Today, Microsoft will ship a major update to its Beta 2 version of 2007 Microsoft Office. Dubbed a Technical Refresh (TR), the update offers new functionality and quality improvements. Microsoft describes this release as the final public beta version of the product and will make it available as an update for the full Beta 2 release, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site.
"This technical refresh is the final external product milestone," a Microsoft statement reads. "As we look toward the 2007 Office System business availability launch later this year, we anticipate the feedback we have received from customers will make this the most solid version of Office ever released."
Based on my experience using this release over the past several days, Office 2007 Beta 2 users are going to want to update. Unlike Beta 2, the Office 2007 TR build works well with Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) and includes some excellent new features, such as ribbon hiding, which takes the UI from Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to its logical, Spartan conclusion. (In other words, it's about as complicated as the UI for Notepad in this mode.)
Office 2007 TR is also far more refined than Beta 2, with a more finished look and feel. The product features three themes, including blue and silver for Windows XP and a sleek dark gray UI that looks particularly nice on Vista. Microsoft reports that it has made almost 1000 changes to the ribbon in Office 2007 since Beta 2 and has added a host of new customization options as a result of user feedback.
I'll have a full review of Office 2007 Beta 2 TR available on the SuperSite for Windows later today.