Q: I’ve got an old computer that has Office 2003 on it that I am about to replace. Should I get Office 2007 or Office 2010 if I am going to upgrade? — Kyle
A: Microsoft’s Office Suite has become so ubiquitous that many people buying new computers just assume that it’s part of Windows, which it isn’t.
Even though you’re using Office 2003 on your old computer and will likely have Windows 7 on your new computer, as long as you have the original disk you can install and run Office 2003 on your new computer with no problem.
If you want to upgrade, the costs may be about the same for either 2007 or 2010 depending upon when and where you buy your computer.
The biggest complaint for those that have upgraded from Office 2003 to Office 2007 is the new navigation system known as the ‘ribbon,’ which dramatically changed the way you work with the various programs.
The actual menu system that has been in Office products from the beginning changed dramatically when Office 2007 was released (big mistake, IMHO).
For those willing to work through the learning curve of the new interface, the general response is that it’s more useful, but I have yet to meet anyone that fell in love with the ribbon system from the beginning.
Microsoft heard the uproar, loud and clear, so Office 2010 has more of the traditional menu system (Backstage) intertwined with the new ribbon system so that it’s less traumatic. It also added the ability to fully customize each ribbon, which again, if you are willing to spend the time learning, will be very handy.
Other improvements of Office 2010 over 2007 include:
- Paste preview: You can now preview text or graphics before you paste them in
- Improved picture-editing tools: many more adjustments that you can make to images on-the-fly (including background removal)
- Better text effects in Word
- Sparklines for Excel: add mini charts inside of a cell to show trending of the adjacent data
- Easier embedding and editing of video in PowerPoint
- Easy Web broadcasting of your PowerPoint presentations: others can see your presentation via their Web browser
- Outlook gets social: You won’t have to switch to see your Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. feeds
- Outlook adds Conversation view: see your email messages as a conversation (like Gmail) instead of individual messages
- Better search tools throughout
- Stronger security settings: better tools to protect documents from unauthorized access & editing
- Office Web Apps: a limited online version for document sharing and calibration (to compete with Google Docs)
In my opinion, if you’re going to upgrade, spend your money on Office 2010 so you get the benefit of what Microsoft learned from Office 2007’s issues.
If you are an Office ‘power user’ you will likely appreciate the new features in Office 2010 more than someone that occasionally taps out a document, never or rarely uses Excel, or has no need to create PowerPoint presentations.
There are still two other alternatives that you may want to look into and they are both free!
OpenOffice is a ‘generic’ version of Microsoft’s Office suite and is generally compatible with Microsoft’s file formats. I say generally, because formatting is often lost or altered when converting a Microsoft Office file into an OpenOffice format and vice versa (though even going from an older version of a Microsoft Office file to a new one can have similar formatting problems).
If you only use the basics and don’t have to collaborate with other users on documents, OpenOffice is more than capable of allowing you to be productive.
Last, if you want to make it easy to work with documents from many different machines, you might want to consider moving to the “cloud’ by using Google Docs.
Google Docs is a basic, but solid online alternative to installing productivity software on your new computer. You simply log into your Google account and work with all of your documents ‘in the cloud,’ which is actually on Google’s secured servers.
The downside to Google Docs is that you must have an Internet connection to access and work on your documents (not so good on airplanes, etc.), so make sure you think through how and when you will work with your documents.
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