Sunday, April 18, 2010

Office on a Cloud

The new Microsoft Office 2010 will take work way beyond the PC
How things change. When I first started working on a computer as a kid two decades ago, the most intuitive thing on the screen used to be the blinking cursor, egging you on to type the next word. After a preview of the Microsoft Office 2010, which will be launched on May 12 and hit the stores in June, that seems like the Stone Age.

With the new Office, Microsoft hopes to reach for the clouds, quite literally. The new version will allow seamless integration across three screens — the PC, browser and phone — letting you “work anywhere and everywhere”. And in a first, Office will go beyond your PC or Windows Mobile phone as it will now be possible for you to access your files from anywhere on the cloud through Microsoft’s SkyDrive and collaborate with multiple users. Users will be able to log in and access their files, which have been synced to the cloud from the PC, from anywhere in the world and work on them using the new web apps. 

Another notable change will be the intuitive Ribbon which will now be visible across all applications. By being context sensitive, the new Ribbon UI will try and bring to the fore all those function which users otherwise tend to ignore or overlook. For instance, if you are incorporating a table in your Word file, the Ribbon will automatically change, showing functions that allow you to do more with a table or chart. Moreover, you can personalise it to suit your specific requirements.
What is obvious is the deliberate attempt to reduce the number of screens users have to be logged into and cut the number of steps to reach a particular feature or function. While there are numerous new features that will make your work simpler, here is a quick look at the changes that will gee up home users.

Since the new Office also links the mobile phone, the Outlook will feature a unified inbox with your mail, voice messages and even SMS. The inbox will even be able to transcribe your voice messages, just in case you can’t switch on the speakers. Mails are managed better and they will be linked together as conversations with a particular user. Click on a contact, and all your interactions with the user — including Facebook, Twitter updates and meetings attended together — will appear on the screen. Most importantly, there will also be the option of ignoring users who keep sending pesky forward mails.

There are loads of new animations and transitions for you to play around with, but where the new PowerPoint scores is by almost negating the use of a second application or programme to modify your inserts. For instance, you can tweak, edit images without opening a photo editing software. Similarly, videos too can be edited in PowerPoint itself. Plus, you can insert video into a presentation directly from the web by pasting the link. Then there is the option of adding bookmarks to the inserted clip, so that you can just skip to the relevant parts of the footage. In short, you can create a professional quality presentation sitting at home.

While 2010 makes Excel a limitless endeavour, it also acknowledges the power of the micro with the new Sparklines features. These tiny graphs that show up within a cell in the worksheet chart trends in the particular row or column of entries. That, as statisticians will tell you, can be a whole new story. Then, like the other application in Office 2010, there is the option of collaborating or sharing the spreadsheet with others, all without actually letting them run riot on the original document. Plus, there are many other filtering options like the Slicer to help you find the relevant data faster.

Like PowerPoint, the new formatting tools give that professional edge to everything you create using the latest Word. There are new effects which you can play around with along with the new SmartArt that lets you add visual elements that help you communicate better with your audience. Plus, the Document Map feature lets you organise the document better. Once again, you have the option of working with another user on the same document, and communicating with him at the same time without opening another application. 

While you work on the improved applications of the Office 2010, the new OneNote helps you keep it all together, in one place. This is a like a real notebook, with pages and tabs, where you scribble down you ideas and thoughts. The difference though is that it will also be linked to the applications where you will finally implement them. For instance, you can use it to plan a trip uphill with your friends, and all of them will get to put in their ideas in real time. Then you can add the maps, booking information, videos and other such details to the notes so that it gives everyone a complete picture. And this is just an example; the utility of this application in a real office-like scenario is endless.
The backstage view runs across all applications and lets you do much more with the files you create. Everything from print preview to sharing authorisation can now be done with this single view, which is more like an advanced file manager. It also lets you directly publish your document as a blogpost or convert it into a PDF file.
There will be five versions of the new Office — the Pro Plus and Standard for enterprise and Office Home & Student, Office Home & Business and Office Professional for Home users and SMEs. There is no word on the price yet.

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