Microsoft is spicing up PowerPoint with new templates, animation effects, and image-editing tools. The interface of the 2007 beta 2 displays icons of features organized within a tabbed Ribbon atop the page. We expect longtime users to initially balk at the drastic changes; while some tools are easier to find than in version 2003, others aren't where you expect them. However, in our tests we grew comfortable with the new location of the major features within several days.
The rebuild of this app touches more than its look and feel; Redmond is changing all of the file formats within Office 2007 so that they're XML compatible and open to developers' tweaks. This makes file sizes smaller and also should allow you to more easily restore a file, should it become corrupted. These changes may enable people to make more nimble and professional-looking PowerPoint presentations. Still, we wish that Microsoft would also improve PowerPoint's tools for helping people manage their slide shows while presenting them, such as keeping track of the time spent showing each slide. For 11 images of the PowerPoint 2007 beta 2, see our slide show of the beta 2 and images of the beta 1 build from last fall.