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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Microsoft Word 2010 Updated Features and Benefits

Microsoft Word is the workhorse of the Microsoft Office Suite.

While some users make extensive use of Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and other Office apps, virtually every computer user makes use of a word processor, and the most ubiquitous word processing application in the world is Microsoft Word.

That is why when Microsoft releases a new version of Office, it is the functionality and performance of Word that often drives initial public opinion and acceptance of the overall upgrade.

Microsoft Word 2010 Updated Features and BenefitsIt is, therefore, somewhat telling that Microsoft decided to include MS Word among those applications that got the new Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office 2007. It is just as telling that Microsoft did not include the Ribbon interface on Microsoft Outlook in Office 2007, which is used extensively in corporate environments.

Between those two applications, Microsoft got perhaps the biggest possible side-by-side test of Ribbon versus no Ribbon in the business setting. Office 2010 will include the Ribbon interface on all products, including Outlook 2010, so it is clear to see what Microsoft thought of how well the Ribbon worked.

Word 2010: Ribbon User Interface Updated

While Word got the new ribbon look in Office 2007, that upgrade was not the type of universal upgrade that past versions of Office were. For many users Word 2010 Beta will be their first look at the new Ribbon interface. They will benefit from the lessons learned in Office 2007 and Word 2007.

For example, Word 2007 uses the Office Icon in the place of the File menu. However, that proved confusing to a generation of users already very used to the File menu. So, the File Menu is back for Word 2010.

The purpose of the Ribbon interface was to reduce the complexity of finding and navigating the ever growing list of features in the Microsoft Office Suite applications, including MS Word. One of the strange things that Microsoft noticed over the years was that it got a high number of requests for features in Word that were already in the product. The company concluded that most users simply did not know what they could and could not do in Word past the basic, long-established features.

When Microsoft attempted to code usability into the standard menu system by including popular or most commonly used features on the main level of the menus, too much was left two, three, or even four clicks deep in the menu structure. The Ribbon allowed for many of those features to be made more accessible or even visible from the main editing screen. As a result, many users will find “new” features in Word 2010 Beta that have actually been there for a long time.

Best Word 2010 Features New and Old

• The Ribbon

Obviously, the Ribbon will cause some issues in the beginning for new users, but once you get used to it, it not only accomplishes the goal of making features more discoverable, it makes working with them faster and easier too.

Everything from bullets, to outlines, to fonts, and colors are faster and easier, which means you are more likely to use them. (Word is still annoyingly inept at getting an outline to do what you want it to do, however.)

Under the old Word menu system, most people just stuck with bold, underline, and italics. If it was really necessary, a color or highlight might be thrown in, but that was it. With headings and other formats now just a click away, users are more likely to use multiple headings (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.). The headings themselves aren’t the good part; the good part is not having to do something extreme to make sure that really important heading stands out from the normal headings like having it Bolded, Underlined, and Italicized, with Title Caps and an Exclamation Point!

•Super Easy Customization

One of the things Word always brought to the table over smaller “easier” word processing programs was the ability to customize it to the user’s needs. Unfortunately, that customization was one of the features that was too hidden, or too complex to use. I’ve watched as attorneys borrowed the receptionist’s computer so that they could type a regular document without the legal dictionary, grammar checker, and customized auto-formatting on, instead of using the customization features.

In Word 2010, one of the easiest customizations is also the most helpful. Every user needs Word for a different reason. Whether it is writing papers for school, typing up letters, doing mailings, or drafting legislation — different people need Word to do different things. Thanks to the Quick Access Toolbar, Word can do what YOU need it to do, fast and easy.

Just click the drop down arrow and choose whichever commands and icons you want to have displayed. You can even move it above or below the Ribbon with a single click based on your preference. As a writer I do a lot of “seeing what it would look like,” before deciding whether to keep it, so my QAT has Undo and Redo on it, plus New, Open, Save, Print Preview, and Print, just because I’m so used to them.

By using the QAT, I don’t have to care about where Microsoft put the Save button in the default setup (on the office Backstage View that appears when you click File), because it is right where I want it in MY setup.

• Improved Pasting

One thing that has always been tricky in Microsoft Word is copying and pasting, if what is being pasted is not unformatted text or from another Office Document. Savvy users got used to Right-Clicking in order to bring up the menu to paste plain text, but that often cost as much time in reformatting as it saved.

This glitch alone drove me to figure out and eventually use Microsoft OneNote, which handles Paste from anything flawlessly.

With the new paste function, by default three different paste options show up. That wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it also comes with a live in-text preview of what it will look like. Just hover the mouse over one of the pasting options and Word will show what the document will look like if that option is selected. If the full-format paste is too messed up, check use of the other options.

Either way, users will now know which paste method is best for each situation BEFORE pasting. (Maybe I won’t need those Undo / Redo buttons so much anymore.)

• Better Printing and File Options

The ability to do a print preview or change to landscape or portrait has been in Word forever, but it has always been just a little bit harder to do than it should be. Word 2010 eliminates this issue forever.

Click File -> Print (or CTRL-P) and you automatically get a Print Preview in addition to easy access to all the most common printing options all within Word. Finally, you won’t have to click Printer Properties to make simple changes. You can change orientation, paper size, collating options, and more from one screen regardless of what printer or driver you have installed. You can even change the margins and other layout features from the same screen without “going back” into the main Word editing screen.

What’s New in Word 2010 Beta?


• Search

Improvements in MS Word 2010 search functionality aren’t flash, but there are so very useful.

The find feature on Word was just fine for shorter documents but scrolling through the highlighted results in a 300 page manuscript wasn’t fun. Better highlighting and a table of contents style bar down the side of the results make it easier than ever to find what you actually want.

• Co-Authoring

One of the new features that Microsoft is heavily touting for Word 2010 is simultaneous collaboration. Previously, if you tried to access a Word document that someone else had open, you got a message about the file being locked and having to open it in Read-Only mode.

Recent Microsoft and third-party collaboration tools allowed documents or sections to be worked on at the same time by both users with each user’s changes being reincorporated together into the original file after each user was finished.

What Microsoft Word 2010 co-authoring feature does is allow multiple users to be simultaneously editing the file at the same time, with both edits appearing on both screens in real time. In other words, while I’m typing this sentence here, someone could be changing the paragraph’s heading, and I could see those changes as they were making them.

If you are thinking that this feature sounds creepy and distracting, you aren’t wrong, on shorter documents at least. The idea of someone hitting backspace to change the sentence directly above the one you are typing is indeed both distracting and a little bit unsettling. (Ghosts in the machine, anyone?)

However, on larger documents like a documentation manual or quarterly report, users are less likely to be editing close enough together for both to show on the screen at once. But, when User A goes to reference a page number that changed just seconds ago due to some additions by User B, User A will scroll over and find the current real-time page number and not what the page number was when the file was opened.

• Images and Graphics

Another update in MS Word 2010 is better handling, usage, and creation of graphics and images. SmartArt Graphics allow users to create simple charts or graphs inside of Word, directly from their text. No more need to load up Visio just to create a simple three step diagram.

Also, image editing features have been improved and updated. Things like adding shadows, watermarks, and rotating images can all be done inside of Word. You can even adjust the color saturation and temperature of pictures for optimal printing without having to launch an external image editor.

• Screenshot Tool

Word also comes with a new screenshot tool built-in which is sure to be an enormous boon to the technical documentation crowd, as well as those who use screenshots or snapshots of websites as collateral in their documents.

Microsoft Word definitely doesn’t have a big flashy update from Office 2007 to Office 2010, but if you are migrating from Office 2000, prepare to be amazed. For users of Office 2007, your reason to upgrade to 2010 will have to come from another MS Office application.


For more Detail

Microsoft Word 2010 Whats Exclusive

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