On the Road with Office 2007

And learning that SharePoint is the center of the Office universe

In airports on my way to San Francisco for a Microsoft Office 2007 reviewers' workshop last week, I became the envy of everyone in the security lines. I had just bought a Fujitsu P1500 LifeBook Notebook Tablet PC so small (9" x 6") that it fits in my purse. I've never had so many strangers ask me about a device as when I pulled that machine out for its X ray.

I got my tiny Tablet because I'm frustrated trying to type on my big Dell Latitude when I have to fly coach. My regular laptop won't even open all the way when the person in front of me leans back, and I had to finish an article on last week's flight. And after having used the Office 2007 beta on a desktop for some time now, I wanted to see how the Office beta would work on a Tablet PC.

Subjective Highlights and Issues
Although I quickly got used to Office 2007's new Ribbon UI, it isn't always intuitive. The first time I worked in Word 2007, I finally had to resort to my phone-a-friend lifeline when I couldn't find the File menu. Turns out, you have to click on the Office logo on the top left corner of the screen. (Go figure.) I still sometimes can't find features I often work with, and I wonder how big a burden the learning curve will be for Help desks when companies roll out Office 2007 to end users.

My favorite features? As someone who uses the mouse instead of keyboard shortcuts (I know—eveybody thinks I'm crazy), I love Word's new mini-toolbar that pops up with common formatting options when I'm typing or editing and I highlight some text.

Excel's new Conditional Formatting options, which let you graphically view data trends right in the spreadsheet, are outstanding. Excel's most impressive enhancements are its business intelligence (BI) capabilities, especially the ease with which anyone can now create and manipulate pivot tables.

On my desktop, everything revolves around email. Outlook's new time-and information-management features are impressive. You can preview attachments inline with messages, and you can have a To-Do Bar that integrates upcoming appointments and tasks into one view. I'm drooling over the calendar capabilities.

I've had a couple of typical but minor beta issues: The handwriting recognition in OneNote has done quirky things, such as inserting some blobby graphics for reasons I haven't figured out. Word's new XML file format tripped me up when I had to give a speech one evening. I thought I was being clever and emailed the text to my Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry. Oops—BlackBerry doesn't yet understand the new format. I should have saved it to the old format. My bad!

SharePoint: The Center of the Universe
I don't have space here to talk about all the Office apps and their features, and you can read Paul Thurrott's full review of Office 2007 at http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/. But what struck me most about Microsoft's presentations about Office 2007 was that every talk on each Office application always came back to a demonstration of how much value integration with Microsoft SharePoint Services 3.0 adds. (And I can't tell you how many times the presenters showed off the PowerPoint slide libraries, a feature that lets "members of an organization make the most of existing content." This is clearly a feature driven by Microsoft's culture and need, and the company sure is proud of it!)

A quick overview: SharePoint 3.0 features include version control; document check-in/out; metadata for information discovery and management; workflow; document management policies by document type; auditing; and role-based access control at the document library, folder, and document levels. Collaboration features include shared contacts, calendars, and tasks; email integration; team discussion boards; application templates such as Help desk request, project management, and attendance reporting; and support for wikis, blogs, and Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Clearly, Microsoft is betting big on collaboration, and this release should hammer that point home. To respond to the increasing importance of SharePoint and Office to our readers, Window IT Pro will be providing more SharePoint and Office articles and resources. In addition, if you're not familiar with our sister site MSD2D.com, check out http://www.msd2d.com/default_section.aspx?section=sharepoint, the industry's most respected SharePoint site. The site's extensive resources include tips, forums, and newsletters. Read what Bob Mixon, our new SharePoint community leader, has to say about the site's evolving direction and give him your feedback. And please let me know what SharePoint and Office content you'd like to see in this magazine and our other resources.

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