It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since we were immersed in our review of Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft was about to release Office 2007 to corporate users, and so began the slow and methodical evaluation of the software by the unwashed masses (unless, of course, you were an early adopter, a PC Advisor reader or both). Here are 10 questions that you should ask before you decide to upgrade.

With migrations to Windows Vista (reviewed her), which is intertwined with Office 2007, slowly looming on the drawing boards for many companies over the next three years and beyond, here's a look at some of the questions to help pick apart Office and figure out how, when and where it fits into corporate desktop, infrastructure, VoIP and software-as-a service plans, and the target it presents to OpenOffice.org-based suites and online productivity tools popping up on the web. Get reviews of the latest free online applications here.

NEXT PAGE: what is so different about Office 2007?

It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since we were immersed in our review of Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft was about to release Office 2007 to corporate users, and so began the slow and methodical evaluation of the software by the unwashed masses (unless, of course, you were an early adopter, a PC Advisor reader or both). Here are 10 questions that you should ask before you decide to upgrade.

What is so different about Microsoft Office 2007?

Well, this isn't your father's office suite. Office 2007, or what Microsoft calls the Office System, comes in eight versions and contains 15 programs, eight servers and seven services or add-ons.

Users don't have to buy or deploy all those pieces, but the days of the Word-Excel-PowerPoint-Access bundle now seem quaint by comparison. With the Office 2007 suite, users can set up content management, integrate with online services, deploy real-time communication tools and other infrastructures using Office system pieces. That means Office is no longer a desktop decision made by the desktop team. It is also an infrastructure decision that ultimately involves IT. And it is a path that must include consideration of how it will integrate with third-party vendors, especially when deployments hit the VoIP level.

What's also different in the interface, most notably the ribbon, which presents commands organised into a set of tabs. The tabs change on the ribbon to display the commands that are most relevant for the specific Office application open on the desktop.

What does this change mean?

Training issues. Be forewarned.

Why so many versions and what do they cost?

Office is no longer one size fits all. Microsoft has customized SKUs to meet specific demands and hopefully stimulate sales. Here are the versions and their prices: Basic 2007 (no price quote, only available through OEMs), Home and Student (£99, with no upgrade option), Standard (£330), Small Business Edition (£349), Professional 2007 (£399), Ultimate 2007 (£499), Professional Plus 2007 (volume licensing sales only), Enterprise 2007 (volume licensing sales only).

Are there other licensing considerations?

Yes, all of the Office servers, all of the web-access clients (Communicator, Outlook and Project), and the Groove client are available only via volume licensing contracts. Also users will need Software Assurance contracts to have access to the new Office Enterprise 2007 and Office Professional Plus 2007. The main difference between the two bundles is the inclusion of Office Groove in the Enterprise Edition. Both will ship with the Office Communicator client for instant messaging and real-time communications, including VoIP.

NEXT PAGE: Microsoft Office 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007 > >

It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since we were immersed in our review of Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft was about to release Office 2007 to corporate users, and so began the slow and methodical evaluation of the software by the unwashed masses (unless, of course, you were an early adopter, a PC Advisor reader or both). Here are 10 questions that you should ask before you decide to upgrade.

How does Office relate to Microsoft's recent unified communications release?

Here's one place where the Office System concept comes into play on the back of the recently released Office Communications Server 2007, the Office Communicator client, and Office pieces including Outlook and SharePoint Server 2007, to name a few.

See also: Six problems with Office Communications Server 2007

Presence is a cornerstone, allowing instant access to colleagues and collaborators from any file where a name is visible. Integration with VoIP and the Live Meeting web-conferencing server provides voice and video. The message is that Office on the desktop becomes more feature rich when the back-end servers are introduced to the network.

Why is there so much chatter about SharePoint Server 2007?

Microsoft wants to be a provider of content-management software and this is the vehicle to get there. SharePoint, in fact, is catching on like wildfire in corporations, but it is still used mostly to host team workspaces.
CEO Steve Ballmer, however, last month pegged SharePoint as one of the next billion-dollar businesses for Microsoft.

Look for SharePoint to become a platform for new social-networking features and Web 2.0 add-ons to Office. But buyer beware, SharePoint Server 2007 requires an SQL Server client access licence to support some of SharePoint's features.

The cost of the client access licence can easily push the per-user cost of running SharePoint up by £200-£300, according to Forrester Research.

What is OBA, Duet, Live services?

Microsoft has packed something it calls "Solutions and Services" around Office 2007 and is encouraging partners and customers to tap into back-end systems such as ERP and CRM and extend/customise Office along various avenues such as business process automation.

OBAs, or Office Business Applications, are reference applications with imposing names such as Consumer Engagement Reference Architecture for Health Plans.

Duet is part of the Microsoft/SAP partnership to link Office to SAP. And Microsoft also lumps into this category project management and online services Live Meeting and Office Live. Users can expect to get their hands dirty with most of these extension projects.

NEXT PAGE: Outlook and Microsoft Office 2007 > >

It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since we were immersed in our review of Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft was about to release Office 2007 to corporate users, and so began the slow and methodical evaluation of the software by the unwashed masses (unless, of course, you were an early adopter, a PC Advisor reader or both). Here are 10 questions that you should ask before you decide to upgrade.

What's new with Outlook and Office file formats?

The biggest difference is that Outlook now comes with Office and not Exchange. So why is that a factor? Because those deploying Exchange 2007 will now need to buy Office licences to get the client software.

What's new feature/functionality-wise includes the To-do bar, which keeps tasks and calendars close at hand; support for RSS feeds; integration with Windows Desktops Search; and an attachment preview feature.

What is more interesting, and could impact current deployments, are the features that have been cut. Gone are Outlook's native email editor, which has been replaced by Word; NetMeeting; the Personal Address Book has migrated to the Contacts folder; the TaskPad, which was replaced by the To-do bar; Follow-Up flags give way to Task flags; the Follow-up button is history; Schedule+; and security settings moved to Trust Center. Those are just a handful of the changes in Outlook.

We heard so much lately about document formats what's the story with Office?

If you have missed the extensive debates on Open Document Format and Office Open XML, the default file format in Office 2007, quit hitting the snooze button (start here: Microsoft expects Office Open XML approval). While the ISO rejected standardisation for Open Office XML, don't look for Microsoft to adopt Open Document Format any time soon.

To support the format (and to exchange files with any open Office suites like those from IBM, Sun and ThinkFree), a number of translators are available, including an open source version funded by Microsoft and available via Source Forge, the open source software development website.

The tool was developed under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution licence and will translate between the default Office 2007 file type and ODF.

NEXT PAGE: Office 2007 security, and the future > >

It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since we were immersed in our review of Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft was about to release Office 2007 to corporate users, and so began the slow and methodical evaluation of the software by the unwashed masses (unless, of course, you were an early adopter, a PC Advisor reader or both). Here are 10 questions that you should ask before you decide to upgrade.

Are there bugs?

It's not like Office is comparable to a warm summer evening in the Scottish Highlands, but yes. Even though Office 2007 was one of the first products that went through Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle, it only took until February (following a January launch) for EEye Digital Security to find the first Office 2007 remote code vulnerability.

In August, a vulnerability was fixed that could allow remote code execution in Groove Server 2007. A similar vulnerability was patched in various Office System 2007 pieces in May and July. In October, Microsoft patched Excel to fix a bug that produced multiplication errors, and Microsoft issued a patch for vulnerability in SharePoint Server 2007 that would let an attacker run arbitrary code.

What's next and when might we see it?

Most of what is known about future Office versions falls squarely in the speculation realm. The Windows enthusiast website AeroXperience reports that the next version will be code-named Office 14. Since Office 2007 was code-named Office 12, it appears Microsoft has Triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number 13. AeroXperience, citing internal Microsoft documentation, says

Office 14 focuses on productivity, communication and collaboration, enterprise content management, business process and bausiness intelligence, manageability and security.

Translation: No details are available. Ship dates for 14 include first half of 2008 for Beta 1, second half of 2008 for Beta 2 and first half of 2009 for final shipment. Microsoft, not surprisingly, denies the validity of the report and would love to have everyone else do the same and buy Office 2007 instead.