Take Microsoft Office 2007 for an online test drive. You need IE 6 or higher and a Citrix plugin that will automatically be installed.
I had seen photos of the new ribbon user interface but wasn’t sure that I liked it. After using it, I find that I like it very much. If you’re a power user, using the ribbon rather than the old icon and menu interface isn’t going to make much of a difference. However, if you’re new to computers and find the current menu and icon interface intimidating, you’re going to really like the ribbons. It’s going to finally allow my mother to easily create Word and even Excel documents.
According to Microsoft, the ribbon does not take up any more space than does the current system of menus and taskbars. Further, the ribbon keeps you from digging down 17 levels (yes, a slight exaggeration) of menus to do something like a mail merge, which I don’t do very often but need to be able to do it fast when I have to do it. Further, the ribbons can be easily collapsed. Here’s a picture of Excel 2007 with the ribbon turned on followed by a picture of Excel 2007 with the ribbons turned off.
Another thing that I like is the new SmartArt feature (more examples here). It makes it easy to create professional-looking looking objects within your documents. Not only that, but if you change document themes, the SmartArt object will change to match your new theme. Here’s a SmartArt object from the Microsoft website followed by a SmartArt object that I created in about 30 seconds (including playing with switching themes.
The only problem is that I fear that we will begin to see SmartArt everywhere. It’s a very useful tool but I fear that it will become overused.
Finally, I’m encouraged by the support of Word 2007 for blogging purposes. Word 2007 will produce clean HTML output that can be posted to a number of blog engines, including, I hope, Movable Type. I don’t know yet whether Movable Type 3.3 has a WYSIWYG interface but I do know that implementing one in Movable Type 3.2 was a pain.
Overall, I think that Microsoft Office 2007 will be a roaring success and, in 5 years, we’ll be looking back wondering how we ever got anything done with all those menu drilldowns and icons.