2007 marks major Microsoft
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
February 6-12, 2007; issue 902
High Tech Office
January 30 marked the consumer release of both Microsoft
next-generation Windows Vista operating system and its Office 2007
applications suite, programs accounting for the bulk of the software
super-power’s revenue. Of late, business and home users are
proving increasingly slow to replace their current versions with
Microsoft’s latest and greatest; the company’s
competitor is its own older product generations.
While some commentators have compared Windows Vista to its predecessor
Windows XP with fancier graphics, one glance at the new Office version
shows off the differences. An all-new interface dumps the familiar
menus and multiple toolbars for ribbons: sets of large icons
representing commonly used tools. Tabs along the top let users switch
There’s just one menu: an office button in the top left
replaces the file menu with standard open, save and print commands.
Users are allowed a tiny amount of customization, with an optional
quick access toolbar for frequently used commands.
Microsoft claims that new users can locate what they need more easily.
Users accustomed to looking in menus or toolbars, however, will need
time to accustom themselves to this makeover. All the menu options
you’re used to are in a ribbon somewhere. Keyboard shortcuts
the older versions continue to work.
Moreover, Office 2007 introduces a whole new set of default file
formats, the first major change since Office 97 confused users with a
word processing format that couldn’t be read by earlier
The new formats get names like DOCX and XLSX. Microsoft claims that
saved files in these formats will be smaller and more compressible than
files saved in the older formats. Based on XML standards, the formats
will give software developers easier access to file content like charts
These new formats, however, promise a painful transition as Office 2007
users interact with users of older versions. Downloads are available
for Office 2000, XP and 2003 users. Anyone still running Office 97 will
be left out in the cold – time to update, Microsoft implies.
Users of Mac Office 2004 have been promised compatibility with the new
file formats, just not now.
As with Windows Vista, Office 2007 is available in a confusing number
of versions with a wide range of prices. Enterprise customers have
access to special versions at volume-licensed pricing, while computer
manufacturers and resellers have access to a specially-priced Office
Basic for pre-installation and resale to retail customers.
Retail pricing ranges from $899 for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink
Office Ultimate 2007 down to $199 for the Home and Student 2007
edition, with discounted upgrade versions. Note that while attractively
priced, the home and student version no longer includes Outlook. It has
been replaced with the OneNote outliner. Product activation makes it
difficult to share a copy of Office among multiple computers, but
unlike Vista, Office 2007 licensing allows a buyer to legally install
it twice: typically at work and at home or on a desktop and laptop, on
condition that only one installation is used at a time.
Microsoft advertising may imply that Office 2007 goes better with
Windows Vista; t’ain’t so.
It will run just fine on XP systems, though not at all on earlier