Microsoft Office Professional 2007

from Technology & Learning

The question isn't whether to upgrade but when.

Office 2007 Professional is a 7-in-1 sweet of a productivity suite featuring upgrades to Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Word, and Visio Viewer. A complete install consumes 1475 MB of hard drive space but gives users a totally new user interface, known as the Ribbon.

Office Pro 2007's new Ribbon interface could take some getting used to.

Company:Microsoft Corporation
System Requirements: Microsoft Windows Vista, XP; 500 MHz processor or higher; 256 MB RAM or higher (512 MB RAM strongly recommended); 2 GB free space on hard disk; CD-ROM or DVD drive; 1024x768 or higher display resolution; speech recognition functionality requires a close-talk microphone and audio output device; connectivity to Microsoft Exchange Server 2000 or to Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP1 required for certain advanced functions
Grade/Price: Elementary school and later; volume licensing only, $65 per copy in multiples of five, plus $27 for CD
Pros: Great new look, added functionality, slick interface, tight integration among the applications
Cons: You will need to budget for training, in addition to the cost of licensing and media to deploy this suite in a school or district; advanced hardware requirements

The Ribbon represents a major interface change in several suite applications, grouping tools by task and frequently used commands. This approach is very different from the familiar drop-down menu interface still worn by Outlook and Publisher. Although the "ribbon" is very intuitive, it is also unfamiliar.

Users click tabs instead of menus. Every tab offers commands for particular tasks. For example, click Word's Home Tab to see Font, Paragraph and Styles groups, each with its own set of commands.

While the new interface will take time to master, the Microsoft Office Button in the top left corner of the new version of Word (also in PowerPoint, Excel, and Access) reveals popular commands like New, Open, Save, Print, Send, and Close.

Another new feature common to Word, Access, Excel, and PowerPoint is the customizable Quick Access Toolbar positioned next to the Microsoft Office Button. If you have a favorite command that you want to keep within point-and-click reach just drag it to the Toolbar.

A few words on Word

Word 2007 has many new tools but three deserve special mention. First, the Quick Parts Gallery provides easy access to stored, preformatted content (e.g., text, graphics, headers, footers, custom paragraph layouts, etc.). You can create a custom WordArt logo for example and reuse it as necessary.

The Office Button reveals classic commands, while the Compare feature (below) allows multiple views of docs.

Second, Word sports an improved document-comparison option. This tool will come in handy when students or teachers do collaborative work. Word's Compare feature (Review tab) has multiple views. It can display the original document, any revised document, and the combined document as well. Word conveniently identifies who authored document changes and comments, a feature sure to prove useful when working with multiple copies of the "same" document.

Finally, Word 2007 addresses the importance of social networking with tools to write blog entries and post them to blog service providers such as Windows Live Spaces, Community Server, WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, and Windows SharePoint Services. Users first click Publish in the Microsoft Office Button menu to give Word their blog login details, user name and password. Once registered, users simply click the Publish/Blog option and allow Word to upload the entry complete with tile. Word also offers a "New blog post" option when you create a new document.

This brief review only scratches the surface of what Microsoft has folded into the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher and Outlook—all of it exciting though when taken together, somewhat overwhelming. Should you upgrade? Yes, the suite has much to offer. But don't forget to add the cost of training to the overall purchase price.

Carol S. Holzberg is technology coordinator in Greenfield, Massachusetts.