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What is Office 2007?

Microsoft Office 2007 is the latest iteration of Microsoft's suite of office productivity applications, such as Word, Excel and Outlook. This article looks at what Office 2007 has to offer.

What is Office 2007?

Office 2007 is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s suite of office productivity applications, such as Word, Excel and Outlook.  As before, it ships in a bewildering array of editions including:

  • Office Standard
  • Office Small Business
  • Office Professional
  • Office Professional Plus
  • Office Enterprise
  • Office Ultimate

Each of these editions contain different application sets, from just Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook in Office Standard, through to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, OneNote, InfoPath and Groove in Office Ultimate.  The table below shows an overview of what programs are contained within each version:

office versions

StandardSmall BusinessProfessionalProfessional PlusEnterpriseUltimate
Word X X X X X X
Excel X X X X X X
X X X   X X
Outlook X     X X  
Business Contact Manager   X X     X
Publisher   X X X X X
Access     X X X X
InfoPath       X X X
Groove       X   X
OneNote       X   X

A full version of this table is available on the Microsoft Office System Suites site.

Most organisations will opt for Office Professional which contains the following applications:

  • Word - The standard word processing application in Office.
  • Excel - Excel is Microsoft’s spreadsheet package, allowing users to easily manipulate and manage complex sets of data.
  • Outlook - Outlook provides an integrated email, contact and diary management system that offers extensive collaboration features when hooked up to Microsoft Exchange Server.
  • PowerPoint - Used to create and deliver presentations
  • Access - Database system for storing, managing and reporting on your key data
  • Publisher - Easily create professional looking newsletters and publications

If you go for the Professional Plus, Enterprise or Ultimate versions, some other applications you might see are detailed below:

  • InfoPath - Create and deliver electronic forms to your organisation
  • OneNote - Gather information in one place and take complex notes.
  • Groove - Allows you to share documents and information and communicate with colleagues wherever they are

What benefits does Office 2007 offer?

Microsoft have been stung by arguably justified criticism of their continual updating of the Office suite of applications, which they tried to answer with their “Dinosaur” series of adverts over the past couple of years.  These made the point that newer versions of the software contain many more useful features and so make upgrading worthwhile in terms of productivity.  Whilst this message has merit (certainly Office 2003 is a much more capable suite than Office 97), actually finding those features amongst the menus and buttons had become a challenge in itself.

To deal with this, Microsoft decided to sweep away the menu-based interface and introduced the concept of the Ribbon (below).  Instead of hiding useful features such as Styles or Find & Replace away in the Format and Edit menus, as in previous versions, Word 2007 makes them immediately available on the Ribbon, the theory being that if you can see it you’re more likely to use it.  Other tabs on the Ribbon display other options within the context of that tab (tables and pictures under Insert, or spelling and thesaurus under Review, for example).  In addition, new tabs appear depending on what you do.  For instance, if you create a table, two new tabs will appear containing tools for changing the design and the layout of the table.

In addition to this, Microsoft has introduced the Office Button which is intended to replace the File menu and has useful features such as opening and saving files.

Below is an example of the ribbon that can be found in Excel.

Ribbon view in Excel 2007

The Ribbon is present in all of the Office products with the exception of Outlook 2007.  Outlook is the product which seems to have changed the least in this upgrade, although it certainly appears to be even more useful than Outlook 2003, itself a giant leap forward from previous versions.  The most obvious difference here is that Outlook 2007 adds a “To Do” pane on to the main views, displaying upcoming appointments and tasks.  This can be very useful in presenting a quick overview of your day when you are in your Inbox, but it does use up a lot of your screen.  A widescreen monitor might therefore come in very useful if you intend using this view!

Microsoft have also introduced to some interesting collaboration features, linking Office to Microsoft SharePoint and binging in services that allow Excel spreadsheets, Word and PowerPoint documents to be edited via a web browser. In addition to this, Microsoft have brought in something called Groove which allows users to work on and share documents between users – a user can publish a document and then invite other users into their ‘work space’. There are also messaging facilities built into the system to allow group discussions or one to one chats.

Are there any downsides to Office 2007?

The Office 2007 suite of applications looks very different to anything that has gone before, and will almost certainly confuse those who are used to working with the more advanced features in earlier versions.  Even those who just use the applications for simple documents and spreadsheets may well require training to find their way around the Ribbon, as it’s not always obvious at first where to find the features you are looking for.  Having said that, once people are comfortable with the new interface, it may well lead to the productivity gains that Microsoft claim. We would certainly recommend anyone looking to roll out Office 2007 across a whole organisation ensures that training is a key part of the project . Adequate post-installation hand-holding should also be available!

One other point to be aware of is that Office 2007 uses a new file format by default, based on the industry standard XML.  Called .docx, .xlsx, etc. the file formats are much smaller and easier to recover should they become corrupt.  However, the formats are completely incompatible with previous versions, meaning that documents and spreadsheets created in 2007 will not be readable in 2003 or earlier, unless they are saved in the old .doc or .xls format.  This is fully customisable and the old file formats can be set as the default for compatibility purposes, but out of the box this will not be the case and should be factored in to any planned rollout of the software.

Do I need to worry about Office 2007 now?

Inevitably Office 2007 will start to make inroads into the work environment over the next few months.  Any new full Office licences you buy will be for the 2007 version, although you will still be licenced for the equivalent earlier versions and can therefore continue to install those.  However, whilst we would not recommend upgrading immediately, it is probably sensible to prepare yourself and your staff by perhaps looking at training or conversion courses, and maybe installing a copy in your organisation to familiarise yourself before a rollout.

Further Reading

Here are a few links to more information:
Microsoft’s home page on Microsoft Office

Very comprehensive overview of Office 2007

About the author

Ian Ryder, IT Consultant, appiChar
appiChar is an IT company specialising in the not for profit sector.

Copyright © 2007 Ian Ryder, IT Consultant, appiChar

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.