Office 2010 is due in a few months, but the beta release is available now. It has interface changes, bug fixes, one secret new feature – and although it’s still a long way from being finished, it shows much more clearly than the technical preview what you’ll be waiting for.
Like Windows 7, the Office line-up has gone on a diet; instead of six different versions, there are just three (for home users).
Office Home and Student 2007 sold a copy on Amazon every 90 seconds at its peak last year; the 2010 version has the same apps (Word, Excel, PowerPointand the under-rated OneNote) and the new Home and Business version has those apps, plus Outlook.
Office Professional 2010 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher. There’s a free version of Office that you’ll only get on new PCs called Office Starter. This replaces the ageing Microsoft Works and gives you versions of Excel and Word without all the business features, plus a small ad for Office on the task pane (that doesn’t go away).
There are also new ways of buying Office; you can buy a “product card” with a licence key to unlock a trial copy of Office on a new PC (particularly useful for PCs with no optical drive) or you can install a streamed version called Click-to-Run.
We tested the business version, Office Professional Plus 2010 which has Access, Excel, SharePoint Workspace (the Groove replacement with added SharePoint features), OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word and InfoPath (Visio and Project are still separate apps).
Some of the changes from the technical preview are small; others are more significant.