Still, it takes just a couple of clicks to insert a JPEG, a GIF, a BMP, a PNG, or another image type. Click the graphic, and the Picture Tools Format tab lets you tweak the brightness, the color mode, and the contrast of a picture. You can also rotate it, crop it, skew its angle, add 3D effects and shadows to its borders, and convert it to all manner of shapes, such as a thought bubble, an arrow, or a star. Options for positioning an image and wrapping text around it are also front and center, which should be helpful for creating professional-looking business documents, as well as casual party invitations. You don't get nearly the amount of control offered by Microsoft Publisher, QuarkXPress, or Adobe InDesign, but Word 2007 may do the trick for ultrabasic desktop-publishing needs.
For those who don't need all the formatting choices, we're glad that Word 2007 doesn't apply a complex style to our text by default. In Word 2003, we'd have to highlight all the text, and then Clear Formatting to remove unwanted indentations and bold letters. In Word 2007, Calibri, a crisp, default font, replaces the standard Times New Roman from Word 2003. You can choose from galleries of text styles, such as Emphasis, Strong, or Book Title, and easily create your own styles and set them as a default.
While Corel WordPerfect has traditionally offered better features for managing longer documents, Microsoft Word 2007 has improved a bit in this regard. For those working on a dissertation or book report, the References tab lets you manage citations and bibliographies in styles from APA to Turabian. Just click Next Footnote, and the cursor takes you there. However, the Table of Contents feature still isn't easy to figure out.
Editors who collaborate on documents with others can make use of the Review tab. The new Compare pull-down menu lets you look at two versions of the same document side by side, as well as merge changes from several authors and editors into one file. Administrative assistants and those charged with mass-mailing tasks should find those features much easier to access than in Word 2003. Bloggers can now compose and post entries to their Web sites without leaving Word.
If you deal with sensitive information--in a private diary entry, a resume, or a company financial statement, for example--Word 2007 allows more control over buried data, such as the original author's name or your supervisor's cursing comments. Office 2007's Prepare options step you through inspecting that metadata, as well as adding a digital signature and encrypting a file. You'll also find some of these options under the Review tab's Protect button. However, should you plan to black out text, you'll have to turn to Adobe Acrobat 8 to make secure redactions (highlighting the font in black within Word won't do it).
As integration has improved throughout Office 2007, you can click Send from the Office logo menu to attach a Word document to an e-mail message through Outlook's composition window. A message recipient using Outlook 2007 can preview that Word document within the e-mail message pane. And if you paste an Excel 2007 chart into a Word 2007 file, just right-click the chart and select Edit Data to launch Excel in split-pane view. When you change the source data within Excel, the chart adjusts in Word.
Unfortunately, Microsoft isn't providing an option for storing or editing Word files online to most users who buy below the $679 Ultimate edition of Office, and there's no browser-based version of Word. Need to collaborate on a file with specific people or take work on the road? At this time, you may have to e-mail those documents. Alternately, you could upload a Word file into one of the many free, Web-based word processors served up by other companies, including Zoho Writer, which offers a free upload add-in for Word 2007.
Service and support
Boxed editions of Microsoft Office 2007 include a decent, 174-page Getting Started guide. During the first 90 days, you can contact tech support for free, and help at any time with any security-related or virus problems also costs nothing. Beyond that, paid support costs a painfully high $49 per telephone or e-mail incident. Luckily, Microsoft's online help is excellent, although we're displeased that Microsoft and other software makers are increasingly promoting do-it-yourself assistance. We especially like the Command Reference Guide for Word, which walks you through where commands have moved since Office 2003. You can also pose questions to the large community of Microsoft Office users via free support forums and chats. Microsoft Office Diagnostics tool, included with the Office 2007 suites, is also designed to detect and repair problems if something goes haywire.
Is Word 2007 worth the upgrade? If you primarily work with plain text and don't need to pretty up reports and newsletters and the like, then it might not be right for you. For our purposes as editors, for instance, Word 2007 doesn't introduce must-have goodies, although commenting commands are within easier reach. At the same time, Word 2007 handily presents options for footnotes and citations under its References tab, which researchers should appreciate. Mail-merge functions are also easier to reach. Bloggers might use Word's posting tools in a pinch, but we found Word 2007's rebuilt HTML to be clunky still. Above all, Microsoft's new word processor is most upgrade-worthy if you want to play with pictures, charts, and diagrams in addition to text.