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Microsoft Office Professional 2007 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £335
inc VAT

Microsoft’s Office has been around since 1990 on the PC, and the Mac version was launched a year earlier.

With Office 2007, the choice of packages has risen to five, but all contain Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The budget Home and Student Edition is unique in that it can be installed on three computers and includes the note-taking application OneNote.

All other versions include Outlook, with the Professional package reviewed here adding the database programs Publisher and Access. The Ultimate suite includes all components, plus tools for team-working and collaboration. Prices range from £50 to £460. At £335, Office Professional is the most expensive package here.

While Office 2003 represented a minor reworking of 2000, Office 2007 is substantially different from previous versions. Microsoft has replaced conventional menu and toolbar navigation with the ‘ribbon’ – a tabbed toolbar that gathers related functions into groups. For the most part it works excellently, but it can be frustrating when the functions you need for one task are split between different tabs. You can’t create a custom tab, but a customisable Quick Access Toolbar provides a workaround.

Word is one of the most fully featured word processors here, and it’s generally very easy to use. There’s an advanced word count feature, but a simple version giving the length of a selection and the whole document is displayed at the base of the screen. Word has excellent features for tracking changes and their authors, and lets you insert comments around sections of text; this helps identify the passage to which a comment relates. However, we had to switch off track changes before the software would remove a hyperlink from our test document.

Word’s default paragraph spacing is at odds with three of the other packages. A single carriage return inserts a 10pt line break, rather than just starting a new line. You can change this, but you need to update Word’s templates to stop it happening for each document. Clear Type font smoothing, used by Office applications regardless of the system setting, can also be turned off.

The Office ribbon gives Excel a far more modern feel than previous versions. Those familiar with previous releases may have to re-learn their way around the application, but the changes are generally worthwhile. The Formulas tab may offend language purists, but it provides quick drop-down access to Excel’s function library and makes it quick and easy to create formulae. A predictive function lists all the valid options as you type – helpful if you’re rusty on the correct syntax.

PowerPoint is an effective way to create attractive presentations. It contains comprehensive support for graphics, sound and video content, plus many other tricks to help you create clear or eye-catching work. Office Professional also includes Publisher, which retains the old menu-based navigation. Still, its handy task pane serves a similar role to the ribbon, giving quick access to templates and formatting options.

Outlook also uses menus, but it still feels different to earlier versions. It’s a comprehensive mail client with advanced calendar, contact and task-management features. It’s the only mail software here with native support for Exchange. Microsoft’s mail server provides server-side mailbox storage, but permits folder and calendar sharing between multiple Outlook users.

Annoyingly, you’ll need a third-party plug-in to open or save OpenDocument formats, and one from Microsoft to save PDF files and XPS (its own format). In our last review of Office 2007 (Labs, Shopper 247), we had problems opening XPS files under Windows XP, but there were no problems this time. Microsoft says that native support for all these formats will be added in Service Pack 2, due in the first half of 2009. Office is a comprehensive, powerful suite, but it’s not cheap. You can buy OEM licences for less than the prices given here, but these come without support. At £50 for a three-user licence, Home and Student edition is a good buy if you can live without Outlook, but high-quality free alternatives such as make the comprehensive versions seem expensive.

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