You’ll have noticed we’ve talked a lot about Office Web Apps and how they interact with the desktop applications. And interact is very much the buzz word here, because Microsoft has designed Web Apps to be symbiotic with their desktop counterparts. This is both a good and a bad thing – good because it makes sharing documents and information much easier; bad because as a consequence Web Apps lack the depth to stand alone if necessary.
We should probably qualify that last part a bit. If you just want to tap out a basic document and the like, the Web Apps will do their job okay. However, while not obviously apparent, each one has limitations that make them inferior to the likes of Google Docs and Zoho that we covered in our 5 Best Free Office 2010 Alternatives feature.
One must only glance at the ribbon in each application to see this, as they are considerably smaller than their desktop counterparts. More obvious examples of this can be found in Word, where it’s impossible to move inserted images, to add colours to cells in tables (they’re even stripped out of desktop files) and where there’s no auto save support despite it being present in the other apps. Indeed, there are quite a few inconsistencies across the apps, with the PowerPoint Web App being the only one to offer up the enhanced SmartArt options so enjoyed in the desktop application.
Other niggles include a lack of support for legacy Office file formats, with only XML-based files (.docx etc.) allowed. Also, the Open in Word, Excel etc. button only works if you have ActiveX installed, thus limiting its support to Internet Explorer.
Despite all these little faults, however, as a version 1.0 Office Web Apps are still a worthy addition to the Office ecosystem. They certainly make collaborating with other users, particularly anyone who doesn’t have Office 2010 or use SharePoint, much easier and the basic interface and speed of them is very good. ActiveX limitations aside, browser support is also faultless. In time we’ve no doubt they’ll only get better.
If you haven’t already twigged it by now, our overall impression of Office 2010 is very positive. While Office 2007 users may still find reason to hold out, anyone still stuck with Office 2003 that hasn’t moved to OpenOffice.org et al should be beating down the door of their nearest retailer or IT administrator. In the final reckoning, it delivers handsomely on so many levels and shows that Windows 7 was no fluke. Microsoft is back on form.
This just leaves the question of which version to buy, to which you should add “should you buy” for the sceptics out there. To the latter there’s no simple answer. That Office 2010 is more advanced and comprehensive than any other office suite out there cannot be disputed and Office 2010 adds an ease of use previously lacking, but whether its myriad of features are necessary depends on your needs. All we’d add is that, at the very least, give it a go and see if you appreciate its numerous tweaks and features. If not, carry on as you are.
If you know you need Office, though, then Office 2010 is a must-buy. It feels like the work begun in Office 2007 has come to fruition here, producing a highly polished, powerful and fast suite of applications. If you don’t need Outlook, or are happy enough with Outlook 2007, then the Home & Student Edition offers outstanding value: as it stands, £88 isn’t much to ask for software of this quality. Home & Business, meanwhile, also comes recommended, though it falls down on value due to the substantial price hike for Outlook.
Like Windows 7, Office 2010 looks to be another landmark product for Microsoft. It proves beyond all doubt that the company is still capable of producing outstanding software that responds to and evolves with its users. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to use Office, or that it’s the completed article, but it is the template on which all future versions of the suite will be built.