As you know, Microsoft released a new version of Office this year. Many people are using Office 2003 and did not bother upgrading to 2007, others upgraded to 2007. As I meet people at face to face networking meetings, I often get asked should I be using 2010?

In broad terms, the difference between 2003 and 2007 is huge, but the difference between 2007 and 2010 is not so dramatic – unless you need to use specific tools that are now available.  Without wishing to annoy my Mac friends, this comparison is between the PC versions of the software.

Upgrading from 2003 to 2010

1. User Interface

The user interface is very different. Most people have an immediate reaction of ‘where has everything gone?’. It took me two weeks to get used to the new interface but I really like the interface now. All the buttons are visible on the ribbons, there is less hidden in the dialog boxes. Any buttons that you use regularly can be added to the Quick toolbar on the top left of the window. In 2010 you can even change which buttons are on which toolbar (a great trick to play on your boss perhaps?)

2. Common Changes

a. Using themes and styles, you can ensure that your brand appears in all your documents – ensuring a consistent approach.

b. In 2010, you can customise the settings to your individual needs.  If you like to display some field codes in your documents (e.g. spaces as a . or tabs as an arrow) you can choose to do this.

c. PDF – You can create a pdf version of any Word, Excel or PowerPoint document.  This is a great way of sending documents to people to ensure that they can read them irrespective of whether they have Office on their machine.

d. SmartArt – Create professional looking diagrams at the click of a button – pyramids, process cycles, radial diagrams can all be created.  All you need to do is decide how many spokes you want and enter the text.  You can change the effect and colour of the diagrams easily.

e. Pictures – In 2010, the picture editing is fab.  You can change colours and effects and remove the background from a picture.  There is a new tool to grab screen clips from other windows on your desktop.  In PowerPoint 2010, videos can be edited and formatted.  You can do all of this in other software – but it is great to be able to do it in the one application.

f. Sharing – In 2010, there is an emphasis on sharing applications over the web.  You need to think about the security implications of this, but it could be a great way of working on documents collaboratively.

3. Highlights of  Changes to Word

a. Tables are easier to use and format in Word 2007

b. You can use Quick Parts to save text that you have written once and want to use in multiple documents (yes you can do this is 2003, but it is so much easier in 2007)

4. Highlights of Changes to Excel

a. Conditional Formatting – If you have a set of data, examination marks or sales figures for example, conditional formatting allows you to assign colours or icons to the data based on whether it is above a certain figure or below a certain figure (or many other rules).

b. Graphs – Much easier to manipulate in 2007/10

c. Pivot Tables – easier to use in 2007 and extended in 2010 with visual summary and filtering.

5. Highlights of Changes to PowerPoint

a. In 2007, animations are easier to use, and SmartArt is available.  Themes work as PowerPoint designs.

b. In 2010, pictures and video are embedded into the presentation so form part of the presentation.  Editing features are great.

6. Outlook Changes

a. I really like the categories that have been introduced into 2007.  You can group people / messages/ calendar entries / tasks by colour to get a visual view of your outlook.

b. One way of following other people’s blogs is to get the RSS feed sent straight to your Outlook inbox.  A possibility in 2007/10.

b. In 2010, the user interface has been changed to the ribbon style used in other applications.

c. In 2010, Conversation View allows you to sort your inbox so you can see all the emails relating to a particular conversation.

d. The Social Connector was released as part of 2010.  Although this can be ported back to 2003 and 2007, any future releases are likely to work better on 2010.

e. In 2010, you can send an SMS Text message directly from Outlook.  This has a cost associated with it.

f. In 2010, you can create a quick step to combine a number of actions.  For example, a single button to mark the email as read, move it to a folder and open a reply to your manager.

Upgrading From 2007 to 2010

The main changes between 2007 and 2010 in Word, PowerPoint and Excel are quite specific to certain roles or uses.  For example, sharing documents across the web is good if you work in an appropriate environment.  Pictures / Video formatting is editing is fab – but you may already be using PhotoShop or similar which is probably better.  One of the main areas of difference is in Outlook.  I like the conversation view and the quick step.  I  imported the Social Connector (which is very good) into earlier versions of Outlook so didn’t need this.

Conclusion

I personally am a big fan of Office 2007 and above because I spend a great deal of time creating complex Word documents.  However, if you are happy with Office 2003 and you don’t use it for complex documents , spreadsheets or presentations, then you are probably OK to carry on with using it.  Do be aware though that Microsoft are no longer providing security fixes for 2003 and will withdraw all support in April 2014.

If you are using Office 2007 already, then I wouldn’t suggest there is any immediate need to upgrade to 2010 – though if you use Outlook extensively, you may want to make use of the Conversation view and Quick Step tools.

What version are you using?  Are you thinking of upgrading?

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