Microsoft is ready to release Office 2007 Beta 2—but this beta version of the popular office software package will expire early next year.
The new beta will be available as a free download. It contains a complete English version of Office 2007 Professional. However, the beta version will stop working after Jan. 31, 2007.
The software has to be activated. The necessary license key is sent by e-mail to the address entered on Microsoft’s website at download.
The most important change in Office System 2007 is the graphical interface.
Most striking in the new Office is the so-called “ribbon,” which Microsoft uses to reduce the number of menu options in its applications, and the Office button, which contains features such as “Print,” “Save As” and “Publish to Blog.”
The ribbon dynamically adapts the menu options available based on what the user is doing. This way, only options that can actually be used are displayed. Users cannot modify the ribbons themselves.
Users also don’t have the option to give the new Office the same look and feel as the previous version, as older versions allowed. Although Bill Gates initially required such a feature, this was not added because of lack of time.
Another reason for omitting the feature is that Microsoft is so convinced of the advantages of its new interface that it thinks reproducing the traditional look and feel is no longer necessary.
The new interface has not been applied to all the Office applications. So far, only Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Excel and Access use the new interface.
The other applications will get the new look and feel in the successor to Office 12 (the internal name for Office 2007). The next version, however, will not be known as Office 13. Microsoft is skipping this number, considered unlucky by the superstitious, and the next version will therefore carry the working title Office 14.
Office 2007 can be installed beside existing versions of Office. Both the new version and versions already installed can then be used, with the exception of Outlook.
According to Microsoft research, navigating within the new Office applications involves between 80 percent and 90 percent less clicking to use certain functions, leading to time savings of 40 percent to 45 percent.
Attendees at the Winhec conference in Seattle this week received the new beta of Office 2007 on CD-ROM. Although Microsoft will also offer a new beta version of Windows Vista for download in early June, that software was not included in the conference package.
-Wilbert de Vries, Techworld Netherlands
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