If you’ve used a PC in the last ten years or more, at some point in time you’ve probably used Word: it’s the workhorse of Office. Unsurprisingly it was one of the applications that were given the Ribbon treatment in Office 2007, and it benefits from many of the best new features of Office 2010 as a whole.
Primary among those is Paste Preview, which does away with the irritation often caused when pasting text and images from a document or web page. As the name suggests, it allows you to preview the effects such pasting will have on the formatting of your document, giving you various options to merge, adapt and retain your chosen formatting. Indeed this previewing ability is pervasive across the whole of Office, so you can always see how a particular piece of formatting will look before you apply it.
This is very helpful, but doesn’t ultimately lead to beautiful documents. For that you’ll have to rely on features like the new image editing abilities. Some might say they’re unnecessary: why not use a proper image editor? However, these new features, which include the ability to remove backgrounds, add and preview styles and filters, adjust colours and contrast, and a great deal more, make it easy for users of any ability to embed and tweak photos within a document. These are joined by significantly enhanced SmartArt, making it all the more easier to create diagrams and flow charts.
Returning to more practical matters, a feature that’s bound to become a fast favourite for anyone creating particularly large documents is the Navigation Pane. Whenever you create a heading using the ‘Styles’ dialog (under Home in the ribbon), it’s listed in the Navigation Pane – as are sub-headings. From there you can drag whole sections of the document around, eliminating the rigmarole of tedious copying and pasting. You can also search the whole document from here, which even in very large documents is instantaneous. Right-clicking each heading also provides a wealth of options, such as the ability to promote or demote headings, and print the heading and its contents in a single-click.
Word also benefits most among the Office applications from Backstage View. There are a number of options here that are incredibly useful, but best of all is the new printing options. In Backstage View the print dialog neatly combines print preview, printing options and page options into one simple screen, so you can make changes and instantly see how they will impact on your document. Other handy options included in Word’s Backstage View include the long-overdue ability to save/export to PDF, while there are numerous options to help prepare documents for sharing by checking compatibility, accessibility and stripping away hidden personal data. These features are in most of the other Office applications, too.
Finally, if you’re a corporate user using SharePoint, Microsoft has added simultaneous collaborative editing. Passages that are being edited are locked, with changes appearing once you’ve saved. It’s similar in execution, in fact, to the likes of Google Wave, but with all the niceties of Word. For consumers you have Office Web Apps to rely upon, and you can save your documents from Word to your Windows Live SkyDrive via Backstage View. This works quite well, though Microsoft has missed a trick in not allowing you to save locally and to the SkyDrive simultaneously. This necessitates manually saving to either if you want to keep an up-to-date copy in both locations.
Though anyone with basic needs will do fine with free alternatives, Word 2010 makes an extremely strong case for itself. It has an ease of use and depth of features in an entirely different league to those it nominally competes with, giving those with genuinely demanding requirements more and better executed tools than ever before.