Microsoft Word is the most frequently used application in the Office suite, so the major interface changes will affect most users. But whether you'll consider these changes to be improvements or productivity-busters will solely depend on how fast you complete the unavoidable relearning curve. Ultimately, Microsoft's well-executed Help structure, along with a legion of formatting, collaboration and integrated online tools, make Word 2007 a welcome upgrade.

Click here to read our review of Office 2007.

The most conspicuous change in Word 2007, the ribbon toolbar, enhances productivity. It doesn't take long to work out where the various commands have been relocated, even items that have moved from one menu to another. To aid Word veterans in finding commands, Microsoft has posted the indispensable, but online-only, Interactive Word 2003 to Word 2007 Command Reference Guide.

Note that this extensive interactive online help is full of screenshots and video, so you'll need a broadband connection to view it.

Better mail-merge

The ribbon toolbar's Mailings tab improves upon the arcane mail-merge process. It walks you through choosing a project, selecting recipients - which can be imported from Outlook - and writing or inserting fields.

Other design tweaks work well. If you highlight text, open the font selector and hover over a font, Office's live preview shows you how it will look. Word themes employ live preview to its fullest advantage, setting colours, fonts and effects - including lines and fills. The themes can jazz up a document with one click. Highlighting text in your document brings up a shadow toolbar composed of formatting functions - but if you select formatting here, you won't see a live preview.

Word goes online

You'll need to go online to benefit from some features. On opening a new blank document you're presented with a copious array of templates, most of which are located at Microsoft Office Online. And if you highlight a word with Alt held down, Word searches the web to find references.

If you use one of six major blog services, including Blogger, you can create, publish and update entries within Word by simply typing your account name and password.

If you use a different service, you may need to enter information such as the feed format and URL first. Pressing Publish from the Office menu will send your document to a blog, a website or a document server.

Microsoft Word 2007: Specs

  • 500MHz processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • Windows XP with Service Pack 2, or Vista
  • 2GB hard disk space
  • 1,024x768 resolution monitor
  • 500MHz processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • Windows XP with Service Pack 2, or Vista
  • 2GB hard disk space
  • 1,024x768 resolution monitor

OUR VERDICT

Microsoft has packed Word 2007 with an ocean of old and new features, commands and tools. Its improved interface means you might even find and use them. There are improved formatting and page layout functions, as well as tight integration with web functions. Together, it's reason enough to upgrade. Of course, Word 2007's £190 inc VAT standalone price and its migration issues with previous versions might cause some upgraders to pause.

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