Microsoft Office 2010 review

The new version of Office is here at last, but was it worth the wait?

microsoft office 2010 professional
It's been a long-time coming, but how does Office 2010 measure up?

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word splash screen

There are a lot more SmartArt diagrams in Word, Excel and PowerPoint - and all three apps get powerful new image editing and style tools.

This includes standard correction options but the most dramatic are the Artistic Effects - Photoshop-style filters that turn images into pencil sketches, pastel or oil paintings, mosaics or rippled glass - and the amazing Remove Background tool.

This does what it says on the tin, removing the background from images; the automatic removal isn't perfect but it often gets the object you want first time and you can easily add and remove areas.

The new word processing features in Word are mostly about the look of text. Text effects replace the tired old WordArt with the same image effects that Word 2007 had for objects like shapes.

background removal


BACKGROUND REMOVAL: To do this you need an object with sharp edges and a little patience but you can cut out complex objects very quickly


There's a drop-down gallery of presets on the ribbon, but you can set the reflection, glow, soft edges, bevels, gradient fill, custom shadow and other options to get the look you want.

OpenType support means if your font has ligatures for combining two letters more smoothly (like ff or if), kerning values for letter spacing, stylistic sets (like the fancy, curlicue-embellished alternate letter forms in Word's new Gabriola font) or different spacing and shapes for numbers when you use them in the middle of text or on their own, you can choose different options.

image editing in word 2010


PICTURE EDIT: Turn photos into graphics with the Artistic Effects in Office 2010


Word also gets a new navigation pane that pops up when you use Find; this gives you snippets of text around all the places the word you want is found or you can use it to browse by thumbnails and headings.

This works very well, but find and replace is still a separate command, in the old dialogue box; plus as soon as you make any edits to the document you lose the results in the navigation pane. We'd also prefer to see Word repeat the find automatically rather than making you do it by hand.



SECURITY: Word opens downloaded documents as read only and it blocks macros by default


In Word (and PowerPoint and OneNote but not Excel) you can edit a document at the same time as someone else as long as it's stored on SkyDrive - and it's easy to save documents straight there from the desktop menu, so collaboration isn't limited to businesses with SharePoint.

Word locks the paragraph that one person is typing in and if you hover over it you'll see an Outlook-style mini contact card for them that lets you mail them or start an IM or voice through Windows Messenger so you can have a chat.

word art


SMART ART: There are more diagram types making Smart Art more useful


When you open a file in Word or any of the Office apps that you received in email or downloaded from the internet, or if it has active content like macros or a connection to a web service (like an embedded web video in PowerPoint, not just a URL in a document), it opens in a new Protected View, with a warning info bar at the top of the window.

You can't save or print a protected file, still less edit it, but you can read it and search it.

That means you can safely open any Office file that you find online without anything malicious being able to run. If you believe the document is safe, you can choose Enable Editing from the info bar once; you don't have to do this every time you open the document.

The very first version of this in the beta had problems; we're happy to say that all of those are solved and the protection is reassuring without being intrusive.

word text art


TEXT ART: WordArt used to be very cheesy; now it has powerful and flexible effects for text headings. Cheese optional



Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.