Microsoft Office 2010 - Outlook 2010

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



  • Editors choice
Microsoft Office 2010


Our Score:


Outlook 2010

Depending on who you talk to (and there was some discussion of this point in the recent podcast), Outlook is either an essential tool for email or the spawn of Satan. Those in the latter camp are likely to have experienced some kind of PST file disaster in the past, or simply been stuck using Outlook 2003 for so long that they’ve forgotten what a good piece of software actually feels like. Of course, many of 2003’s crimes – such as the glacial search – were addressed in Outlook 2007 and have also been tackled by various third party plug-ins over the years, but Outlook 2010 consolidates a lot of this progress.

Starting with its ribbon, the standout feature is the Quick Steps box. This is similar in appearance to the ‘Styles’ box in Word and are customisable shortcut actions for such as emailing your manager or team. This is a nice, but not earth shattering addition, and on the whole the ribbon interface – which changes significantly as you move between email, contacts, calendar and so forth – works as well as we’ve come to expect. Backstage View doesn’t offer much in the way of excitement, though, with just a smattering of standard options.

Elsewhere, the interface, cosmetic differences aside, is very similar to that of Outlook 2007. By default your folder view is on the left, with calendars and tasks on the right, and your inbox and preview pane through the middle. It’s an interface that’s ideally suited to the widescreen monitors most of us use these days, but if you want to concentrate solely on your email you can use the Reading View – activated via a small button in the button right of the screen – that minimises the folders, calendars and ribbons in one click.

One change in the interface comes in the addition of the People Pane which, when activated, sits below emails. Of all the new features of Outlook 2010, the People Pane is our favourite as it saves a lot of sifting through old emails to find what you need. It gives you a snapshot of or your dealings with the subject/sender of the email, as well as all the attachments they might have sent you, meetings you have arranged and RSS feeds. It also feeds you status updates from social networks, a feature reliant on what Microsoft calls Social Connectors.

Social Connectors are plug-ins for social networks, with LinkedIn and MySpace currently available and Facebook and others due later this year. Once installed they will pull all sorts of information from the networks, including the obvious like status updates but also more useful stuff like contact information and profile photos. If you do use a network like LinkedIn extensively it’s a great way of ensuring your contact information remains up to date. This feature has great potential, then, but in its current form it has its limitations. Your local and LinkedIn contacts are kept separate, creating duplications and ultimately not making best use of all that extra information. This approach is understandable to an extent as users would probably complain more if their carefully constructed address book was sullied, but some way of merging this data would be extremely useful and a natural next step.

One addition we have no quibbles with, though, is Calendar Preview. This pops up a preview of your calendar on meeting request emails, so you needn’t switch back and forth to check whether a request fits in your schedule. Other small, but very useful features, include warnings when you’re not replying to latest email in a conversation, while Exchange users get ‘Mail Tips’ warning them if any recipients are out of the office or have a full mailbox.

Not all of Outlook’s new features are quite as successful, however. Conversation View, much touted in the Technical Preview and Beta releases as Outlook’s take on Gmail’s threaded emails, has been deactivated by default due to its habit of lumping together generic sounding emails. Another irritant, one we highlighted way back in the Technical Preview, is Outlook’s dreadful HTML rendering. Around 90 per cent of the newsletters and the like that landed in our inbox didn’t render properly, though they were generally still readable. It’s not a reason to avoid Outlook, but at this point in its life Outlook ought to handle things a lot better.


Outlook remains a peerless and extremely powerful email client, but – ribbon interface aside – not all of its new features are resounding successes. Unlike Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which feel close to exactly as intended, Outlook has elements that feel like a work in progress and its HTML rendering should be much better by now. We’d recommend, if you can, trying before you buy to decide whether the upgrade is necessary. If not, you can save £100 by buying the Home & Student version that doesn’t include Outlook.

Nick G

June 15, 2010, 7:40 pm

This has got to be a fix?! 10/10 for every product, including the ones other trusted sources have major complaints about like Outlook 2010? Suspicious?!

Andy Vandervell

June 15, 2010, 8:04 pm

@Nick Gilbert: See scores end of the review.


June 15, 2010, 8:06 pm

The main problem with Office 2007 and what will (I'm guessing) be a similar issue with 2010 is backwards compatability. Unless both you and the person sharing the document have the same 2010/2007 version of Office, most of the fancy-pants features can't be used, rendering the upgrade largely pointless. We've had big issues where I work as the rollout of 2007 hasn't been coordinated properly. Consequently you have to save everything in Compatability mode in order to ensure that everyone can use it, regardless of the version of Office they're using.

I know you touched on this in the article, but to me it's a big problem. I can't see how can Microsoft expect a large take-up of a piece of software that is so widely used but isn't backwards compatable wiith previous versions. Why would a company upgrade to 2010 and risk work-flow disruption caused by compatability issues, when at the end of the day 2000 et all offer most "every-day" users all the features they need.

It's not as if they can cash-in on all those people who don't have some kind of word processor installed on their PC, as I'd guess that's a pretty darn small market...


June 15, 2010, 8:06 pm

Nick, use it and then comment. Office 2010 is fantastic...


June 15, 2010, 9:57 pm

@TheEvilGenius: How can you expect 100% backwards compatibility? They wouldn't be able to add any new features then, just make the program easier to use - which wouldn't be much of an update!

After 7 years you have to expect some new additions and from glancing through this review there's a lot. For the most part it's compatible and the fact you can save in older formats (or now use the Web version) means that it should be easier than ever for people to work on the same document.


June 15, 2010, 10:56 pm


The use of the XML based files should mean that any new features not covered by Office 2007 shouldn't prevent the docs or spreadsheets or whatever from rendering properly. They'll "fail" nicely, if you see what I mean. The previous backward compatibility with '03 was fixed very promptly by MS with a patch, so I think you are making too much of this, really.

Back to the main review, I was disappointed to read how limiting the online capabilities are. I was wondering recently whether to embrace google docs more, or wait out for office 2010 web apps. This has made my mind up to go with Google, although I'm sure the online capabilities of both suites will be massively improved over the coming years.


June 15, 2010, 10:57 pm

@HK Agreed - Whilst annoying as it is something has to give or we'll just be stuck in the year 2000 in terms of office software.

Glad to hear you mentioned the HP tm2 - any chance of reviewing it :-). I had heard that they have improved the handwriting recognition in onenote, which in 2007 wasn't very good compared to the tablet input panel in windows 7.


June 15, 2010, 11:21 pm

The open in Word/Excel feature in the web apps does work in Firefox without such shenanigans as ActiveX - it's just an Office 2010 plugin


June 15, 2010, 11:25 pm

You forgot to mention that you can get a fourth version of Office 2010: Office Professional Academic 2010. Its only £49.99, the one I shall be buying.


June 15, 2010, 11:31 pm

Nice write up, this could be time to upgrade.

Can I ask what resolution you were playing at?

The toolbars look slick and very appealing but sized down come become ciumbersome maybe I guess I need to try before I buy.


June 15, 2010, 11:57 pm

I need a new keyboard too ;)

Nick G

June 16, 2010, 1:04 am

I've used some apps and some of them are really not good. I would Word 10/10 but none of the others higher than 8 or 9. Especially not Outlook or Access - both of which have some serious issues as highlighted by other reviewers. Note how on cnet the *users* only give it an average of 2.5 out of 5 and no other review sites I can find give it flawless results when there are glaring issues.


June 16, 2010, 1:45 am

"Note how on cnet the *users* only give it an average of 2.5 out of 5"

Oh please. You're not being serious are you. Most of those trolls haven't used an MS product for years.

Andy Vandervell

June 16, 2010, 2:02 am

@Exxo90: Good point, but it's not available to buy at retail, only a select few.

@hank: I've used it at 1,920 x 1,200 on my desktop and 1,280 x 800 on my laptop, which fits perfectly - there's no resizing necessary to make them fit.


June 16, 2010, 2:27 am


Perfect!!! Thanks for the answer :)


June 16, 2010, 1:45 pm

I've been using the beta and it's a refined piece of work, but I don't think I'll be shelling out again for the full version. There are many small improvements, things which make the program nicer to drive than its rivals (to use Andy's analogy), and I'd have paid a small premium, perhaps 30-40 quid to get them. And once I started to focus on value things began to look very different.

One thing using the ribbon has taught me is that I very rarely move from the "home" tab. I realise that's how it should be, but it does emphasise how little I actually use, both within the program and the wider suite. I'm a freelance writer so I'm word processing all day. Outlook remains awful. I make very limited use of spreadsheets and avoid Powerpoint as much as possible. With either of these latter two OpenOffice or Symphony 3 does everything I need.

In fact even when it comes to refinements a closer scrutiny of Symphony has made me feel that Microsoft has got it wrong with the ribbon. IBM's co-option of Microsoft's own earlier side panel idea is not only easier to use than the ribbon but is better suited to widescreen monitors. The functions available through the sidepanels are also easier to find than in the cluttered ribbons (which are so ugly that I've always had them hidden by default). The Symphony beta remains occasionally flaky and it doesn't support the Win7 taskbar properly, but it's enough to make me want to give it an extended trial, and leave Office on the sidelines.

I did wonder about just buying a copy of Word, but on Amazon it actually costs more than the Home and Student edition. Then again because I'd be using it in my work Microsoft wants to say I can't have the latter. That's a sore point in itself - how can someone charge me nearly 100 quid for something and then tell me how I can use it? On its own terms Office is an advanced piece of software, but compared to the alternatives it offers such terrible value that I'm beginning to think its days are numbered.


June 16, 2010, 5:45 pm

I have been using the 2010 Pro Beta plus for the last 8 months. It defo is more stable than 2007. Word is fab. Excel and PPT is the same beneath the pretty GUI. Apart from prettier looks, Outlook is still rubbish. especially if you use activesync or WMDC for Windows Mobile users. For those who bought 2007 in the last few months should be eligible for a free upgrade.

Not the best value and for those used to the pre 2007 interface. you will find it hard to get used to the Ribbon. (which frankly takes up too much screen space). MS should allow a small icon toolbar version.

overall will give it 6/10. 7 if they give a big discount for beta users buying the full version.


June 16, 2010, 8:47 pm


"To start with, unlike Word and Excel, PowerPoint wasn’t given the ribbon treatment in Office 2007."

Not true - Powerpoint got the Ribbon in 2007. Perhaps you're mistaking it with Publisher, which kept the old toolbars?


June 16, 2010, 9:50 pm

Must admit I have been using Office 2010 for some time now, as a subscriber to Technet and find it much improved, search in Outlook 2010 now works, that alone is a huge improvement. Basically the whole suite feels like it is a much more polished and finished Office 2007. Admittedly there are still areas for improvement, but the areas that changed so drastically in 2007 have been finished in 2010, and the newly changed programs, like Outlook, whilst better still have some way to go to match Word & Excel.

I have a question though, I'm interested to know in Office 2010 what does Microsoft provide as a replacement for Office 2003's Frontpage and Ofice 2007's Expressions Web as a web page authoring tool? Or do they believe no one works on web layout any more?


June 17, 2010, 4:21 am

Good article, but the following statement isn't correct...

>PowerPoint wasn’t given the ribbon treatment in Office 2007

The ribbon is there by default in PowerPoint 2007.

It's not too shabby either once you get a handle on the groupings of functionalities - which is sensible on the whole.

For die-hard power-users, the old keyboard shortcuts still work too - e.g. to <b><u>I</b></u>nsert a <b><u>Picture</b></u> from <b><u>F</b></u>ile simply press 'Alt + i' then 'P' then 'F'.

Simples ;-)

Powerpoint 2010 simply takes the Ribbon concept a couple of steps further.

The best improvement is that all video effects, transitions and animation is now fully accelerated and composited via WPF. Even complex 'builds' with multiple simultaneous items following motion paths, run with a fluidity not seen before in PowerPoint.

More to explore - but I'm digging some of the new possibilities.


June 17, 2010, 8:39 pm

Only question I have is this: Is the new version of Access better than 2003?

If so, why? and does it allow for a database that was created in 2003 to run in 2010?


Geoff Richards

June 17, 2010, 8:49 pm

@Mitch: I haven't used Access 2010 myself, but on the basis that Word, Excel etc are "better" it would be reasonable to assume that Access has also benefited from a refresh. More bells & whistles, plus the Ribbon menu.

Again, I'm assumingly slightly, but given than Word 2010 opens Word 2003, I don't see any reason why Access 2010 couldn't open Access 2003 databases... Microsoft software is pretty much universally backwards compatible. The usual complaint is from people with older versions unable to open files created by users of the newer version(s).

Not sure if that's any help to you... we don't have any plans to specifically evaluate Access 2010 though.


June 18, 2010, 3:28 pm


Please don't take this the wrong way - but I find quite disturbing that you consider this review to be complete without evaluating Access 2010, especially when you consider that Excel & Access are meant to work together.

I appreciate you may not have the skills to make an assesment of the product, but surely there must have been someone who could have imported data into Access 2010 and setup even the most simplistic of relational databases?

I hate to say it, but your review (regardless of how well written it is) must be considered to be incomplete...


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