Exploring Microsoft Office 2010 beta

Microsoft Office 2010 has reached its next milestone: namely, a full public beta test version. Now anyone who wants to can download and try out Office 2010 for themselves.

Exploring Microsoft Office 2010 beta

All its component apps have been updated and they’re now more stable and polished, although there are still a few rough edges – and since this is beta code you can expect something to go wrong at some time, so you need to make sure that you can continue working if you do encounter problems.

Installing Office 2010 Beta on a secondary machine or a virtual PC is perhaps the best approach. I run it on my main PC so that I can give the beta code a good thrashing, but I also keep a virtual PC with Office 2007 installed just in case.

Beta test versions of the Office Home and Business, Office Professional and Office Professional Plus versions are available on the public download site, and MSDN and TechNet subscribers can also get Office Professional Plus through their subscriber download mechanisms.

The new Office Web Apps are available for testing through Windows Live SkyDrive.


All the applications’ icons have been changed, and they now emphasise the main letter of the app’s name, with the document more in the background. This leads to some uncomfortable choices such as “N” for OneNote, and there are two Ps – PowerPoint and Publisher, and possibly three if you also have Project installed.

At small sizes where you can’t read the text it’s only the colour of these icons that can distinguish between the two Ps. “I” for InfoPath appears twice too, once for the form designer and once for the form filler app – these have now been separated, so that only those who need to design forms need have the form designer installed.

All the applications’ icons have been changed, and they now emphasise the main letter of the app’s name, with the document more in the background

The Excel icon features a green “X”, although there’s a vestigial stroke that suggests the “L” as in the previous icons. This may sound like a rather trifling matter, but I can’t say that I like these new icons: when they’re rendered at 32 x 32 or 16 x 16 pixels, you can’t see more than a letter and a colour, and if you add that shortcut arrow overlay to the 16 x 16 pixel versions you won’t be able to read the letter, which leads to some confusion.

As part of the polishing of the user interface you now get to choose the colour scheme for all the Office apps. As in Office 2007 the choices are blue, silver or black, although the default has been changed from blue to silver, which is pretty much the same as the single colour scheme that shipped with the Technical Preview version.

Of the three schemes I prefer the blue, which is far more subtle than the baby-blue offered in Office 2007. I find the black scheme too dark and forbidding, while the silver is bland. Virtually all of those orange dots that stood in for missing icons on the Ribbon of the Technical Preview versions have now been replaced, but you’ll still see one or two from time to time.

The changes

There are few functional changes from the Technical Preview, although there are a couple. As I mentioned in a previous column, the Application Menu has been changed to show the word “File” rather than the Office logo, which removes a long-standing bugbear for those many users who found it difficult to remember where functions such as Save, New and Print were accessed in Office 2007.

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