Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Taking a Look at Features in Microsoft’s Office Suite 2007

In the quest to stay up-to-date on new technologies, the Technology Training Specialists in the University Libraries’ Technology Training Support Services (TTSS) regularly tests new software applications. As an Office 2007 beta tester, I have been involved in this process since Summer 2006. Now that Office 2007 is officially commercially available, colleagues and friends have been eager to install the newest version of Office. However, before you add the new software, be sure you understand the application’s advantages and disadvantages.

The Ribbon
In Office 2007, the old menu bar at the top of the application window has been replaced with a user interface, which is called the ribbon. This premiere feature presents the application’s previously hidden resources in a more intuitive environment. You can test formatting options and see the changes in the actual document’s appearance. Simply click to apply the change or move to another option.

It takes most users some time to master this new interface. Finding familiar functions and commands in the ribbon means that there is a steeper learning curve than in previous upgrades. You will need to learn how Microsoft categorizes the resources in the tabbed ribbon interface, how to customize the application’s options, and how to effectively utilize these new features.

Sharing Office 2007 documents with PC or virtual PC users who are still using previous versions is easy if previous versions of Office have all updates current. When an Office 2007 document, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Publisher, is opened, you will be prompted to download and install a compatibility pack. Once installed, opening, editing, and resaving 2007 documents is easy.

As in previous Office upgrades, Access 2007 is not backwards compatible. This means that everyone who is sharing an Access database will want to synchronize upgrades. Macintosh users will not be able to open files saved in Office 2007 format because the new format is XML-based. Microsoft advises that this compatibility issue will not be resolved until later this year when Microsoft rolls out Office 2008 for Intel-based Mac owners. Compatibility may also be an issue with other software that you have previously used to open Office documents.

This is only a sampling of questions you might ask before deciding to upgrade. For more information about Office 2007, log onto elementk for excellent online tutorials or register for the “Office 2007 – A First Look” seminars available for Ball State University faculty and staff, www.bsu.edu/techtrain.

For more information, contact Barbara R. Wills, Technology Training Specialist in the University Libraries’ Technology Training Support Services, BWills@bsu.edu, (765) 285-3530

This newsletter article first appeared in The Library Insider 5(5): 12; May 2007.

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