What’s New in 2007 Microsoft® Office System

Excerpt from our book 2007 Microsoft® Office System Plain & Simple.


Much of Microsoft Office 2007 has been built on an entirely new structure, and you’ll find that some of its features look different from those of earlier versions and work quite a bit differently too. The first conspicuously new feature you’ll encounter when you start Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, or create a new message in the Outlook Editor, will undoubtedly be the Ribbon. And where are the menus and toolbars? That’s the beauty of the Ribbon. No longer do you have to wander through the maze of menus, submenus, and toolbars searching for what you want—they’re all right there, in plain sight, at a glance. On the Ribbon are all the commands, styles, and resources you need, arranged on task-oriented tabs. Click the Page Layout tab to see all the tools and resources you need to lay out your document’s pages. Click the Insert tab to insert something into your file—how simple, and how sensible! The one and only menu remaining from earlier versions of the programs is the Office menu—hidden until you click the big, round Office button—which gives you access to most of your file-management commands. The one remaining toolbar is the Quick Access toolbar, where you can place your most frequently used commands and resources for easy access, regardless of which tab of the Ribbon is active.

Another aspect of replacing the menus was the development of the galleries. These are the graphical equivalents of drop-down menus, except that they show you samples of all the choices that are available for you to “try on.” There are many different galleries—for styles, for themes, for page numbers, and so on. The galleries provide you with the ability to look before you leap, so to speak. With Live Preview, you can see how the formatting you choose will change your text, pictures, or other content; or how the overall look of your document will change when you switch the theme simply by pointing to the different items in the galleries.

So what else is new in these programs other than the entire interface? Plenty! Some of the biggest changes you’ll encounter are the new file types. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access use a whole new file structure that, unfortunately, isn’t directly compatible with earlier versions of these programs. Of course, you can open and use files from earlier versions, but people who are using any earlier version of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint will need to download and install a converter so that they can open the files you create using the Office 2007 file format. However, the good news is that the new file format is what enables many of the improvements in these Office 2007 programs.

Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the Outlook Editor also include an entirely new graphics tool, SmartArt graphics, designed to help you create diagrams and lists that not only present your information graphically but take the finished product to a new level of professionalism. However, even if you don’t use SmartArt graphics, you’ll find that the formatting and special effects you can apply so easily to shapes, text boxes, and pictures can produce some amazing results. And it’s not only all the new stuff that expands your capabilities; some existing features have been greatly enhanced too. In Word and PowerPoint, and in the Outlook Editor, the ability to check your spelling has become much more accurate and comprehensive. Now you can check the contextual use of words: for example, should it be “to” or “too,” “there” or “their”? You get the picture. If you’re involved in mathematics, science, or engineering, you’ll appreciate the enhanced Equations feature, which not only supplies some predesigned equations that you can edit but also makes it easy to create your own equations and save them for future use.

In Outlook and Publisher—two of the programs that don’t use the Ribbon—you’ll find some changes that are less dramatic than those in the Ribbon-based programs but that substantially improve the programs nevertheless. In Outlook, for example, you’ll see the new To-Do Bar that helps you keep track of your appointments and tasks but stays out of the way when you don’t need it. In Publisher, creating attractive publications is easier than ever with the simple switching of designs and easy-to-apply layouts. A really useful addition to Publisher is the Content Library, where you can keep all sorts of content that you can use over and over again.

Despite the differences among the programs that we’ve pointed out, what all the 2007 Office programs have in common is greatly improved file safety and security. You’ll be better able to control access to your files—for example, you can indicate when a file is completed and specify that no further changes may be made to it. You can easily check for and remove any sensitive or personal information in your files that you don’t want other people to have access to. You can digitally sign a file to provide verification in the electronic file that it really was you who signed it. With Office’s improved file-recovery system, your files are now not only more secure from loss than ever before, but the new file system also assists you in being able to recover files if they’ve become corrupted. And, if you end up with any system problems involving the Office programs and your computer, you can easily run a series of diagnostics that can determine the problem and either fix it or get you the help you need to get it fixed.