Some 17 years since it launch on Windows, Office is still a very important product to Microsoft, second only in fact, to Windows itself. Sales of this flagship application suite account for a high proportion of the company’s overall sales, so any new release has to inspire a lot of people to upgrade or buy afresh. A new version of Office appears every few years; there were versions in 2000, 2002 and 2003. Office 2007 is the first for four years, so with this longer time gap, you’d expect a lot of innovation.
Office comes in five retail editions, depending on the mix of applications you need. Office Professional, the subject of this review, sits second to top of the range and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher and Access.
It comes on two CDs, though the main applications are all on the first disc, with the second reserved for a copy of .NET Framework 2 and SQL Server Express.
The system requirements for the new version of Office have risen since Office 2003 and you’re now recommended to be running a 1GHz processor with 512MB of memory, 2GB of hard drive space, a 1,024 x 768 screen and a CD drive. You must be running Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server or Vista.
The biggest innovation in Office 2007 is not limited to any of the individual applications, but can be found in most of them. This is the introduction of the Ribbon. This replaces the main menu bar and most of the toolbars and works like a system of tabbed palettes. This is a major change to the user interface of Word, Excel, Outlook PowerPoint and Access. It alters the way you work with the applications and is designed to rationalise the system of toolbars, menus and task panes that has evolved over the years. According to Microsoft, the new interface makes using the major applications in Office 2007 much quicker and easier than before.
If you look at the Home tab in Word’s Ribbon, for example, you see a lot of the most regularly used functions, like Font and Paragraph formatting, Style Selection, Cut and Paste and Search and Replace. Microsoft has evidently spent a lot of time with its focus groups, determining, which are the most regularly-used features.
Functions are grouped within the Ribbon to make them easier to find and, quite simply, more of the things you need every day are available immediately, without having to dig down through layers of menus.