Microsoft – Office 2010 Home & Business Edition review

Microsoft attempts to seize back the Office initiative
Photo of Microsoft – Office 2010 Home & Business Edition

Given that Microsoft is in real danger of ceding substantive market share to the likes of Google Docs and the free-of-charge OpenOffice in the coming years, it’s unsurprising that it’s thrown quite so much at Office 2010. Along with Windows, Office has traditionally been the big money-maker for Microsoft, and here, it’s shaped the product to give it maximum appeal to the business market.

We’ve been taking a look at the Home and Business SKU of Office 2010, which brings together Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010, Word 2010, OneNote 2010 and Outlook 2010. Differing versions of the software cater for different sectors of the markets, from the entry-level Home and Student Edition, through to the top-end Professional version. Each has price tags that match their target audience, and thus is seemed wise to plump for the version in the middle to see how it fared.

First things first, then. The ribbon interface, which was brought in – and still divides opinion as a result – in Office 2007 is now present across the full suite of tools. Yet elsewhere there’s no dramatic overhaul that’s taken place this time round. Microsoft has instead built on the foundations of Office 2007, and generally done so perfectly well.

As such, there’s little working difference in Word, for instance, which was ribbon-enabled last time we met it too. There’s OpenType support built in for those who require it, and it’s slightly better when applying effects to text and images. But the guts remains a strong word processing package, which for many is the most-used application in the suite. Excel too hasn’t undergone much in the way of changes, with just minor nips and tucks after the overhaul the product received last time around.

Powerpoint has benefited from more work, and for the first time, you can embed web videos directly into a presentation. This works as easily as you’d hope. We grabbed YouTube embed code, and from there, we were free to format and position the video as we chose. Obviously in a presentation scenario it requires a web connection, but that’s not the problem it once was. You can also export your Powerpoint presentation now as a video.

Outlook has benefited from the ribbon interface for the first time, and given that communication and collaboration (which we’re coming to shortly) is at the heart of Office 2010, it’s understandable that it’s had quite a lick of point. It’s borrowed an idea from Gmail, in allowing you pull together all mails from one conversation together, and you can put together quick steps – pseudo-macros in old language – to automate certain tasks. Some are pre-provided, but you can put together your own easily enough.

Outlook and Powerpoint have migrated nicely since we met them last, and Microsoft’s OneNote utility has come along too. This has been a rarely used function of the Office suite, although we can’t honestly see that changing dramatically this time around. It’s basically a notebook of sorts that can be shared between users and applications, and it can be useful if several people are reviewing the same document. That said, collaboration tools are built into each of the applications anyway, although multiple users are still not supported in Excel. There are Web Apps provided here, though, and they’re a very clear sign of which direction Microsoft is heading, and making commendable progress towards.

Office 2010 is a smart, tidy evolution of the tools that gelled well together in Office 2007. There’s still a compelling argument, for those who just want to do a few spreadsheets and type up some work, that it’s a bit overkill. Office 2010 is certainly more polished than something like OpenOffice 3, for instance, but the core features that most people demand work perfectly well in either. Furthermore, for the person still using Office 2003 as a basic suite, there’s no killer change to force an upgrade.

But there is a professional and strong suite of tools here, that work well together and, in a business environment in particular, have sharp collaboration options. Office 2010 is no perfect beast, but it is a solid improvement to an already impressive collection of applications.

Company: Microsoft

Microsoft's finest Office suite to date makes some welcome evolutions in its bid to hold off the advances of the free office suite competition. Whether it's done enough remains to be seen, however.