This week is PDC 09, the Microsoft equivalent of Apple’s developer conference. As such, Microsoft has been trotting its newest stuff and revealing all of the goodness in its new technologies for developers. They have already spotlighted Office 2010 and, today, released the public beta. I’ve downloaded it and have installed it but have not yet had much of an opportunity to explore it. I took a cursory look around OneNote, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Access. All sport a similar interface with the exception of OneNote, which still looks pretty much like the 2007 edition UNTIL you try to click the menu. Once you do, however, the ribbon appears and then it looks like the rest of the suite.
As previously stated, all of the apps in the suite feature online sharing and OneNote can be docked to the side of the desktop and become the recipient of drag-drop operations from any application. Where this is really useful, though, is if you have a browser window open and are doing some research. You can highlight and drag information into OneNote. The note is tagged with a link back the source. You can index it and manipulate it as if you had typed it yourself. Very useful and very intuitive.
I really like the small additions to PowerPoint. There are numerous little changes, here and there, that, like Windows 7, add up to a more satisfying experience. And, I think, that is, so far, my overall opinion of Office 2010. I liken it to Windows 7: The UI is more polished, performance (considering this is still an early beta) is very good and the little additions and changes all add up to a more satisfying package. It just FEELS better than Office 2007, and I LOVE Office 2007. Of course, I was in the minority, it seems, with Vista: I loved and still love the operating system, but Windows 7 is that much better. It isn’t one specific thing, but many little things put together nicely.
If you would like to try out the beta, then go here and download it. One caveat: If you choose the 64bit version of Office, you MUST uninstall your current 32 bit version. You cannot have both installed at the same time.
And while I am on the subject, a certain writer at InfoWorld is at it again. This time, he finds all kinds of problems with the Office 2010 beta. He says it is sluggish, ugly, and they moved everything on him again. Oh, he also complained that he had to reboot AFTER installing the beta. I don’t know what beta he is using, but none of this is true. Oh, you do have to reboot…AFTER UNINSTALLING your current version of Office. I did NOT have to reboot once the beta was installed. Performance is good and, as for moving things…he complained about the send/receive button being ‘hidden’. Nope. It is plain sight, up where the Office Orb used to be (it is gone now.) It was the first thing I noticed. I have not had to hunt around for anything. Even in OneNote, the ribbon is laid out logically and was easy to use. He must be using an early alpha release. Or, he has not even seen it. Not sure.
Also announced and demoed was Internet Explorer 9. According to a real Microsoft reporter, Paul Thurrot, the IE 9 that was demoed is nowhere near feature complete and is, in fact, just a bare shell to demonstrate the engine. Microsoft has not yet tipped its hand regarding UI stuff. Maybe they have those copiers warming up, eh? I kid, of course.
Microsoft is addressing many of the very public criticisms of IE 8, including performance and stability. Standards adherence is another area where they say they are focusing on by including support for HTML 5 and CSS3. In the performance arena, they are including support for DirectX instead of GDI in the rendering engine. This should greatly improve the visual rendering of pages. It also means that sites do not have to do anything to gain performance as the rendering engine will just do it.
Thurrot is speculating that a beta version will be available sometime around March with full release in October, 2010, the same time he expects Windows 7, SP 1 to be delivered. Yes, Microsoft is already working on SP 1 for Windows 7. Of course, the ink was not even dry on the Windows 7 packaging when talk of Windows 8 started.
Good things are happening with Microsoft…well, except the dancing employees in the Microsoft store, that is. I’m embarrassed for them.