It's hard to imagine exactly what new capabilities Microsoft has added to its Office productivity suite, in the new version Office 2010. After all, it's got so much to offer already.

However Office 2010 does in fact have a lot of new capabilities to offer. Let me show you 25 features in Office 2010 you may not know about yet - but should.

Across the Office suite

Universal ribbon
The ribbon interface is now a part of every single Office application. First released in Office 2007 in some of its applications, the ribbon interface was an artistic leap, and as we all know, only moments after the ribbon was born, its first 'art critic' came along. The critics have trashed the ribbon interface, but serious Office users have embraced it happily. The fact is, the ribbon works: It's futuristic in design, has a polished feel, can be collapsed and tucked out of the way when necessary, and - now -- it can be customised.

Customisable ribbon
Many users never tweaked their toolbars in previous Office editions, while others tweaked it extensively. With a customisable ribbon, users can regroup various tools and tabs, and administrators can create and distribute customised ribbons to users for a tailored approach or a more simplistic one as desired.

Backstage view
Love it or hate it, this new approach for all the behind-the-scenes document work is a necessary addition. By clicking the new File button (which replaces the Office 2007 orb), you have access to all your normal Save, Save As, Open, and Close operations. In addition, you can see and customise the document properties, manage versions, check for compatibility issues, and scrub the document of hidden metadata for sharing purposes.

Paste preview
Included in all suites is a new live preview paste feature that lets you hover your mouse over an option and see what your clipboard item will look like. From the Home ribbon, just click the Paste drop-down menu and hover over your options.

Office Web Apps
Office 2010 now includes a set of web-based applications - online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote - that work through Windows Live and/or with SharePoint. Outlook Web App (a new name but not a new feature) continues to be offered through Exchange 2010.

Protected view
When you open documents, workbooks, presentations, and Outlook attachments that have downloaded from the internet or fail validation in some way, they open as read-only in the new protected view. This means the application runs in a 'sandbox' mode to protect you from malicious code unless you enable editing for the document - similar to how Excel has handled macro code for several versions.

More themes
Themes can now be used across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to ensure a consistent look for your various documents. Microsoft has also upped the number of built-in themes from 20 in Office 2007 to 40 in Office 2010.

NEXT PAGE: Word 2010

  1. The productivity suite gets even better
  2. Word 2010
  3. PowerPoint 2010

Even after 20 years, Microsoft is finding useful capabilities to add to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. We look at the 25 best features in the latest version of the productivity suite.

Word 2010

Insert a screenshot
Now you don't have to take a screenshot using a tool such as the Windows Snipping Tool and then paste it into your document. Instead, you can use the Insert ribbon and click Screenshot to grab an image you want to insert.

Crop images to a shape
You can now select an image, go to the Format contextual ribbon, and under the Crop option, choose Crop to Shape.

New photo-editing options
Word 2010 has a variety of new photo-editing tools that you can find by inserting a picture and selecting it, then going to the Format contextual ribbon and looking at its options, which include Remove Background and Artistic Effects.

Navigation pane
Locate anything in your document by going to the View ribbon, and under Show, click Navigation Pane (or press Ctrl+F). It's like the document map where you can search for text, graphics, tables, equations, and/or comments, but it's better in that you can drag and drop sections of your document to rearrange it quickly.

Excel 2010

Chart your data visually in a single cell. Highly configurable and available in Line, Column, or Win/Loss styles, these mini-charts are a great way to show trends in data without manually poring over every number. Locate sparklines in the Insert tab in the Sparklines group. Use autofill to add sparklines to your entire worksheet.

Take the power of PivotTables and narrow down what you see based on a slice of that data, either from the PivotTable itself or from the original data source. Created via the Insert ribbon, slicers let you review your data without having to manipulate the PivotTable.

64bit support
Although all Office 2010 applications support 64-bit Windows, this support especially benefits Excel users because it allows for workbooks larger than 2GB. Do note that there are some issues using the 64bit version of Office. Office 2010 ships with both the 32 and 64bit versions; if you're using 64bit Windows and have trouble with 64bit Office, you can reinstall Office as a 32bit app, though you'll lose the 64bit-specific capabilities.

NEXT PAGE: PowerPoint 2010

  1. The productivity suite gets even better
  2. Word 2010
  3. PowerPoint 2010

Even after 20 years, Microsoft is finding useful capabilities to add to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. We look at the 25 best features in the latest version of the productivity suite.

PowerPoint 2010

Video editing
PowerPoint 2010 now has the ability to edit embedded video, so you don't have to go to an external video-editing program. The editing tools aren't incredibly capable just yet, but they do allow for trimming the video (found on the Playback contextual ribbon under Editing) and adjusting the brightness, colour, and style.

Broadcast slideshows
Deliver live presentations over the internet to remote users by using the new Broadcast Slide Show feature. Note: You need a Windows Live ID for this to work.

Distribute slideshows as video
Now you can convert your presentation into a video that you can upload to a site such as YouTube or distribute easily as a file for others to play.

Animation painter
This very cool feature lets you take the animation settings of one object and paint them onto another object or selection of multiple objects.

This feature allows you to break your slide deck into sections. You can create the sections and move them around, which helps with organisation and collaboration quite a bit.

Transition improvements
The transitions and animations features now each have their own ribbon to work from. There are a ton of new transitions to choose from, and the older transitions look better than ever.

Outlook 2010

Conversation view
This feature allows you to manage your email correspondence through groupings where you can condense and categorise the emails you receive. This feature can be enabled/disabled through the View ribbon under the Conversations group with a single click. You can even ignore a conversation that perhaps has become boring or irrelevant to you.

Sometimes you need a little help when sending an email. For example, when you are blind-copied on a message, you often don't want to reply-all, as doing so exposes the fact that you were secretly in the loop. In Outlook 2010, if you do reply-all to a message you were blind-copied on, a MailTip appears to let you know you are about to reveal your having been in the loop. This is one example of the many helpful MailTips.

Social connector
Although not completely baked, this feature is excellent for keeping you connected with your SharePoint 2010 world. Ultimately, the goal is for you to see at-a-glance information about people who are emailing you. The SharePoint connection is strong in that you can view your colleagues' information (you might see a picture of the person, communication history, meetings, attachments, and activity feeds). Downloadable connectors allow you to reach out to social media sites such as Facebook for additional news about the person you've selected.

Quick steps
Sometimes you have an entire ritual when it comes to handling emails. Quick steps are like little macros that allow you to simplify the tasks. You can use the built-in steps located on the Home ribbon, or you can create your own. Configure these to make your common "rituals" that much easier to perform.

Sometimes your mailbox is cluttered with redundant messages. Use the new Clean Up option (located on the Home ribbon under the Delete group) to tidy the folder or conversation.

Are there more features in Office 2010? Absolutely. These are just the ones I believe are outstanding and worth considering.

See also: How to: use and edit video in PowerPoint 2010

  1. The productivity suite gets even better
  2. Word 2010
  3. PowerPoint 2010