This article is also available as a TechRepublic download.

At this
point, you’ve probably seen the new interface being shipped with most of the
individual Office 2007 component products. If you’re like me, your first
reaction was, “Whoa…”

Note: Since the first beta release of
Office 2007, I’ve forced myself to use all of the 2007 applications, although I
have kept Office 2003 installed “just in case.” As a result, I’ve
been using the new interface for quite a number of months.

Significant interface changes

I’m
not going to go into too much detail on the changes to the interface. For a
good look at my thoughts on the new interface, take a look at my article on the topic.

However,
where it makes sense I will point out interface differences that affect
specific functionality.

Styles & the Style Gallery

This
is one interface change that I will point out right up front as it will
significantly change the way you work with styles in your documents. In the
Ribbon bar, on the Home tab, you can also see the most obvious example of a
feature that Microsoft calls a gallery. A gallery is basically a thumbnail of
what a particular style will look like. Word uses the style gallery to give you
a preview that shows you what would happen if you applied a particular style to
your document.

To see
the effect of a particular style, simply hover your
mouse pointer over the desired style. Voila! Word changes your text selection
to match the new style, but the new style does not permanently go into effect until
you click the left mouse button. As you move across the gallery, you can see
each style in turn. To apply a particular style to your work, click the style.

Personally,
I really like this feature. It does take some getting used to though,
particularly if you were a heavy user of styles in older versions of Office.

New styles

As
long as we’re on the topic of styles, this is a good time to talk about the new
default styles that Microsoft has introduced in Word 2007. Gone are the old
Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles. While the style names have not
changed, their look sure has. Even the Normal style, upon
which most documents are based, has a new look and a new behavior in Word 2007.

First
off, the Normal style in Word 2007 is based on the new Calibri
font, which ships with Office 2007. Second, the Normal style now double-spaces
by default between paragraphs. In Figure
A
below, I’ve provided a direct comparison of the new and the old styles. I’ve
turned on the paragraph markers so you can see some of the behavior of the new
styles.

I
really like the new styles and the new fonts. By the way, the heading fonts use
the new Cambria font, which also ships on the Office 2007 installation media. The
new styles are cleaner, and, after an adjustment period, I’ve found that I
really like the new spacing behavior of the Normal style. At first, I thought
it a waste of space, but after realizing that I often double-spaced between
paragraphs anyway, this enhancement saves me some time.

Figure A

Word 2007 boasts new default styles.

Prevent carpal tunnel using the Mini Toolbar

In
Office 2007, Microsoft deemphasized putting related items together and instead
focused on making the product as “results oriented” as possible. It’s
up to the individual to decide if Microsoft has been successful in this effort.
It’s up to me to point out the things they did to get to their goal.

I
already mentioned the new style gallery. Choosing and previewing styles takes
much fewer clicks and keystrokes than were necessary
in older versions of Word.

One of
the most “in your face” new features that you will see is also one
that will probably look like Word has some kind of problem until you get used
to the feature. When you select text in Word and then hover
your mouse pointer over the selected text, Word pops up what Microsoft calls
the Mini Toolbar. The Mini Toolbar initially appears as a transparent tool bar
box near the text selection, as shown in Figure
B
. Once you move your mouse over an item on the Mini Toolbar, the toolbar
becomes fully visible and looks like any traditional toolbar. Figure C shows you that effect.

Figure B

Take note of the transparent Mini Toolbar.

Figure C

The Mini Toolbar becomes fully visible during use.

Now,
the Mini Toolbar isn’t a huge timesaver,
and may even get in the way for some users, but it does make it less necessary
to move the mouse pointer back to the Ribbon to apply styles. And, if you have
the Ribbon set to a different view, such as Mailings or Review, you don’t have
to switch back to the Home view in order to make a simple formatting change.

For
some people, the Mini Toolbar’s habit of popping in and out will be annoying
and may hamper productivity. For those people, Microsoft has made it possible
to disable this feature:

  • Click the Microsoft Office Button.
  • Click the Word Options button to display the Options
    dialog box.
  • Click Popular.
  • Clear the “Show Mini Toolbar on selection”
    option.

Copy and paste interface enhancement

Copy
and paste has been around for a very long time. In Office 2007, Microsoft has
added an easily-overlooked interface enhancement that makes it even easier to
accomplish some less common copy and paste activities. Personally, in most
instances in which I intend to copy and paste text, I don’t want to simply
paste the text.

For
example, have you ever copied something from a Web site and, when trying to
paste it into a document, the text retains the formatting from the site? After
pasting the text, it’s then necessary to apply a document style to the text,
which make this a multiple-step process. Of course, you
can always use Paste Special as well. In Word 2003, Paste Special is available
on the Edit menu, but does not have a linked keyboard shortcut. When you select
Edit | Paste Special in Word 2003, you’re greeted with a window (Figure D) that asks exactly how you
would like to paste your copied text. In most cases, I choose “Unformatted
Text” since that will insert text into my document using the default
Normal style. Word 2003 makes pasting special a longer process than it needs to
be.

Figure D

Word 2003 Paste Special window.

Enter
Word 2007. Again, interface improvements have taken some of the steps out of
what, for some, is a common process. Now, after you copy text from some source,
you can use the drop down arrow under the Paste option on the Ribbon’s Home tab
and choose Paste Special, as shown in Figure
E
. Again, you still get the Paste Special window. Sure, it’s not a huge
timesaver, but it is somewhat more convenient!

Here’s
one that is a major time saver. You
can set paste options that dictate how the default paste behavior acts in Word
2007. So, if you want text that you copy from other applications to always default to “Unformatted Text”
in Word, no problem. Likewise, you can set text that you copy between Word
documents to act however you like as well. To change the default paste
behavior, go to the Office button and choose Word Options. Choose the Advanced
option to get a window like the one shown below in Figure F. From this window, you can also decide how to handle
pasting when there are conflicting styles between documents.

Figure E

Word 2007 gives you a slightly better way to paste.

Figure F

Change your default paste action at will.

Again,
this isn’t a massive improvement to the product, but does highlight just one
way that the designers of the new interface worked to make the product more “results
oriented” rather than task oriented.

Save as PDF or XPS

It’s
about time! By downloading an add-in after the initial Office 2007
installation, you can enable Word 2007 to export files in the ubiquitous PDF
format or in Microsoft’s new XPS (XML Paper Specification) format. According to
Microsoft, “An XPS document is a paginated representation of electronic
paper that is described by an XML-based language.” My personal take: the
ability to export files to PDF is great!

Figure G

Word 2007 supports exporting documents to PDF.

Removals

Although
Microsoft made many changes to Word 2007, there were some things that Microsoft
removed from Word 2007, including:

  • The ability to view a document with
    white text on a blue background. This was a holdover to emulate old versions of
    WordPerfect. With the huge interface changes made to Word 2007, this feature no
    longer made sense.
  • A number of individual file
    converters were removed, including the ability to save documents that are
    compatible with Word 95. You can still support Word 95, if necessary, by saving
    documents as RTF, though.
  • Mail merge bar codes: Users can no
    longer insert a bar code into a mail merge. This one could be a negative for
    some people.
  • Most WordPerfect compatibility
    support, including WordPerfect commands and Help for WordPerfect Users.
  • Personal Address Book (PAB) support
    for mail merges. Outlook contacts replace this functionality.
  • Third-party OCX controls: Removed
    for security reasons.
  • Microsoft Script Editor: Removed. Documents
    that have scripts and that are upgraded to Word 2007 will have the scripts
    removed without warning. Again, Microsoft considered this feature too risky.

Summary

As you
can tell, the Office team at Microsoft has made huge changes to the interface
in the Office
products
. In fact, most of the changes to Office 2007 were interface
related with very little actual functionality change. However, the few
additions that were made are very welcome and will add a lot of use to this
popular product.