Living with Office 2010

With Windows 7 out the door, CNET News' Ina Fried decided to move on to her next "dogfooding" project--trying out the early test version of Office.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

With Windows 7 having been finalized, I realized that my main work set-up was utterly lacking in the unfinished software department.

Clearly, that couldn't stand. So, last week, I installed the technical preview of Office 2010 on the Windows 7 machine I have been using every day. For the foreseeable future, I'll be trying to see how the new applications stack up in handling my day-to-day work.

As for my early impression, I think my colleague Rafe Needleman said it best in a tweet he wrote earlier this week, while tying out the new Office.

"I wish Outlook/Office 2010 tech preview would do something weird and dumb so I could write about it. Sadly, it just works."

Microsoft has a tradition of internal testing of its products, which it dubs "dogfooding." Here at Beyond Binary, we like to do a bit of dogfooding ourselves, despite the fact we have two cats and no canines.

Although I have installed all of the main Office applications--Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote, I really only use Word and Outlook on a daily basis.

The most noticeable change for me is in Outlook, particularly its new conversation threading feature. Although the concept is familiar to anyone who has used Gmail, it is quite powerful to see the notion applied to the hundreds of e-mail messages that land in my in-box on any given day.

I have a few minor quibbles. Office 2010 is good at bunching together e-mails even if the subject line changes, but its grouping has some false positives in joining disparate conversations just because the subject lines are the same. For instance, it tends to put all of my messages with the subject "Hey there" together, even though that's a standard subject line for me. Similarly, it puts all of my "(no subject)" e-mails together.

That said, I really like the feature overall. It definitely saves me time and makes finding those earlier messages in a thread much simpler.

On the Word front, there are features I am interested in trying out, but few that I have noticed in my casual use. Of course, my use of Word is somewhat atypical. I basically am only looking for a text editor with really good save capabilities. The first thing I do is turn off the smart quotes, hyperlinking, autocorrect, and all of the other features that help distinguish Word from, say, WordPad.

I wrote earlier about one feature I am excited about--paste preview--which helps one see what the different paste options will look like before you commit. That's helpful because usually what I want is the "paste unformatted" option (see above section where what I really need is a text editor), but every now and then I am looking to preserve more of the formatting and it is nice to see what I will get ahead of time.

As a photo nerd, I am also keen on playing around with the artistic effects that Microsoft added to Word. In the past, I needed Photoshop, or at least a program like Photoshop Elements, to do things like turn a photo into a watercolor painting. But now one can do that straight from Word.

Let's see, what else? I'm not a huge fan of the Ribbon, but given that it is here to stay, it is nice to see it has made its way into all of Outlook, as well as to OneNote.

Microsoft Office 2010 technical preview (screenshots)

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I'm more fond of the Backstage view, which is new to Office 2010. Essentially a replacement for the file menu, the backstage view offers a more contextual and visual way to do tasks like opening recent documents, creating new ones or printing the document you are working in.

But the thing that I am most interested in, the browser-based versions of Office, I will have to wait a little bit longer for. Although Microsoft released the technical preview of the desktop versions in July, we're still waiting on the Web apps. The official word is they should be out in test form "later this summer."

If I were Microsoft, I'd work to get a Web-based Office out there pronto.