Get a quick peek at a few impending changes in Word, including a less cluttered Ribbon, improved performance, and the new Backstage feature.

Word 2010, the upcoming release of the world’s most popular word processor, includes some new features and carries over some existing ones from Word 2007. Here’s a look at what you can expect.

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The Ribbon in Word 2010 (Figure A) is much the same as the Ribbon in the Word 2007. The Office button is smaller and more related to the application rather than the suite, which is a great aesthetic touch. But the biggest change in the Office button is the menu itself, called Backstage. Although the Backstage menu is available in all Office 2010 applications, it’s most useful within Word.

Figure A

When you click the Office button, a full screen menu appears over the entire Word screen (Figure B). As you can see, the Backstage menu provides information about the current document and other application options, including:

  • Permissions — security and editing rights options for the document
  • Prepare For Distribution — Check for issues within the document concerning compatibility and accessibility
  • Versions — manage different versions of the document

The right side of the Backstage menu shows a preview of the current document and its properties. The menu also contains the options previously found on the Office menu or File menu, such as Open, Save, Save As, Recent Documents, and Word Options.

Figure B

Another new Office feature that’s particularly handy in Word is the Screenshot option on the Insert tab. It allows you to insert a screen capture of an open window into the document you are working on.

Working in Word 2010 is similar to working in Word 2007; however, I have found this version, even in Technical Preview, to be more stable than its predecessor. My opinion could change as the product gets closer to release, but for now, I think one of the strongest features is pure performance. The application will still crash if you do something that isn’t exactly intelligent (which I do on my computer from time to time), but most of these issues for me come from impatience in trying to accomplish a task.

The 2010 Ribbon also feels less cluttered and overwhelming, possibly due to the features that were moved to Backstage.

Sure, there are tons of features within Word, and there always have been – and many of them are overkill for most users. But some, like reviewing and comments, styles, and page layout are useful. These features are the same as they were within Office 2007 as far as I can tell.

After writing several articles and other documents using Word 2010, I love the application. The stability and 64-bit code are great improvements (although they are Office-wide and not limited to Word). Using the Ribbon has also gotten easier, because it seems less cluttered and is not a new experience this time, as it was when Office 2007 arrived. I encourage all of you to give the application a test drive when it is available to you. I think it will be worth considering for your organization.