The Complete Guide to Office 2010: The Big Changes

There’s very little resemblance between Microsoft Office 2007 and yeast extract, but one of Britain’s most hackneyed clichés is unavoidable: you really did love the Ribbon or you hated it.

It was loved by all those who discovered a heap of previously hidden features, by those who could suddenly make a document look fantastic with only a few clicks thanks to the easily accessible formatting tools, by those who didn’t like to spend their working day twisting previous versions of Office to their own ends.

And then came the haters. Those who vilified Microsoft for setting the Ribbon in stone, so that all their clever customisations were made irrelevant at a stroke; by those who had become used to the regimented menu construct, as found in pretty much every Windows application; by those who actually felt the Ribbon hid away the commands they most frequently needed.

While Office 2010 hasn’t granted the Marmite haters their wish of the menu’s return, it has made one major concession: now, you can change what appears in the Ribbon.

CUSTOMISABLE RIBBON

This is a master stroke. Everyone uses Word, Excel et al in their own way. Some barely touch the commands, but may dip in and out of the most advanced functions in the programs – the kind of things that wouldn’t make it onto the tabs, but are vital to the way you work.

Now, you can create your own tabs and put whatever you like in them. If your primary task in Excel is to analyse data, create a data analysis tab with PivotTables and the like brought to the fore. Perhaps you want a tab to use at home and another at work; it’s a matter of moments to create one. Maybe you’ve recorded a number of macros and want to have them sitting on a Ribbon rather than use shortcuts – now you can.

BACKSTAGE VIEW

The second feature many people will come to love is the Backstage view. This is a dedicated screen, accessible by clicking File at the top left (which replaces the oblique Office icon found in 2007), which brings together all the properties associated with the file and the application, as opposed to the contents of the file. So, there’s printing, metadata, a list of recently opened files, sharing options – and all of these options have been enhanced to make them easier to use.

Backstage view 2

Take printing. When you pressed before, you were taken straight to the printer dialog with minimal options – a dropdown list of printers to choose from, how many pages, which pages to print. Now, you’re taken to the Backstage view complete with a print preview. Oddly, this isn’t on offer in OneNote: Microsoft told us that “printing is far less popular in OneNote”, as a defence.

It’s a shame, as this is an excellent feature. It not only stops you from printing Excel spreadsheets in portrait rather than landscape, but also means you can quickly adjust margin sizes to keep print-outs to a minimal number of sheets. Or see that the email you’re about to print goes over two pages, when you only want the first few lines.

It’s also now much easier to dig out a file you used last week as opposed to yesterday. Forget the ten or so “recent documents” that we’ve all become used to, there are now more than 20 listed when you click on Recent. You can also see their location at-a-glance, giving file names valuable context.

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