Cheat Sheet: Office 2010

How Microsoft's latest set of office apps could shake up your working day

Is this the more boring sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey?
Not quite, it's Microsoft's latest package of software aimed at helping businesses get more productive.

OK, so remind me, what's in Office?
It's the latest version of the Outlook email platform, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access and the SharePoint collaboration technology.

Right, I'm with you now.
About time! Anyway, Office 2010 is now available for businesses, following 8.6 million downloads of the free beta version since it was made available in September 2009.

Nice. So what's new?
Well as you would expect, Microsoft has tweaked all of the applications within Office - for example the 'ribbon' previously seen along the top of some Office apps is now present in all of them.

That doesn't sound that radical...
There's more. Take Outlook for example: the email package now includes something called Outlook Social Connector which integrates external social networking options such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into your email.

Microsoft's business division president Stephen Elop

Microsoft's business division president Stephen Elop speaking at the official launch of Office 2010 in New York
(Photo credit: Microsoft)

Essentially, when you open an email from a contact, there will be an option to display a feed of that person's most recent activity on each social network that you've opted to connect with via Outlook. Microsoft says this is about bringing the various communications tools onto one dashboard so you can find relevant information more quickly.

Outlook also makes use of Office Communicator which provides presence and status information for people on your contact list: by hovering over a person's name you can see what they are up to and if they are available to initiate IM conversation or voice calls - without leaving Outlook.

What else is there?
One new feature on a number of Office applications is co-authoring. This means several people can work on a document presentation or spreadsheet simultaneously even if they're in different locations.

Looking at applications more individually, PowerPoint now allows you to embed video into your presentations to give them a bit more pizzazz.

And the Excel spreadsheet application has a new feature called Sparklines - small in-line charts that fit into single cells to discover trends.

Another new feature is Office Backstage, which according to Microsoft is a way of working with a document without actually editing the content, as you would using the Ribbon. So this includes things like saving and printing but also setting permissions, creating alternative versions, attachments and workflows.

Meanwhile, SharePoint Workspace 2010 replaces Office Groove and is essentially an interface to access your SharePoint team sites and view and edit files. Unlike Groove it incorporates discussion tasks and allows you to synchronise with Business Connectivity Services lists which connect SharePoint sites to external sources of data.

So is there a new version of SharePoint?
Yes, it was also launched on 12 May. SharePoint 2010 is a development of the system that allows you to create websites through which to share information and collaborate with different work teams.

Microsoft also made its Visio 2010 visualisation software and Project 2010 project management technology available on the same day.