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During the MS Heartland Region’s quarterly Tech Night Live, I saw some of the cool  new Office 12 features demonstrated. There are some really great new things added and\or exposed in a way they never were before. As the person giving the demo explained, a lot of the things have always been in Office, we just made them easier to get to and use. More exposed.

  • In the “ribbon” which is the current term for the new toolbar paradigm, you can hover over buttons or options and see them instantly previewed in your document. No more select and then undo if you don't like what you ended up with.
  • The new document format is XML. What is really cool is that in reality, each component of, for example, a Word document is an XML file or “stream.” The headers and footers, body, etc. If you take the resulting saved Office 12 .docx document and rename it with a .zip extension, you will see that it actually is a .zip file. Open it up. All the individual .xml files are contained inside as well as files holding the binary content (like pictures and graphics) that cannot exist inside of a text-based XML file. There is also a .doc version of the file for backwards compatibility.
  • What this also means is that you can programmatically (or in “batch”) edit multiple files (say the headers and footers) at once by attacking the needed XML pieces of the file(s).
  • The files are also smaller since they are compressed.
  • Excel had some really nice new features around tables and presenting data. You can “overlay” graphical markers on top of numbers in cells to help give an instant visual assessment of the data. You can also automatically apply table formatting and preview the results before applying in a much more intuitive fashion.
  • I am a huge OneNote freak. OneNote has some impressive new features as well. While it has been said that it wont get “the ribbon” I am happy with the kind of things going on in this Beta 1 release. You can even read about OneNote Mobile. More of what I like to see for organizing my data. Chris Pratley’s blog is a great read for OneNote fans.
  • OneNote now allows for multiple notebooks which are arranged in tabs along the left-hand edge of the application. So now while I grow frustrated for content to big for a page but too little for a section (I hate when I have to scroll my sections) I can now move that to a section and the section organizational more to a new notebook (for client technical notes for instance).
  • Screen clipping exists in OneNote now (as of SP1) but screen clipping in OneNote 12 goes one step further. OneNote can actually (for lack of a better term) recognize (OCR) and index the text on a screen clipping in order to make it searchable from within OneNote. I dont know if by extension of that it can also then be indexed by MSN Desktop\Enterprise Search but that would be amazing if it could. This was demonstrated by screen clipping the XBox homepage. It scanned the whole page and then we searched on “mojave.” Sure enough, it found it and even highlighted it on the clipping. Way cool.
  • PowerPoint has some neat things around being able to transform bulleted text in to graphical representations (called IGX if memory serves). And it is supremely easy to adjust the graphics, add items and preview them all. The semi-arcane method of adding animations to slides is better now as well. You can preview things instantly as well.
  • Outlook also had some nice touches. The “ribbon” has not been added to the main UI yet, but when you compose emails and meeting requests it was viewable. At first glance it looked like nothing had changed. Oh snap! You can add a fourth pane that is a task-oriented command center of sorts (to-do bar). It shows from top to bottom: month view calendar, next 3 appointments, tasks ranked in order of due date\importance. You can overlay multiple calendars now instead of just viewing them side by side.
  • When sending updates to appointments you have already accepted, you see the changes highlighted in color and there is no need to re-accept. Your calendar is updated. Nice. Very nice.

Rumor has it there will be a public beta (beta 2) in the first part of 2006. If you dont have Office 2003 yet, and are planning to purchase it in the near future, tack on SA (Software Assurance) to be eligable to upgrade to Office 12 (Office 2006 or Office Vista? Hmmm, they broke the mold for Office XP) for free when it is released (do you think they will raise the price in the new version??). SA also allows you to run Office at Home, maintain cold backup versions of software without licenses for disaster recovery and use the TechNet Conceirge among other things.


 

Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 6:12 AM | Back to top


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