O07: Office 2007 Technical Refresh Thoughts

Posted on September 24, 2006. Filed under: Software |

O07: Office 2007 Technical Refresh thoughts

I was going to attempt to work in some witty James Bond references (eg Office 07 = O07 – License to Thrill, Live and Let (Toolbars) Die, The World is (Still) Not Enough, A View to a (conditional formatting) Fill, etc, etc) but soon realised none of them were remotely funny…

So, let’s give the new Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh a one word summary instead.

In a word: Exceptional.

Let’s break it down:

Performance

Impressively good. Performance wise Office 2007 is very good. Now, admittedly I’m running on a reasonably new machine (< 12 months old) with 2GB of RAM, so stating that performance is good is probably not particularly reliable. But note, if I’d said speed was slow then we’d know there were major problems.

It is rare for me to run Beta software straight on my notebook these days, but after running the Beta on a VMware image for a couple of weeks without problems, and then the release of the Technical Refresh I decided to make the leap. I installed it straight on my machine and after a week haven’t regretted it. Everything (except Project 2007) is running great.

Stability

The product is very stable. I’ve only had a single crash all week and this I’m pretty sure was to do with my LinkedIn Outlook Add-in playing up.

[Oh yes, and Project 2007 is completely hosed. I don’t know if the Tech Refresh wiped it out or what, but Project 2007 is completely unusable. I haven’t investigated further, so it might be an easy to fix known issue, but I’m just warning people that I’ve had problems with it.]

Ribbons

You’ve all been ribboned to death with so many blogs and articles on the new Office UI so I won’t bore you with more coverage. Let me just say that I am an Office Ribbon convert. I think the idea is fantastic and the closest to a revolution that Microsoft has come up with in a long time. I know it’s a big call, but I consider the ribbon concept to be so good that it will be the standard in all products eventually. Visual Studio would benefit from the concept (ie only show me stuff I can actually do) as will SQL Server, MMC snap-ins, and just about everything else that has some complexity to it. I’m sold on it.

Add-ins

In general all my Add-ins all work. The LinkedIn Outlook toolbar I think had some intermittent problems, but Skylook, Mind Manager and SnagIt are all working fine for me.

Outlook 2007

Outlook 2007 was my first stop. There are features aplenty, but my three favourite (so far) are:

1.       Calendar Tome Zones: We have family in Minnesota, and having their times displayed next to current time is surprisingly handy.

2.       Calendar Overlaying: I have a bunch of different calendars (personal, birthdays, plus when connected I link into a few of my company calendars, and I am also going to link into my wife’s calendar when at home). Having the option to simply overlay these is a fantastic feature.

3.       To-Do bar: Having this on the side of all different views (Mail, Calendar, Notes, Tasks, Contacts) is now unthinkable to be without.

I was trying to think of what new features I’d like in Outlook. I reckon a convergence of OneNote (more on this later) and Outlook would be great. I would like to be able to go to a scribble pane in Outlook and write notes, record audio and drop screen shots like I can in OneNote.

I also downloaded the Search Beta 3 that Outlook recommends. I’ve had mixed results with Microsoft Desktop Search before (up till now I’ve used Google Desktop Search) but this one is working without problems. And it is quite fast. I may be close to uninstalling Google’s offering…

My only slight criticism would be memory usage. After a week of use (I hibernate most of the time, so I only reboot every couple of weeks) Outlook was taking up over 220MB of memory – which seems a little high to me (reminds me of that joke about how to find Microsoft products in Task Manager – sort by memory usage… boom tish).

Tip: when opening up an email, at first you might miss the Next and Prev email buttons on the Ribbon. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise they are up on the top Quick Access mini-bar.

Word 2007

In a word, fantastic. I can’t believe how bug-less this release is. Everything seems to work well. There are no glitches with layouts or page numbering. Formatting is a dream (thanks to the Ribbon concept) and the new default font (Calibri)  is a eye-pleasing (interestingly Calibri comes up as a spelling mistake in Word…).

Tip: Doubling clicking on the ribbon will hide it and bring it back. To be honest I didn’t realise this until I was going through Office sessions on my TechEd DVD set… so perhaps you have missed it too).

Excel 2007

Not much to say here except that it continues to do everything I need, and does it well. The conditional formatting is a nice feature (but of course isn’t backwards compatible so you are limited in who you can send it to).

Excel has always been a strong product, so it is hard to improve on.

PowerPoint 2007

And here’s where the real presentation advantages come. No doubt you’ve seen some of the formatting tools demoed already, and all I can say is that it lives up to the hype. Using PowerPoint 2007 will definitely give you an unfair advantage over other presenters not yet onto it. Simple graphs, bullet point formatting, font formats, and the mass of great templates available are more than enough reason to upgrade to this version.

I know people say they are sick of seeing PowerPoint presentations and the old ‘death by PowerPoint’ arguments do have merit. But face it, you can’t escape it and as long as you don’t start trying to use all 50 million different formatting features in every single presentation you can’t lose. It’s about balance. Don’t go overboard with animations and a new colour scheme on every slide. Sure, you still need to stick to the rules of good presenting (eg http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2005/12/the_102030_rule.html), but PowerPoint 2007 allows you to do it with some flair.

Here’s something annoying to do… Create a New presentation based on the Quiz Show template. Go to slide 6, take a screen shot and send it to the Office team as an incredibly urgent mis-fact that needs to be fixed before the product is released…

OneNote 2007

Not much has changed here from what I’ve seen so far. OneNote is one of those simple programs that you’ll either find extremely useful or irrelevant. I’m in the former category and couldn’t live without it these days, but if you’re working with OneNote 2003 then I can’t offer any compelling reason to upgrade. A few nice usability enhancements, but little else. By the way, did OneNote 2003 have the F11 – Full screen option? If it did, I never noticed it. OneNote 2007 has it, and it is mildly useful.

Publisher 2007

I’ve only used Publisher a few times in the past (eg when I created the OzFox 2004 brochure a few years ago) so I can’t really offer anything in-depth on this. But to me it seems fine. The range of templates and example documents it comes with are great (although previous versions were also overflowing here). I downloaded a few of the Flyer templates from Microsoft online and was pleasantly surprised by how professional they look (eg the Professional Services flyer).

Publisher is the only program I’ve found to be a little slow. Not sure why.

Visio 2007

Overall, more of an already good thing.

There is an odd looking Getting Started interface (black with dark blue labels can be hard to read at times), but once working the interface is the old familiar one (no Ribbons here). The samples are quite helpful. I don’t remember seeing a sample in 2003 that showed how easily you could link Visio diagrams to Excel data, but here it is simple to spot. I had a problem with the ‘Project Management’ sample – It was initially crashing on the PivotDiagram task pane. Helpfully Office recognized I was experiencing issues and prompted me to run the Office Diagnostics. This all proceeded without incident (and without reporting any findings btw) but the problem hasn’t re-occurred since. Coincidence or other, I’m pretty impressed.

If I could request just one thing for Visio it would be to add a zoom bar on the tool bar, just like the one in Word 2007. That feature is so handy it begs to be put in as many products as possible.

If I could request two things, the second would be to make the Shapes Window pane have fly-in functionality. Currently to maximize real estate you need to close the Shapes pane, and then go to View -> Shapes Window to get it back. Even having a hotkey to do this would be welcome improvement, but having the Hide/Show fly-in option (similar to the To-Do Bar in Outlook 2007 would be ideal).

Groove 2007

Think Skype on steroids. I really like the idea behind Groove, and although I think it will be a long while before it really takes off there is benefit investigating it now.

For those not familiar with Groove, the idea starts with sharing a workspace. It will be of most benefit to remote users who want to share stuff around. You set up a Groove account and then create workspaces that you share with colleagues. Testing this one was hard since all I could do was share between my notebook Groove account and my VMware hosted Groove installation. Still it was enough to evaluate the functionality.

Groove of course is much more than just workspaces. Besides file sharing there is discussion boards, Issue tracking, notes sharing, meetings and more (even a Chess game). Calendars can be shared, but I couldn’t work out how to link in my Outlook Calendar. It seems Groove has its own internal Calendar. I can only think I must have missed something obvious here, because not being able to share your Microsoft Office Outlook calendar in Microsoft Office Groove would be a big oversight. Someone please point me on the right path…

Groove claims to allow you to share IE Favourites and put Shortcuts in your My Documents folders. I enabled these but couldn’t quite get them working. The IE Favourites shortcut turned up but I couldn’t see any shortcuts to My Documents workspaces. Perhaps I didn’t quite understand the concept properly.

All things considered Groove is a big thing waiting to happen. However, if I’m not mistaken it still needs better integration with the other Office products. To be fair, Groove is still in Beta, it’s just that the other products still in Beta look so much more refined.

Other products: InfoPath and SharePoint Designer

I haven’t had time to play with these yet, so I can’t report on them at present.

Closing

In closing let me reiterate my disbelief at how good these applications are for a product still in Beta. Microsoft has done really well – in the main they are fast, stable, feature packed and instantly productive.

All the normal Beta software disclaimers apply of course, however I recommend loading Office 2007 Beta 2 and the Technical Refresh (but sans Project 2007) as soon as possible. There are many positives and few negatives.

Advertisements

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: