Adapting To Office 2007

Most Office 2007 programs sport a dramatically different interface, as well as new file formats. Here are some tips on how to adapt.

The first thing everyone notices about Office 2007 is the new interface. Gone are the traditional File, Edit, View, Tools menus. In their place we have The Ribbon. The ribbon is basically a tabbed set of toolbars. Three rows high, it groups related items like font settings, styles, page setup options, and so on, on tabs named things like Home, Insert, and Page Layout, so users can more easily find them. In addition settings are "live," for instance as one moves up and down the list of font sizes, the words actually change size on the page.

Microsoft says Office 2007 will not run on Windows XP's standard resolution of 800x600, and for good reason: the ribbon does take up a lot of space. Users with wide-screen monitors (often short vertically) can hide the ribbon until a tab is selected. To turn this on, right click one of the tabs and choose Minimize the Ribbon.

How to open or save files without a File menu? The giant button in the upper left hand corner with the colored Office logo on it is the doorway to many of the traditional "file" and "print" options.

The file format is also dramatically different, and is not compatible with earlier versions. The new Office 2007 files all sport a four-letter file name extension, such as .docx, .xlsx, or .pptx. The "x" is because the file data is stored in a more universal XML format. On the plus side, since XML tends to be wordy, Microsoft compresses the document files. As a result, .docx files can take up as little as 20% of the space of the same .doc file (however, they will not compress very much at all onto backup tape).

As we wrote in our What's New In IT online news column, Microsoft has add-ins available to add "save as PDF" functionality directly to Office 2007 programs, as well as a set of file converters to allow users with Office 2003 and earlier to open and save files in the new compressed file formats. That's quite handy instead of upgrading the entire office at once!

May 2007

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