Office 2010 first thoughts

Well, there’s some information finally coming out about Office 2010 and some of the features we will hopefully be seeing in the final release version next year. As the Technical Preview gets released to an invited audience only at this stage, there aren’t loads of sources of details, but a few places are showing off some interesting ideas and if you watch the videos carefully and look closely at the screenshots there are nuggets to be found.

If you want to be considered for the technical preview yourself, you can still sign up via the “Get a pass” link on the main “launch” site at Office 2010 – the movie. This site started out just hosting a teaser movie but now has a look and feel similar to the new “Backstage” interface which has been added to the Fluent UI to replace the current Office button menu to help you work with different aspects of your document in one place. There are a few videos posted on there right now, no doubt more to come soon.

Where can I find out more?

There are some useful overview documents on the Microsoft PressPass site, including an Office 2010 FAQ which covers a number of things, notably an outline of which products will be included in which versions of the suites available through retail or volume licensing. The oddest thing is that the various press releases available here are all Word .doc documents. Not a universal format like PDF. Not even Microsoft’s own portable format XPS. Not Word 2007 DOCX (probably a good idea not to assume people would already be on board with that, even with the compatibility pack for older versions). Other documents linked from that page give more detail for each of the products individually, but only at a brief marketing level, nothing too technical.

What are the biggest changes?

The most obvious change across the Office system as whole is that all the applications will now have the fluent UI and ribbon, which has also had slight facelift – they have removed many of the borders round buttons, reducing the visual clutter and “flattening” the overall effect (almost exactly what they did in the evolution of the toolbar from Office 97 to 2000). Selected or active options still appear to have borders to make them clearer. When you have additional context-sensitive tabs appearing in the Ribbon, the coloured highlight above them seems to be bolder because it extends from a solid colour at the top of the title bar fading out as it goes down into the Ribbon tabs area, rather than at the moment where this is only visible in the title bar area and fades quickly upwards. This may make the additional tools more obvious to new users when they need them, and help distinguish between similar items by getting used to the colours used.

The other big news items are the introduction of browser-based document viewing and editing (discussed below), and the availability of a 64-bit version of all the products (as well as 32 bit for legacy compatibility). This may provide some speed and productivity benefits to those who have appropriate hardware and OS to take advantage of this, use more memory and so on. Larger Access models might make more sense, but Excel spreadsheets of over 2GB? Hopefully not too often. I do know some people who could probably build PowerPoint shows that big though…

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Great keyboard shortcuts from the Visio Guy

I love using keyboard shortcuts to work more efficiently, especially compared to using the trackpad on my laptop in a cramped or shaky environment like on a bus or when I’m driving (joke!)

I’m currently in the process of updating my shortcut key handouts which I give out to delegates on my MS Office training courses. I’m always finding new key combinations to use, but I try to make sure I teach people the most useful ones based on three criteria:

  1. Does this shortcut do something genuinely useful which people need to do frequently or repetitively?
  2. Is the key combination easily memorable? (Ctrl-B is fine, but Ctrl-Shift-Alt-F7 is less easy to recall when you need it!)
  3. How ‘standard’ is the shortcut across different applications, especially within MS Office?

Visio is an application I use quite a lot but would not really consider myself a “power user” (I don’t create and edit my own shapes, for example). I find it really straightforward to use and great for doing office layout plans, network schematics, and data or process flow diagrams. However, I was amazed to see how many keyboard shortcuts and keyboard / mouse combinations I was missing out on when I read this article yesterday over at the Visio Guy blog:

Work Faster With Our Top Visio Keyboard Shortcuts

Some of these I was already using as they are the same or similar in other applications, but I could have saved myself loads of time over the years if I had known how to do this to draw out a region to zoom to:

Zoom to Region: Ctrl + Shift + Left Mouse-drag

You can specify exactly where you want to zoom with this command. Press the Ctrl + Shift keys together, then hold the left mouse button. You can now drag a net around the area that you want to zoom. Visio will fill the window with the region that you specify.

What are your favourite shortcuts for getting round applications more quickly?