The Complete Guide to Office 2010: The Big Changes

There’s much more to say about the Backstage view, but we’ll console ourselves with a mention of what you gain by clicking on Share. Sharing is key to Office 2010, whether through the all-new Web Apps via Microsoft’s free SkyDrive service or through a business setup based around SharePoint.

Much of the work here has gone on under the skin, but one obvious outward sign is the option to save to SkyDrive at the press of a button in Word, Excel or Publisher. Once you’ve set up your account, based on Windows Live IDs, it becomes as easy as sending a document via email. It’s also nice to see the option to save as a PDF built in, rather than requiring a separate download.

Our only issue with Backstage view is that it consumes the whole working area. We’ve lost count of the times we’ve minimised the Word window in search of the document we were working on, only to realise that it was hiding behind Backstage view.


Simon Jones covers the new icons in detail, including their limitations, in Advanced Office, and overall they’re a positive refresh and instantly recognisable. We’re less convinced by the colour schemes for the programs.

You can choose between Blue, Black and Silver, and just like Simon we believe that most people will opt for Blue: it’s certainly the least offensive on the eye. (To change the colour, head to the Backstage view, click on Options, and you’ll see a dropdown menu next to “Color scheme”.)


Where things become much cleverer is Microsoft’s consistent approach to the user interface. This starts off with the obvious introduction of the Ribbon into Outlook and OneNote, both of which were hampered by the normal menu system in their 2007 incarnations.

This makes retraining staff, or even members of the family, much simpler: once the basic structure of the Ribbon sinks in, most people start to discover aspects of Office they never knew about before. By having that same interface in all the Office apps, training becomes much simpler.

Office 2010 will also see the introduction of a brand-new version of the suite: Office 2010 Starter. We expect this to be installed on the majority of new machines once summer arrives, and for good reason.

mobile office

True, swathes of the computing population will feel frustrated by the version’s limitations: you only get Word and Excel, options are limited to a mere four tabs in both applications, and there’s an ever-present, 200-pixel wide pane down the right-hand side of the screen that will serve rotating ads for the paid-for versions of Office, as well as offering quick links to Getting Started advice. But faced between the slick interface of Word 2010 and the clunkier free alternatives, we expect most people to opt for Office Starter.

This interface even stretches to the Web Apps, which are already available to try. And that overcomes, to an extent, one of the problems faced by Office 2007: the default file type is DOCX in Word, for example, which can’t be read by Office 2003 and its predecessors without a plugin.

It also took some time for OpenOffice and Google Docs to support Word 2007’s DOCX files, and its cousins. Office 2010 files are fully compatible with Office 2007 and Google Docs, so they’re much easier to share. And the good news is that if you save files to SkyDrive then it doesn’t lose any of your formatting.

We should mention that you can even save files to the forthcoming Mobile Office applications for Windows-powered smartphones. As with the Web Apps, you don’t get anywhere near the editing options offered by the full versions of Word, Excel, and the rest, but again it won’t lose your formatting: so, should the need ever arise, you can edit that Excel spreadsheet on your mobile phone with impunity.

This unified approach gives Office 2010 a unique advantage over its rivals: Google can’t compete, and neither can Apple. While we still believe Microsoft is missing a trick by not offering the option of tabbed documents within the applications in the same way you can have different tabs in web browsers, it’s a very coordinated suite of products that will appeal to home and business users alike.

Key new features

  • Customisable Ribbon
  • Consistent Ribbon interface
  • Backstage view
  • Automatic print preview
  • Free Office Web Apps
  • Free Office Starter Edition
  • Better integration with Office Mobile

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