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I have been using 2010 for six months now at home and 2003 at work, can't wait for work to catch up with tech. Not once has my system failed since making the switch. It's about time that MS gets back to doing something that is reliable and not just for making money.

Posted by: donelisteningtocrap | June 15, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

I use Office 2007 so I already have the "ribbon" interface (which I like). Microsoft's "Top 7 Reasons" aren't enough to get me to put down a bunch of money for an upgrade, so I'm curious to hear if you uncover any other reasons for Office 2007 users to upgrade.

Posted by: bokamba | June 15, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm still using Office97. Yep, 97.
Been in the IT sector for 25 years. Yes, @oldno7, have written term papers, but also countless reports, documentation, presentations, letters, notes and a myriad of other stuff too. When I've had to upgrade a pc or laptop, I install Office97 as part of the process. Why? It works, it does everything I need, and I've already paid for it. I don't need bloatware that hoards gigabytes of disk space with software 'features' that I will never use. Never upgrade - hardware or software - just for the sake of upgrading. There has to be a reason, or function, to justify it. Haven't seen one yet.

Posted by: sandbagger | June 15, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

The release seems anti-climactic with most people already having a version of the Office suite and other options available. I only use Office for Windows in emulation on my Macs. I bought the current business version for the Mac three months ago, so I will not be purchasing the Windows 2010 package.

Posted by: query0 | June 15, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

OpenOffice, Google Docs and Zoho are great alternatives that are free!

Ubuntu 10.04 is an excellent free alternative for Windows 7.

I think the boxed version of Office 2010 Professional is $499, while the download is $349. I could get a decent computer with a great free OS like Ubuntu WITH OpenOffice (also free) bundled with it for that price!

Now, thats sweet especially in this tough economy!

Posted by: goldfish2 | June 15, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

@fudador Sorry, Open Office is a toy. It can't open a sophisticated Word document correctly and can't even handle fairly basic PowerPoint presentations. If you have to use an office package professionally, you are pretty much stuck with some version of Microsoft Office. If not, you might as well use Google Docs at this point. Google can handle basic uses perfectly well. Since OO can't handle the more advanced cases, what difference does it make?

Posted by: slar | June 15, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all the comments except that of slar.

I will be purchasing Office 2003 for the ability to encrypt files on the disk. Until now I have used Office 2000.

So, why do Microsoft release an Upgrade rather than a free update? The answer is in the question!!

They will soon lose all their business to OpenOffice , which does not have a small group of designers like MS Office. EVERY USER IS A POTENTIAL DESIGNER. Their suggested improvements get reviewed and may be incorporated or may prompt a better solution to a user problem. MS Office is dead in the water.

Posted by: mr_f_t_FromLondonEngland | June 16, 2010 4:24 AM | Report abuse

Nothing there appears to be worth the $499 to upgrade from 2007. At this point I'm always wary of any upgrades anyway. They often cause as many problems as they solve.

Posted by: maxinea | June 16, 2010 5:19 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like I'll be staying with Office 2003. From the comments, it sounds like I should be looking at OpenOffice if anything.

As far as te 7 reasons to upgrade . . .

Outlook Social Connector. "you can get a people-centric view of e-mail and see the most recent status updates, wall posts, photos, attachments and appointments for the people you care about the most" Pass.

PowerPoint. The Sparklines sounds interesting but not compelling. Easier to embed videos? To make it easier to load presentations with special effects? Pass.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | June 16, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Microsfot is at the bottom of a creative hole. They haven't had a new idea in years. Pray that they keep digging. And faster...

Posted by: NotClyde | June 15, 2010 7:03 PM

-----------------------

Microsoft hasn't had a new idea in decades. Their original "idea" was to buy DOS from someone else and market it to IBM, and that's basically been Microsoft's business model ever since--they see something with potential, buy it up, and then repackage it and continue updating it. If they can't buy up the product, then they imitate it.

Honestly, except for a few minor tweaks, I don't much see why Office 2000 isn't still perfectly viable. Most people don't use Office for anything that wasn't possible with that suite, and maybe even with versions prior to that. Microsoft could just continue to issue updates for Office 2000, and this would suffice for most home and student users, and probably for many business users, too.

But then issuing updates is not at all profitable, while issuing upgrades is. Forcing people to fork over another couple hundred dollars is the only real reason for the last several Office upgrades. For 95% or more of users, there was certainly no pressing need for new features.

Posted by: blert | June 16, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

One of the most useful features I've come across in Office 2010 is the ability to save documents directly to SkyDrive.* I often write papers from multiple computers (work, home), and not only is it convenient to store documents in the cloud, but it's a useful form of data protection: SkyDrive is less likely to suffer data loss than my hard drive is. Sure, there are other ways to manage document portability, but it's a convenient feature of Office to have this capability built-in.


* OK, so it's really just performing file transfer, but the implementation is largely transparent.

Posted by: RobBarnes | June 16, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

It's crazy expensive. And Microsoft is really annoying with their pricing. Office Professional costs 899 AUD (about 778 USD) in Australia but costs only 499 in the US (450 from newegg.com). Fortunately I have connections to the US to get it at the cheaper price.

It's also really annoying that you can only install it for one user (though two computers). Who can afford that for a family? It's like they WANT people to break the license agreement.

I have to use Office because I work in Excel and Access, but all other users should be flocking to the free alternatives. Do you really need to pay $500 for a word processor? Use openoffice!

Posted by: antispy | June 16, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I looked at the "Top 7 Reasons" thing. I suppose I should have known they would be weak if they couldn't even make a Top 10 to try 2010. The photo editing feature in Word seems like it might be useful. In the past dropping a graphic into a Word doc ran the risk of an infuriating formatting struggle.

What I want to see is a way to have less automation in Word and more simplistic interface. Word is just not good at making a document that has a table of contents, an intro with pages numbered as (i, ii, iii...), a new section starting with 1, 2, 3, and different formatting options in it. You can do all of those things, but it's not intuitive at all, really frustrating, and takes several tries to get it the various combinations of section breaks to work. I still can't get the automated table of contents tool to work.

Maybe they got rid of that default Word '07 format with the ugly font, wide margins, and weird spacing.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | June 16, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Today I found out that through Microsoft's Home Use Program (a partnership with various employers), I can get Office 2010 for $9.99. Yeah the full version for less than 10 bucks. The sad part, after my initial excitement I didn't buy it! Why? I already bought Office 2007 (also via HUP) and didn't really see a need to upgrade. Perhaps if I was stuck in OFfice 2003, I would have paid the 10 bucks.

Posted by: tundey | June 16, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm with sandbagger. Still have '97 loaded and use it frequently. Find it far better and more intuitive than '07, which I thoroughly despise even after using it for 2 1/2 years. I still wind up spending a really inordinate amount of time figuring out how to accomplish seldom performed tasks and absolutely hate the amount of time spent on trying to find workarounds because the way I want to do something isn't the way Mr. Gates wants me to do it.

I also have Open Office loaded. Many have been the times that I've gone to it in frustration with '07 to see if the same task can be done more easily there, only to find that it can't be done at all in OO. For the vast majority of users, however, whose usage doesn't require extreme capabilities, OO is the obvious answer for word processing and spreadsheet, but is not as full featured as Office.

The one feature I'd really like to see in Excel would be the ability to save back to XML. Excel can open XML files and is a natural for editing and modifying incremental values, but can't then save the results back to XML. I mean really, how difficult can it be to make the program able to save back to a format that it can open? (I do understand a bit of the technical issues involved) But we can't have that. It really would be a useful feature, if a bit arcane. Uh,oh - I smell another $500.00 upgrade!

Posted by: rsh43 | June 16, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

@fudador, @slar: I use OpenOffice regularly because I don't have the money to get Office. I would say it's more than a toy, but when I have to work with multiple different sections, customize a template, or track changes to an edit, OpenOffice is a nightmare, and I have to hold my nose and find a copy of Work to work with. It would be nice if Office 2010 was some sort of improvement over the dismal 2003, but I holding my breath. It's disappointing that the major problems with OpenOffice haven't been improved upon since early in v.2.0, but then, what do you expect when the programmers are volunteer. Office is like what they say about capitalism: it's the worst system, except for all the others.

Posted by: floomby | June 16, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The only reason to upgrade is because when we buy a new computer for the office, it will come with a new version of Office and eventually there will be compatibility problems with the older computers. There is no value in the upgrade to my office. We don't use any features that were not in Word 97. As far as I am concerned, it is extortion from Microsoft that adds no value.

Posted by: t11123 | June 16, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'll be upgrading to Office 2011 the end of the year. Even a guy I met who works in the XBox section at Microsoft admitted to me that many people at Microsoft consider the Mac version of Office the best version.

Posted by: leicaman | June 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure what most of the other posters are doing with Office but our Government office had an immediate upgrade in the quality of documents since switching to 2007. You must still be printing on b/w printers using times new roman for every document. The only problem with 2007 is that some options in 2007 are in the wrong places. 2010 fixed some of those issues.

Posted by: pxjohnso | June 16, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

There is other option called Kingsoft Office 2010 for only $40.00. From own experience it has a better file compatibility then OpenOffice and BinaryNow is very responsive to any support issues. I got it from:
http://www.binarynow.com/products/kingsoft-office/

Posted by: Pete_C | June 16, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

As long as the company pays to upgrade my PC at work, and I can buy a "Home Use Program" version for a song to install at home, it will be worth it to get rid of the damned ribbon interface and its disconnect from more than a decade’s worth of previous menu structures. (Anyone still have their copy of Office 95?)

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | June 16, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft generally just tries to obfuscate and complicate their software to confound competitors, to try to lock up *your* data in proprietary formats, and to justify marketing a new releases. We know their games.

I'm tired of Bill Gates jetting around the world as a philanthropist on money he stole from me and many others in the form of Windows Operating systems and Office.

The fact that multiple well-organized movements have evolved since the early 1990's to counter Microsoft's business practices with Linux, other Unix-variant operating systems, OpenOffice and StarOffice... not to mention Google documents on the web... says a lot.

Don't trust *your* important data to Microsoft.

Posted by: bbneo | June 16, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft wouldn't recognize a creative idea if it bit them in the you know what. I approached them years ago about a truly creative idea, part of which was making a starter version of their apps available online. They scoffed at me and said they would NEVER allow access to any of their proprietary programs online. My, how things change!

Posted by: panamacanuck | June 17, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

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