Five ways to improve Microsoft Office 2010

I've just put the beta of Microsoft Office 2010 through its paces for a Computerworld review, and while there's plenty to like, there's plenty that should be made better as well. Here are five ways it can be improved.

Add Synchronization

Office 2010 Web Apps are the Web-based version of Office, and they let you create Office documents online, as well as open those documents in the client version of Office. But there's one thing that Web Apps don't do, and it's a very serious flaw: there is no automatic synchronization of files. Unlike in Google Docs, the files you create with Office Web Apps don't synchronize to your PC. This is a serious shortcoming, and makes the apps not nearly as useful as they should be.

The oversight is especially surprising, because Microsoft already has excellent synchronization technology, in Windows Live Mesh, and Windows Live Sync. Not having synchronization built it gives Google a feature that Office doesn't have -- not a good idea from Microsoft's point of view.

Let the Excel Web App Create Charts

Here's a surprise: The Web App version of Excel can't create charts. It can't do it in the beta, and Microsoft says it won't do it at launch. How can Microsoft leave out such a basic piece of functionality? It certainly can't be tough to do. This omission is just plain baffling.

Beef up the PowerPoint Web App

The PowerPoint Web App can't add backgrounds to presentation, or animations between slides. That's the case now, and will be the case at launch. This should change -- those are basic features of any solid presentation program.

Build in Facebook integration

Probably the niftiest addition to Office is the Outlook Social Connector, which will allow third parties and Web sites to write tools to integrate social networking sites with Outlook. Within Outlook, for example, you'll be able to see the status of your Facebook friends, and grab updated information from Facebook and LinkedIn.

It's a superb new feature...but you can't use it yet. Microsoft didn't write the required connectors to do it. Microsoft should immediately work closely with Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites, to get those connectors written, even during beta. It's a potentially killer feature, and would be great to be able to use it right away.

Add Twitter Capabilities to Outlook

There's one obvious thing missing from Outlook -- Twitter integration. It doesn't appear as if the Outlook Social Connector is set up to run with Twitter. That should change. You should be able to tweet and follow others on Twitter from right within Outlook.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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