As I have an MSDN license, I am allowed access to Microsoft’s software for development reasons. I gave Office 2007 a demo run while it was in beta, and was running it inside a virtual server. The initial view on it was… “interesting”. The change of layout for most of the office applications with their Ribon Technology made for some new user experiences. I didn’t really get a chance to play with outlook, until today.
As everybody else is off, with the exception of the Helpdesk, I decided to upgrade. After a length install process, I finally got in. The first thing about Office 2007 I noticed was the “Todo Bar”. This bar sits on the right hand side of the screen, and contains a quick lookup of your calendar, todo items, and flagged emails, rather handy. The one set back is probably going to come if you’re using a monitor that only goes up to 1024x768. I’d imagine the screen would be a little tight. I’m not in that realm though, my screen is at 1920x1200, so I can have the folder list, preview, mail list, and todo bar all side by side, and nothing looks squased.
Another thing I was immediately prompted for was the “Instant Search”. This is pretty sneaky, I thought it was originally a feature that wasn’t installed by default, so I decided to go check it out, thinking that it would be odd for Microsoft to ship Outlook without a find feature. I come to find out it’s actually Microsoft’s sneaky way of pushing the “Microsoft Desktop Search” application.
Microsoft have also decided to add the ability to categorize your emails. In Outlook 2003, these were simply flags of different colours. However, those flag options now correspond to turning an email into a task, and categories are handled by a small square. The categories can have their names changed too.
Something I do love in the new version of Office is the fonts. The whole interface has had a font facelift. The fonts seem a lot clearer, and definetly smoother, and sharper at the same time. It’s certainly a plesant experience on the eyes.
With the exception of the above few items, the general behaviour of the core application is just the same. The real differences begin when you try starting a new email. This is where the “Ribbon” comes into play. Microsoft have finally decided to scrap the “Word as an editor” option, and have simply merged in the same functionality from MS Word. This is good, because you no longer have to deal with both Word and Outlook consuming memory when all you’re doing is reading emails. The down side is, Outlook seems to still use the same memory footprint as both applications combined.
I recomment a quick view of their user preview video that gives a good run down of the new “Ribbon”, and a good idea on what people can expect. All in all, I certainly like the new office, though some things are going to take a bit of getting used to, it shouldn’t take too long.