10 things your users need to know about Office 2010

Even if your users are familiar with the Office 2007 interface, they're going to have questions about Office 2010 features and functionality. This list will help them find some of the answers on their own.

The transition from Office 2003 to Office 2007 was a teeth-gnashing, hair-pulling event of epic proportions! Most longtime Office users hated the new interface and its infamous Ribbon. But if users have already made the switch, they'll find the transition to Office 2010 easy in comparison -- almost seamless. Microsoft has made improvements to the Ribbon interface and enhanced existing features -- things your users will want to put to good use.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: File tab replaces Office button

The biggest visible change is the demise of 2007's Office button. It's gone and in its place, users will find a new tab -- the File tab. Most everything that was available via the Office button is on the new File tab. It's a combo of old File menu items and option settings from the Tools menu.

After you click the File tab, users will see what Microsoft refers to as the Backstage view, shown in Figure A. This is where users will manage files and metadata and set options. It might help users to think of it this way: If you can do it to the file, rather than in the file, you'll probably find the option on the File tab somewhere.

Figure A

The Print section of Word's Backstage view offers options for selecting a printer, viewing the document in Print Preview, and even making changes.

2: Customizable Ribbon

Without specialized expertise that users just don't have, Office 2007's Ribbon wasn't customizable. Now, anyone can add or remove commands from the Office 2010 Ribbon:

  • Users can add custom groups and tabs.
  • Users can rename default groups and tabs.
  • Users can change the order of default groups and tabs.
They'll be quick to catch on to using the Customize The Ribbon section, shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Choose options from the Customize The Ribbon section to add new groups and tabs and change existing ones.

You can access this feature as follows:

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Options under Help.
  3. Click Customize The Ribbon.

Alternatively, right-click any tab and choose Customize The Ribbon from the resulting submenu. Users will appreciate the easy access.

Once you name a customized Ribbon, you can export it to share with others. This is a helpful and efficient addition for users and administrators alike. Users will master the customization routine quickly and administrators can easily distribute customized Ribbons tailored to specific groups of users.

Tip: Use the small up arrow to the left of the Help icon to quickly minimize (and maximize) the Ribbon.

3: Office Ribbon guides for users skipping Office 2007

Users will find what they need quickly enough if they're transitioning from Office 2007. Those moving from Office 2003 (or earlier) might need more help. Microsoft offers a set of Ribbon guides that list the Office 2003 menu commands and shows where to find them in the Office 2010 ribbon. These guides will take the sting out of the upgrade.

A similar interactive guide is also available. Suggest that your users bookmark this page in their browsers. After a quick download, they can point to a command in the Office 2003 structure and learn its location in Office 2010. It doesn't hurt that the tool is kind of fun.

4: Built-in graphic tools

Office 2010 applications share an enhanced set of graphic tools for inserting images, videos, and other graphical elements. Before, editing took place in a third-party tool and users inserted the edited version of the file into a document, presentation, or spreadsheet. Now, your users can do a lot of editing right inside Office 2010.

They can crop, resize, correct colors, correct brightness and contrast, add artistic effects, and more, from within Office 2010. Perhaps the most useful tool is that one that removes the background from pictures and icons. These tools work with videos too; they're not just for pictures.

5: Enhanced security

Security issues have long been a concern of administrators. Office 2010 makes it easier for you and your users to protect their systems. The most important new security feature is Protected View, which allows users to open a file from an Internet source without executing macros or embedded scripts. Your users can benefit from the data in the file without being vulnerable. When they're sure the document contains no risk, they can unprotect it.

This is an important feature to introduce to your users. If they don't know why the feature's in place, they'll ignore it and automatically remove it when they see the prompt shown in Figure C. Explain what the feature is and why it's important to use it, and keep your fingers crossed that they pay attention. Files received via email or a Web site, saved to the local system and then opened, won't trigger this security feature. But you can specify the file types Office 2010 should open in Protected View from the Trust Center (click the File tab).

Figure C

Train users to protect their systems by using Protected View.

6: Web apps

Office 2010 offers Web-based applications, probably a response to Google Docs. The online applications aren't as robust as their full-blown desktop counterparts are, but they'll work in a pinch. Let users know they're available when they're on the road or want to work from home.

While in the office, users can upload documents to a Windows Live (SkyDrive) account. To save a document to SkyDrive, click the File tab, choose Share in the left pane, and then select Save to SkyDrive. Users can access these files from just about anywhere. All they need is Internet access and a browser. For more details, see 10 things you can do with Office 2010 Web Apps.

Supposedly, you can use your iPhone browser with Office Web apps, but I haven't tested that feature.

7: Paste Preview

Paste Preview is an enhancement that lets you preview a paste task before you actually commit to it. First, copy the text as you normally would and position the insertion point marker where you want to paste the text. Then, choose one of the Paste options from the Paste drop-down in the Clipboard group. As you can see in Figure D, hovering over a paste option previews the possibilities. You can see how the text will look if you paste it. This should save your users a lot of experimentation.

Figure D

Pasting is more efficient with Paste Preview.

8: Screenshots

You no longer need third-party software to create screenshots into Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, or Excel. On the Insert tab, use the Screenshot options in the Illustrations group instead. Because Screenshot works with open windows and not just the current Office application, you can capture information from lots of sources, so it's not just for writers creating Office manuals.

Figure E shows Screenshot's drop-down displaying three thumbnails of open windows. Simply click the shot you want to include in your document. Alternatively, choose Screen Clipping to copy just a portion. (Screenshots doesn't work with a minimized window.)

Figure E

Insert a picture of any open window into the current document.

9: PDF support

Saving a file to PDF format has never been easier. Click the File menu, choose Save & Send, and select the Create PDF/XLS Document option in the File Types section, as shown in Figure F. Then, click Create PDF/XLS, specify a folder for the document, and click Publish. Any user who generates lots of PDF documents from Office content will appreciate the upgrade, just for this one feature.

Figure F

Saving a document in pdf format is now built-in.

Technically, this feature showed up with Office 2007 SP2, but is touted as a new in Office 2010 -- perhaps because it's now part of the 2010 Backstage view configuration.

10: Clunky icons

Users might be confused by the new 2010 application icons, shown in Figure G. Each icon sports a single letter that supposedly represents its corresponding application. Well, there are two Ps -- for PowerPoint and Publisher -- and OneNote's icon sports an N. It certainly isn't a terrible problem, but users will need to pay attention until they're use to what icon launches which application.

Figure G

Clunky icons could confuse users.

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