The Cubicle Perspective: Microsoft Office 2010 for the Rest of Us

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Save Documents to the Web

The new version of Office lets you save backup copies of your documents online. That means you can retrieve projects later on, even when you don’t have your computer with you. The Web features aren’t as robust as those offered by Google Docs, which introduced a lot of people to the idea of composing, editing and retrieving documents from a Web page rather than with desktop software. Microsoft may be late to the cloud-computing party, but they give anyone who wants it a whopping 25 GB of free storage, which is more than enough to store tens of thousands of documents, or several new ones created every day for the rest of your life.

There are plenty of other little improvements. Excel junkies will like a new feature called “Sparklines” that lets you add small visual icons to help clarify trends in complex data sets. And anyone who uses Outlook will appreciate being able to clean up or ignore e-mail conversations.

There are also aspects of Office that merit improvement, particularly in how it works for novices. The program could do a better job of helping beginners escape the complexity of its menus. When you open the new version of PowerPoint for the first time, you’re greeted by 58 little buttons above the slide palette. That’s counting only the “Home” tab, which is just one of nine top-level menus. Clicking on “Insert” or “Review” surfaces dozens more tools and options.

To Microsoft’s credit, the clarity of the user interface has improved, with more effective icons and descriptive labels. And the process for sharing and reformatting documents is much improved. But the clarity doesn’t stretch far enough. Confronting dozens of mini buttons and icons can be distracting when all you want to do is type out a few bullet points or insert a few images. As powerful as Office has become, the one feature it needs more of is simplicity.

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