Software

10 reasons to consider upgrading to Office 2007


 

This information is also available as a PDF download.

Office 2007 offers new file formats, an improved user interface, and a number of deployment, support, and security improvements. Here are a few things to think about as you decide whether an upgrade makes sense for your organization.

#1: Office 2003 and its predecessors are out of date

The Office platform was built on what are now antiquated technologies-and it has accumulated a lot of gunk over the years. For some perspective, consider that the first version of Word for Windows, released in 1989, had roughly 100 commands and two rudimentary toolbars. Word 2003 has more than 1,500 commands and 30-plus toolbars. As the bells and whistles piled up, a lot of flaws and problems were worked around, built on top of, and left unfixed.

Office 2007 represents a clean break in platform design, built from the ground up to shed the superannuated binary file formats and enable a new (forgive me) paradigm for usability. Instead of trying to implement some fairly critical enhancements on top of the existing design (e.g., blogging capabilities and security features like the Document Inspector), Microsoft opted to incorporate those changes, along with a radically re-architected interface, into a brand new model.

#2: Office 2007 comes in eight flavors

A certain amount of grumbling has accompanied what some perceive as needless packaging complexity and marketing gamesmanship, but in fact, it might serve your organization well to have eight editions to choose from. The versions (which are detailed in "Which edition of Office 2007 is right for you?"), run the gamut from a bare-bones OEM installation to elaborate systems for heavy lifting in the enterprise:

  • Microsoft Office Basic 2007
  • Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007
  • Microsoft Office Standard 2007
  • Microsoft Office Small Business 2007
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2007
  • Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus
  • Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007

You'll definitely want to closely analyze the included applications, supported technologies, upgrade paths, and pricing to make sure you're not paying for more than you need or sacrificing essential components.

#3: Pricing is about on par with Office 2003

The price structure for Office 2007 maps pretty closely to Office 2003. For example:

  • The retail price for Office Professional 2007, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Office Accounting Express, Publisher, and Access, costs $499 dollars ($329 for the upgrade).
  • The retail cost for Microsoft Office Small Business 2007, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Office Accounting Express, and Publisher, costs $449 ($279 for the upgrade).
  • The Microsoft Office Standard 2007 edition, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, costs $399 dollars at retail for the full version ($239 for the upgrade).

#4: If you need a lot of stuff, the upper-end versions can deliver

If your organization is large enough or has diverse enough needs, it might make sense to purchase Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 licenses. This will provide you with a huge variety of Office 2007 applications and technologies-Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, and Publisher, as well as InfoPath, Groove, OneNote, and Communicator, plus support for Enterprise Content Management, integrated electronic forms, and advanced information rights management and policy capabilities.

The Office Professional Plus edition offers a more modest lineup: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook (without Business Contact Manager), Publisher, InfoPath, and Communicator. It also supports integrated ECM, electronic forms, and advanced information rights management and policy capabilities. Both packages are available through volume licensing.

#5: New file formats offer numerous advantages

Office 2007 introduces the XML-based Open XML file formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These formats offer a number of significant advantages:

  • More compact size (the files are compressed)
  • Less chance of corrupted files (components are stored as separate entities, so if one piece is damaged, the rest of the document is still viable)
  • Better integration of business information (users can more easily assemble documents from various data sources, exchange data between Office and other systems, and publish, locate, and reuse information)
  • Interoperability (information can be used by any application that can read and write XML, not just Office apps)
  • Security (because of the transparent nature of the format, sensitive information can be readily identified and removed; the format also allows you to identify, isolate, and manage embedded code and macros)
  • Compatibility (the .doc, .xls, and .ppt binary formats are compatible with Office 2007 apps, and users of Office 2000/XP/2003 can install the Compatibility Pack so that they can open, edit, and save documents in the new formats)
  • Open and royalty-free specification
  • Easier integration (developers have direct access to specific contents within the file, like charts, comments, and document metadata without having to parse entire documents)

This MSDN article covers various aspects of the new formats in some detail.

#6: Interface is redesigned to improve productivity

Office 2007 offers what Microsoft is calling the fluent user interface, designed to achieve some pretty lofty design goals. The main challenge was to free users from having to thrash their way through the convoluted menu structure in an attempt to locate the commands, tools, options, and features needed to accomplish a particular task.

The Ribbon replaces the menu structure and offers a context-sensitive display of options organized according to function. Along with the Ribbon come a number of other usability aids, including Live Preview, which gives users a look at the effect of various formatting options on selected text before they make any changes; the Mini Toolbar, which offers basic formatting buttons and hovers semitransparently over selected text; galleries, which are essentially prefab collections of attributes for certain items (like tables); and a customizable status bar with buttons for genuinely useful features.

#7: App-specific enhancements add efficiency and power

Apart from their interface-lift, Office 2007 applications provide some legitimate feature improvements that in many cases, will allow users to be more productive and produce better results. A few examples:

  • Word 2007 offers an enhanced document comparison feature lets you view original copy against revised copy in a tri-pane window; its Document Inspector finds and removes comments, hidden text, and personally identifiable information; it offers prefab building blocks (elements like cover pages and sidebars) to speed document assembly.
  • Excel 2007 has expanded its spreadsheet capacity to 1 million rows and 16,000 columns; charting is simplified; conditional formatting is easier to apply; new tools make it easier to discover trends and variances in your data.
  • PowerPoint 2007 lets you set up slide libraries on a SharePoint Server 2007 site and keep presentations synchronized with the slides stored there; you can design custom slide layouts; you can apply a theme to globally transform the appearance of a presentation.
  • Access 2007 includes new database templates to help you set up things like inventory tracking and project management; you can use new grouping, filtering, and sorting features to refine your reports; it includes some new field types.
  • Outlook 2007 offers a To-Do bar that shows you flagged e-mail and tasks; calendar sharing has been improved; an attachment previewer has been added; it includes support for reading and managing RSS feeds.

#8: New features make it easier to turn out better-looking results

Although improving productivity is high on the list of Office 2007 design objectives, a number of new tools and features are aimed at helping users produce more sophisticated and attractive documents and presentations. For instance:

  • Word's Quick Style sets make it easy for even style-phobic users to format document text consistently (instead of forcing them to choose from one monster list of unrelated styles or make ad hoc manual formatting changes).
  • The new SmartArt feature, which you can use in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook e-mail messages, lets you create slick graphics to convey all kinds of information.
  • Word comes with a gallery of building blocks, which you can drop into a document to add preformatted elements like headers and footers, cover pages, sidebars, and pull quotes.
  • Access offers new templates for a variety of purposes and a greenbar format to make forms and reports sharper-looking and easier to read.
  • An enhanced set of themes-coordinated across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint-lets you develop a standard look and feel across all your documents and presentations.
  • Excel's charting features (supported in Word and PowerPoint) have been improved and include new special effects and templates. Excel also offers more color choices, richer conditional formatting, styles to simplify formatting tables, charts, and pivot tables, and a much improved implementation of cell styles.
  • PowerPoint allows you to create custom layouts and offers new text options, such as columns, wrapping, vertical text, and special effects (glowing, fills, 3-D, etc.).

#9: Beefed-up user assistance reduces support overhead

Office 2007 includes a considerable number of user support features. For starters, Enhanced ScreenTips generally provide more than just the name of a tool or button. In many cases, a ScreenTip will offer a picture or diagram, an explanation of the tool's purpose, and a link to relevant online help topics.

Also, since the tools and features are designed to be more accessible and intuitive, users should be able to complete various tasks without requiring too many support calls (at least in theory).

By default, the Office help system is tied into Office Online when users are connected to the Internet. (If that feature is disabled or they're not connected, they can still access the locally installed help files.) Along with topic- and task-specific help for each application, Office Online offers a wide variety of training and support options, including video demos, self-paced training courses, interface guides to help users map familiar commands to the new Ribbon locations, eLearning modules, downloadable training presentations, and a few experimental podcasts.

#10: Numerous deployment options are available

Office 2007 supports a variety of deployment options, whether you need to install it on one system or hundreds (or even thousands) of systems. You can prepare disk images, deploy it on networks with limited bandwidth using precache technology, upgrade existing versions, or deploy it across an enterprise using Group Policy or Microsoft SMS 2003.

In addition, Microsoft offers its Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007, which can help you perform large scale Office (and Vista) rollouts. Among other things, it lets you create software and hardware inventories to help in installation planning, test applications to confirm compatibility before installation, and create a lab environment. It also includes custom options, scripts, and sample configuration files.

If you have a large number of old-format files, you might want to check out the free Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM), which you can install on computers running XP SP2, Vista, or Server 2003. Once the OMPM is installed, you can use its Office File Converter to perform a bulk conversion of your old Office files to the new XML-based format.

Additional Office 2007 "10 things" resources

About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

15 comments
daveme7
daveme7

First, the only reason any company comes out with something new is to make money. Not that this is bad-it makes the world go round. After you upgrade, now what? How many hours and hundreds of dollars are you willing to shell out because of new MS software? Not everyone are programmers and MS is the least intuitive let alone a big downgrade on customer service. what now? Authors of computer books benefit the most and thus why I think MS comes out with new stuff. You look, your confused, so you buy a book to help hou learn. It is either that or the new world order plan to take over the world with Microsoft Office.

samuel mckiney
samuel mckiney

1)Office 2003 and its prodeccors are out of date 2)Office 2007 comes in 8 flavors 3)Pricing is about on par with office 2003 4)It delivers a lot of stuff 5)New file formats numerous advantages 6)Interface is improved productivity 7)App- specific enhancement adds power 8)new features make it easy 9)Beefed up reduces support overhead 10)numerous options are available

ErikaLambert
ErikaLambert

RedCritter Adds an App Gallery to your Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010. It has Apps for Twitter, Salesforce.com, document search and more. You can get it at http://www.redcritter.com

rogsfca
rogsfca

I would caution against upgrading to 2007 for anyone except the most basic of office users. I've had 2007 on one of my machines for about 5 months now, and find myself spending a lot more time trying to find a feature that either doesn't exist, or I end up having to troll through countless submenus to just get a once needed item added to the ribbon bar. Productivity for me has been greatly reduced with this "user friendly" version. Thankfully, I never upgraded my other 2 machines, both which have 2003 on them. I'm finding myself reverting back to the more useful office version a.k.a. - 2003 - more and more. 2007 seems like a more dumbed down version. Styles in Word, Data functions in Excel, the whole Access structure, just to name a few. Haven't even touched Powerpoint yet, and probably won't on this version. So unless you're only going to do simple word processing, or ligning up things in neat tables in Excel, I would recommend to NOT 'down'grade your office version.

jack
jack

PDA users : XP and Office 2007 do not mix ! You are using a PDA, and sync it with Outlook 2003 using activesync ? Think twice before going to 2007, 'coz it aint workin' !! It does work fine with Vista, which does not use Active sync anymore, but under XP, you are out of luck !

CraigThompson
CraigThompson

I have to say this has been the worse creation on the MS plate to date. I'm a seasoned computer user and this has been a frustrating exercise. I worry about the "old folks" and casual pc users who will have to relearn a whole new concept. I still have to look for stuff. Some stuff has simply vanished eg properties for embedded graphics. I certainly dont actually believe Quote: "The Office platform was built on what are now antiquated technologies-and it has accumulated a lot of gunk over the years". Why should this bother anyone? Who are they trying to kid? I'm running a top end machine that that still seems to waddle along and choke on all the "wonderful new stuff" that I dont need. Make sure you stack up on memory, cos you are going to need!! Open Office is starting to look a whole lot better.

hi100
hi100

I would have liked a bit more comparison in this review, like : How do the lower end Student/home versions compare to pro? What is left out? Have they improved the more exotic things like equation editor: is it better integrated than the clunky old version for example? How is the integration between word and Excell now?

mdillon
mdillon

Well, I'm have great difficulty with 2007, It's not backwards compatable friendly. I have a big problem with several Giga Byte of files that have been converted with 2007 that I can't get Office 2004 to open. 2003 isn't happy with it either. When I downloaded the patch for 2003 to convert the file format for 2003 it made 2003 unuseable. and requires Office to be reloaded. I think MS needs to work out all of the problems before turning it loose to the public. It's alot like Vista, Not compatible with anything. IE7 I've had multiple problems causing the Operating system to crash. I have checked these machine over, Reloaded them from scratch and he same problems occure. Microsoft is doing it to the public again like they did when Windows 95 came out. I've used new factory never been used disks to reload and update. Microsoft Tech support isn't very helpfull, because they keep sending me back to the computer company. I guess I'll have to wait until Microsoft fixes these problem along with my private support people, who are having simular problem. as well.

hankf
hankf

All these things your say oare wonderful about office 2007, but have you noticed that the color you can associated with a word document phrase of any lenght are pale in comparison to the default colors on previous versions most notably W2k3 off 11. I do not know why they changed the color to a more pastel or softer shades, but they really lack something when you are making documents with changes in color on a Key word or phrase. If there is a way to revert back to the bolder color, I'd sure like to know of it.. Hank Freeman Atl, GA

geek 256
geek 256

I am certified as an Expert in Word. 2007 makes it easy for any idiot to press a button and make the document look 'fancy'with themes and QuickParts, but a user using the more advanced techniques and options finds those commands buried under several layers of tabs, ribbons, and buttons. Things I used to do with 3 clicks or a shortcut now take 6 clicks. 2007 expects you to customize one lousy toolbar with all your frequently used commands and buttons (which you can no longer customize the image). I have also found a glitch in which after a short period of time, the tab and ribbon I have been using will revert back to the Home tab, forcing me to repeatedly change back to the tab I want. Productivity for me has dropped significantly.

CraigThompson
CraigThompson

I agree, it has been dumbed down. Very much so.

SaliesBoff
SaliesBoff

It sounds from the replies to date that this is yet another example of "upfield marketing", that is selling software that is actually little better than Beta code to an ignorant market of supposed IT specialists and managers. The previous post making this analogous with the launch of Windows 95 is probably very true. The whole "wow" factor of Vista is diluted by the fact that you need at least 2Gb RAM to run it efficiently. No doubt adding Office 2007 will increase this further. When looking at what is possible with current Linux releases and OpenOffice on far smaller platforms it is utter madness to carry on supporting the Bill Gates foundation. Why not just give your money directly to the charities concerned and spare yourself the pain of using this bloatware?

PeterSS
PeterSS

Some of these reasons I would consider as reasons NOT to upgrade: "Office 2003 and predecessors are out of date" - but they are still adequate. We are running Office 2000, and it does everything that we need to. If it ain't broke... don't fix it! "Eight flavors" - why so many? It just makes purchasing more confusing. "Pricing" - this is the biggest reason not to purchase. For our 7500 PC estate, it's going to be very expensive - for what gain. I can't spend nearl ?1m unless I can show that we will make equivalent savings. Can we have a "10 reasons to buy Open Office" or should that be "10 reasons to download Open Office for free"!?

PeterSS
PeterSS

Some of these reasons I would consider as reasons NOT to upgrade: "Office 2003 and predecessors are out of date" - but they are still adequate. We are running Office 2000, and it does everything that we need to. If it ain't broke... don't fix it! "Eight flavors" - why so many? It just makes purchasing more confusing. "Pricing" - this is the biggest reason not to purchase. For our 7500 PC estate, it's going to be very expensive - for what gain. I can't spend nearl ?1m unless I can show that we will make equivalent savings. Can we have a "10 reasons to buy Open Office" or should that be "10 reasons to download Open Office for free"!?

geek 256
geek 256

I installed the file converters for 2003 (in order to open files from 2007) and it did not cause any problems at all with 2003. It has no problem with opening 2007 files, but it does sometimes convert continuous seciton breaks to next page breaks, which is really annoying.

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