Office 2007 – my top 9 points of interest so far!

I’m lovin’ the new Microsoft Office 2007 user interface, and the application is packed full of new and really cool features. Whilst the new user interface is a new way of working, it seems to be very usable, which is a good thing.

1. The Windows Vista Calibri font rocks. On my laptop and TFT Calibri looks crisp’n’clear, Word is very responsive and feels very fluid. Visit the Vista Developer Center.

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2. Integrated and active status bar. Notice the word count and zoom facilities built right in to the status bar at the bottom of the screenshot above? Yes, these features were available via other means in Word 2003, however now they are click-able and herald a new design pattern for the user interface.

3. Live selected text. I’m not 100% sure that this is a good feature, but it certainly looks handy nonetheless. Select some text and you’ll see a format bar hint at fading in…move the mouse over the faded format bar and it fades up completely (there’s a screenshot below). It’s great for formatting “one-off” documents that don’t use Word’s built-in Styles, which might be a problem from a corporate perspective.

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4. Built-in Document Inspector and cleaning facility. Office 2003 relied on a after-market plug-in that cleaned up personal information from documents, now it’s part of the product:

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5. File Types. Office 2007 actively and visually differentiates between various versions of its documents.

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What’s that .zip file? Hold that thought, that’s next!

Notice the size of the .docx and the 2003 .doc, we’ll learn why there’s a difference in a moment:

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6. What’s more cool, if you take a look at the earlier screenshot, is the fact that the .docx extension is actually nothing more than a Compressed Folder, or .zip file. And you can rename .docx files as .zip and look inside! Here’s what’s inside the .docx:

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And inside the word directory, well, there’s our document…and it’s an XML Document!

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7. This rocks, think of the potential for dynamic creation of Office 2007 documents on machines that don’t have Office 2007 installed. Dynamic inspection of the XML document too. And of course, XML documents are text-based, so they’ll compress very well indeed…unlike the binary format (26Kb versus 14Kb as you can see from the earlier screenshot). Here’s a cropped screenshot of the XML:

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Microsoft have submitted the Office XML formats to ECMA for standardisation. More about the file formats can be found over at OpenXML Developer. This is truly an excellent move, essentially making the file format open source and non-proprietary.

8. Blog this. Blogs have invaded our lives from all angles, and now the ability to “blog” a document is built in to the product. Out of the box support for MSN Spaces, Blogger, Sharepoint and Community Server is provided, as is support for MetaWebLog and Atom. An “other” option opens “Blog This” up to other blogging engines. I’ll test this using WordPress and report back later.

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9. Lastly, live’n’dynamic tables. Inserting a table is visual in two ways. Firstly, when you decide how many rows and columns you need, secondly, a live table is drawn in your document:

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I’ll post back here if I find other useful Office 2007isms in my travels.