Microsoft has released to manufacturers the final editions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and the rest of the Office 2007 family. Business versions of Office software will be available for download on November 30, 2006. The $149 Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote--but it is not due to reach stores until 2007.
You're allowed to install Office 2007 software on two computers for your personal use. The user license agreement makes you agree that you will download updates whenever Microsoft deems necessary. Also at any time, Microsoft may verify your license key to make sure that you're not using pirated software.
Once you open the applications, you'll be greeted by a drastically new interface. Office 2007's major programs, including Excel (shown here) each organize features into tabs rather than drop-down menus and dialog boxes.
Office 2007's other notable features include a strong emphasis on style templates, with the ability to preview changes to fonts and graphics on the fly. There are more options for dressing up documents with the sorts of charts, diagrams, and pictures usually offered by desktop publishing software.
Office 2007 software is designed for cross-integration. If you insert a chart from Word or PowerPoint, for instance, Excel 2007 will open in split-screen view. Here, when we changed data in Excel, the connected chart reacted in PowerPoint. However, we couldn't drag our formatted chart from PowerPoint to Excel.
By default, the 2007 applications will save your documents in the new, XML-based file formats. The 2007 applications let you save backward-compatible files, but not by default. This could cause grief if you have the new software but need to share work with people who haven't upgraded.
As with the release of Office 1997, you won't be able to open a file in the new format immediately when using earlier versions of the programs. Those running, say, Word 2003 who need to open a Word 2007 DOCX file will first have to download a one-time Compatibility Pack. However, to do so you first must have one of the specific versions of Office 2000, 2002, or 2003.
Once you install an Office 2007 Compatibility Pack for your older software, the older Word (and other apps) should convert your 2007 files, removing incompatible features. When you reopen that same DOCX file again in Word 2007, the file's original elements are supposed to stay intact.
If you open an older DOC file within Word 2007, it will run in Compatibility Mode, shutting off access to some of the newer program features. You'll also work in Compatibility Mode when you open an XLS file in Excel 2007 or a PPT file in PowerPoint 2007, and so on.