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Free Office 2010 beta available to download

Find out how to download free versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and more in Microsoft's Office 2010 beta programme

For anyone who hasn't made the switch to free office software such as Google Docs or OpenOffice, Microsoft is once again out to persuade you to upgrade. Office 2010 beta is available for download right now ahead of the final version debuting in shops sometime next year.

We've already written a fair amount about the new features in 2010 (see 'more screenshots than you could possibly want'), but the upshot is that 2010 is much less revolutionary than Office 2007 was, thank goodness. We're still struggling with the new ribbon-style toolbars in the current version and have lost countless hours trying to work out where all our icons have gone in Excel.

Speaking of the ribbon, it's been tweaked in Office 2010 in an attempt to make it easier to use. It still confuses the hell out of us to be honest, but we'll take whatever we can get in this department.

Other new features include syncing between Outlook contacts and those in social media Web sites such as LinkedIn, and Office Web Apps, giving people in different locations the chance to edit a document over the Internet simultaneously.

As always, the Internet is full of those saying that there is no compelling reason to upgrade (partly true), and those predicting the imminent death of Office (still a long way off in our view, but becoming more likely every year). Decide for yourself by downloading the beta version from our Downloads section, or heading over to Microsoft's site directly.