Review: Not Just Another Day at the Office

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2006-05-23 Print this article Print

Review: eWEEK Labs finds that changes in Office 2007 Beta 2, including new collaboration features, make an upgrade worthwhile.

eWEEK Labs' evaluation of Microsoft's Office 2007 Beta 2 unearthed compelling features and tools, and reminded us why enterprises continue to rely on the productivity suite.

During tests of the second beta of Office 2007, we were impressed with the suite's collaboration features. In fact, we believe they will be the impetus for dedicated Windows shops to upgrade when Office 2007 ships later in 2006. The suitewide attention to collaboration will enable users and enterprises as a whole to work with information in new and more creative ways.

There are some potential end-user stumbling blocks, though.

Office 2007 introduces a new interface, including a ribbon comprising a combination of toolbars that changes depending on the task a user is working on and the Office button, which replaces the old File menu. It may be difficult for end users to get used to the new elements, but we found the interface intuitive and eventually grew comfortable working with it.

Microsoft also introduces in Office 2007 a new XML-based file format—Open XML—for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Instead of seeing files with the extensions.doc, .xls and .ppt, respectively, users will see .docx, .pptx and .xlsx. This could be confusing and disruptive if a document in the new format is sent to a user with an older version of Office.

These new file formats will be the defaults for Office 2007, but users will still be able to save in Office 1997 to Office 2003 formats. IT managers will need to decide how to handle the new file formats—for example, defaulting to the traditional .doc file format instead of using the Open XML format.

While we're happy to see that Microsoft is finally allowing users to save files as PDFs, we'd like to see Office 2007 support OASIS ODF (OpenDocument Format) as well.

Microsoft will release several versions of Office 2007, including Office Enterprise and Office Professional Plus, both of which are available to volume-licensing customers only; Office Small Business Edition (which costs $449, or $279 to upgrade); Office Standard (priced at $399, or $239 to upgrade); Office Professional ($499, or $329 to upgrade); and Office Basic. eWEEK Labs tested Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 Beta 2.

Office 2007 requires a system with Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or higher, a 500MHz processor or higher, at least 256MB of RAM, and a DVD drive. Users should be aware that 2GB of disk space is required for installation and that a 1GHz processor and 512MB or more of RAM are required to run Microsoft Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager (available with Office Small Business Edition and Office Professional).

During tests, we installed Office 2007 Professional Plus (comprising Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, Communicator, InfoPath and Publisher) on a Windows XP SP2-based Dell Latitude D620 laptop with Intel's Core Duo dual-core processors. We also installed the suite on a Micron desktop with Pentium 4 processors and an Nvidia GeForce FX5920 Ultra video card running Windows Vista Beta 2. It took about 10 minutes to install the suite on each of the systems.

The Office 2007 experience will vary depending on your operating system. Office on Windows XP SP2 has a blue default theme; on Vista, Office automatically defaults to Vista's Obsidian, or black, theme. We found that Beta 2 of Office 2007 took greater advantage of Vista's Aero Glass capabilities—particularly in the new ribbon—than earlier betas of the suite.

Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Review: Not Just Another Day at the Office


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