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.

Microsoft is enlarging the icons of features within PowerPoint and clustering access to most functions within tabs along the top of the screen.
Hoping to please image-conscious PowerPoint users, Microsoft is building the 2007 edition with a host of preprogrammed style galleries to spruce up images and text. SmartArt capabilities allow you to quickly turn bulleted text into a flow chart or other information graphic. You can also preview changes within the drop-down Galleries before committing to them.

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.