The first public testing milestone of Office 2010 is now available for download, with Microsoft imposing no limitations on the number of users that can grab the bits, or on the period of availability. Office 2010 Beta Build 14.0.4536.1000
is offered in both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) flavors and can be used until October 2010, when the product is set to expire. Microsoft slaps expiration dates on all its pre-release and trial software, allowing testers to run the software for free in exchange for their feedback. This is the case of the various editions of Office 2010 Beta, which were launched at the Professional Developers Conference 2009 in Los Angeles.
“At PDC we announced the availability of the public betas of Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010, Project 2010 and Office Web Apps for business customers. If you’d like to be one of the millions of people who try, test and give feedback on the latest and greatest, you can download the betas,” revealed a member of the Office 2010 team.
As far as testing Builds go, this particular release of Office 2010 is the second milestone offered to early adopters. In mid-2009, Microsoft made available for download the Technical Preview of Office 2010, but only to a limited pool of testers. As I’ve already said, no restrictions have been imposed for accessing Office 2010 Beta Build 14.0.4536.1000. All users are free to download, install and run the productivity suite for almost an entire year, completely for free.
As Office 2010 Technical Preview wasn’t available to all users, those interested in having a look at what Microsoft offered back in July 2009 can do so via this article: Office 2010 CTP on Windows 7 RC - 173 Screenshot Gallery
. With the Beta bits now released, users can easily compare the two releases and see first-hand the evolution of Microsoft’s next generation productivity suite. (Office 2010 Beta 14.0.4536.1000 is available for download here
.)Office 2010 editions
There are three main SKUs of Office 2010 Beta that end users can download and test drive, all offered by Microsoft directly. Ahead of grabbing the actual bits, participants in the Office 2010 Beta testing program will need to sign up with the Redmond-based company. They will be able to do so via the Office 2010 Beta website. The signup process is key to running the Beta development milestone as it provides testers with the product key necessary to activate the product. This is valid for Office Home and Business 2010, Office Professional 2010 and Office Professional Plus 2010.
Of course, the software giant’s Stock Keeping Unit strategy (SKU) in relation to Office 2010 is much more complex than the three editions offered for Beta testing. According to the Redmond-based company, “Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 is the essential software suite for managing small businesses and working from home. Office Professional 2010 combines everything you need to create, edit, and share documents from virtually anywhere. You get top-of-the-line tools to run your business and projects efficiently.”
In addition to Office 2010 Home and Business, Microsoft will also deliver the Office 2010 Home and Student edition, essentially containing the same core components such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote with the last lacking Outlook 2010. As far as the Office System is concerned, Professional is the equivalent of the Ultimate SKU for Windows. Offerings such as Office 2010 Professional and Office 2010 Professional Plus come to the table with the entire range of applications that make up the suite.
While there are editions of Office 2010 that customers will be able to purchase at retail, there are also exceptions. Office 2010 Standard and Office 2010 Professional Plus will only be available to volume licensing customers. At the same time, Microsoft will work closely with original equipment manufacturers in order to pre-install Office 2010 Starter on new OEM computers. Starter is the free, ad-supported version of Office 2010, which will offer only basic functionality to end users, but will streamline upgrading if customers decide they need a higher grade SKU of the productivity suite. Office 2010, the evolution
“A new look - The Microsoft Office brand will sport a new look next year, reflecting technology innovations in Office 2010
. The re-design includes an updated Office logo, a new orange color palette for the Microsoft Office brand, and updated icons for Office 2010 applications that make it easier to quickly identify the Office products you work in,” Microsoft explained.
As you can see from the pictures accompanying this article, including the screenshots below, Office 2010 comes with an overhauled logo, which is designed to be more natural and cleaner compared to the visual identities of Office 2007 and Office 2003. Along with the new logo, the actual icons for the Office 2010 components have been redesigned. An important aspect in this regard is that Microsoft has already tailored the icon-related user experience to operating systems such as Windows Vista and Windows 7, which allow for such items to become oversized when users hold Ctrl and then scroll up with the mouse wheel on the desktop. Of course that scrolling down will dwarf the size of the icons, essentially allowing users to choose the proportions best suited for them.
Just as it was the case for the Technical Preview release, Office 2010 Beta applications come with a launch screen, personalized in accordance with each component. The screens, much in the same manner as for Adobe CS4 applications, will launch ahead of the actual program, only to die immediately after the specific Office 2010 component comes to life.
Changes on the surface of Office 2010 don’t stop with the new logo and icons, but continue with the graphical user interface. The Ribbon/Fluent UI has also evolved, not just from Office 2007 but also from Office 2010 Technical Preview. One of the most important changes is that in the top left hand side corner, the first item on the Ribbon menu is no longer marked through an icon of the respective application. Instead, users will now be able to access File from the Office 2010 Ribbon.
As far as the Ribbon is concerned, users will be happy to know that the GUI is now fully customizable. Accessing File, Options and then Customize Ribbon, customers will be able to personalize the Office 2010 GUI according to their liking. The degree of flexibility is simply excellent, with Microsoft allowing for the customization of Office 2010’s Ribbon not only on a per-tabs basis, but also down to actual commands.
An excellent addition to Office 2010 apps is the Paste Options pop-up menu that allows users to customize the way they want a certain piece of text to be inserted into a document. The default options involve keeping only the text, merging formats, or maintaining the same formatting as for the source.
Early adopters that have already played with Office 2010 Technical Preview will notice immediately that the Backstage View has been revamped completely. It is clear that Microsoft has been hammering away at the next iteration of its productivity suite in order to get it ready for general availability the coming year. In this sense, changes such as the Ribbon and the Backstage indicate an evolutionary development process for Office 2010, and early testers won’t get to see major changes.
One exception is without a doubt the new activation mechanism built into Office 2010. Testers are required to enter a product key and to activate the Beta Build 14.0.4536.1000 ahead of starting to use it, or learn to deal with an extremely annoying message in the Office 2010 components’ top bar. The Redmond-based company will have to fine tune the activation experience for end users, because the message that activation has failed doesn’t disappear after the product is successfully activated, but only after a restart of the Office 2010 application from which activation was given green light.
The x64 flavor of Office 2007’s successor is bound to resonate with some customers, especially those that want to take advantage of additional system memory. “Running Office 2010 64-bit provides the following advantages: Ability to utilize additional memory. Excel 2010 can load much larger workbooks. Excel 2010 made updates to use 64-bit memory addressing to break out of the 2-GB addressable memory boundary that limits 32-bit applications. Microsoft Project 2010 provides improved capacity, especially when you are dealing with many subprojects to a large project. Enhanced default security protections through Hardware Data Execution Prevention (DEP),” Microsoft noted.
“The final release of Office 2010
will debut next year, but we’re excited to allow everyone to start using the new features and tools that will help you collaborate, connect and work better together with others across the PC, mobile phone and browser,” the Office team representative added.
Office 2010 Beta 14.0.4536.1000 is available for download here