Microsoft Office 2010: the history
Back in the 1990s, Microsoft Office still seemed new and exciting. Users were amazed by its powers: it highlighted typos, suggested grammatical changes and automatically recognised when you needed an accent on a foreign word or needed to renumber a PowerPoint list. It could do your sums for you and create graphs from sets of figures. It could even supply presentation handout notes as aides-memoires. See also: Office 2013 review.
Back then the Office productivity suite of tools was almost universally used and widely admired (a few security exploits notwithstanding). Encouraged by the praise heaped on what was to become the most successful program of its type, Microsoft added more and more features and bulked out the number of programs and variety of editions customers could choose from. The result: too much choice and too much bloat, cried commentators.
In the days of Windows XP, a feature-laden copy of Office Professional was accused of taking up far more than its share of system resources. With less than 1GB of RAM powering the programs on the average home PC, the dictionaries and templates, Clippy the assistant and the context-based help began to rile consumers who simply wanted to type a letter or fill in their household expenses spreadsheet.
Microsoft responded to the criticism by reining in Office’s intrusions. Microsoft Office 2007 saw the introduction of a ribbon menu that made it easier to get to the items related to your current task, rather than interrupting you to check that you are doing things Microsoft’s way. Intended to be a less overblown take on Office, however, the 2007 version was berated for making unnecessary alterations to a largely successful interface. Many people never upgraded from Office 2003, while plenty still use earlier versions.
With Office 2010, Microsoft hopes to find us all on the same electronic page. It’s cut back on the number of versions, with home and non-business users offered a single Office Home and Student Edition. It’s given the constituent programs in Office a uniform look (Outlook’s design lagged behind the other main programs), it’s made a concerted effort to add web-based elements into the mix and it’s allowed plenty of time for both closed beta testers and the general public to try out Office 2010’s various features and provide feedback on them.
To this end, Office 2010 has been available as a free beta download for the past six months. That’s given Microsoft plenty of time to gather valuable feedback from users about what does and doesn’t work, and to iron out any glitches that may have been uncovered.
In mid-April 2010, Microsoft announced that it had completed this process and was ready to start rolling out its office suite in time for a June launch. But the trial version was still available as we went to press, so it’s not too late to try before you buy.
As you’ll learn from our reviews over the following pages, we think many readers will want to become Microsoft Office 2010 users. Should you agree, we’ve got some advice on how to go about doing so for free or on the cheap.
NEXT: suite-wide Office changes >>
Click here for our review of Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps.