Last week, starting May 15, the pre-release version of the forthcoming MS Office 2010 started to make its way into a select group of invited participants as part of Microsoft’s Technical Preview (whose official pre-release date isn’t until July). As has become typical for such previews, no sooner did this happen than screenshots of the new product began appearing online. Also as typical, Malaysian site ArsTechnica was the first to scoop this information, with their release on May 15 of a comprehensive set of screenshots, which have since been removed at the request of the Microsoft legal department. That said, CNET still has a pretty comprehensive set available as of May 24, but who know if they’ll still be there by the time you look for them.
What emerges is an installation process that’s more like the one for Office 2007 than it differs from that sequence, but where lots of details about look and feel have changed, and where more elements than ever before are present in the Enterprise version. There’s a bit more of a Windows 7 theme to the product, with the use of large icons and screen layouts reminiscent of the new OS everywhere. There is also quite a bit more network smarts in the suite, with more advanced options for content sharing, access control, and the ability to create PDF outputs. You can also choose to hide the whole Ribbon at the top of the screen, when you’re trying to maximize text viewing or input area on screen (this will be handy for those hardy enough to use Office on a netbook PC).
There are some amusing aspects to the preview itself (“Send a smile” for positive feedback, “Send a Frown” for negative). Outlook 2010 gets a bit of a makeover that looks to be for the better, with more intelligent Ribbon integration through its own explicit tab (instead of a top-left Window button). New elements include InfoPath Designer and a SharePoint Workspace, with reworked icons for all suite components.
It looks like this will be an interesting release for the leading enterprise productivity suite. I’ll be curious to keep up with — and report on — “push” installation capabilities, and other enterprise-focused features and capabilities. So far, news on this front is pretty non-existent.