3x MS Beta 2 (and subway mirroring)

Ding-dong ... IT Blogwatch calling, in which Microsoft releases a clutch of "Beta 2s". Not to mention random subway amusements with imaginary mirrors...

At Microsoft's WinHEC event, Vista Beta 2, Office 2007 Beta 2, and Longhorn server Beta 2 are being doled out. Ian Lamont points us to the extensive Computerworld report:

"The new review of Microsoft's 2007 Office Beta 2. Office is a must-have software package for many companies, and tweaks to the UI or functionality will have a direct impact on the work processes of millions of users. The review details of new features users can expect to see in Word (interactive previews of styles, PDF exports), Outlook (multiple calendars, improved To-Do lists, RSS support) and other Office programs ... It's over 3000 words long, with sections on each major element of Office, and over a dozen screenshots. Nor is the review a reworked press release. It points out several shortcomings as well as improvements."

And here are extracts from the report "You'll notice the most significant change to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and many screens in Outlook 2007. Gone are the familiar toolbars and menus; they've been replaced by 'ribbons' that house a variety of buttons, icons and graphics ... the Home ribbon in Word offers shortcuts for the clipboard (cut, copy, paste) and font formatting (font and font size, underlines and superscripts and so on) -- the kind of everyday tasks most of us use in Word ... Word is the Office application that has changed the most in this release ... Other features we like include the ability to save a document in PDF format as well as XPS ... SmartArt is another welcome addition for improving your documents' visual appeal ... There aren't a significant number of new features in Excel ... Charting features have improved; the graphics sport a more polished, up-to-date look. Unfortunately, finding the right set of tools in the ribbon proved frustrating ... Outlook adds a host of useful features ... support for multiple calendars ... The new To-Do bar integrates a calendar, upcoming appointments and a list of tasks into a single panel ... a new Instant Search that lets you locate information in e-mail messages, your contacts, tasks or calendar items ... The major change in Beta 2 was the introduction of Office SharePoint Server ... Microsoft's direction is clear: sharing, collaborating, searching ... Corporate training courses will have to be rewritten ... Microsoft says its testing shows that users pick up the new interface quickly. We're not so sure ... the suite now uses a Zip-compatible XML-based file structure ... you can still open and edit .DOC files in Word, files are automatically saved in DOCX format ... Pricing is available ... You can download the beta."

» Robert L. Mitchell likes Outlook's texting feature: "One of the more interesting developments ... enable support for SMS text messages within Outlook 2007 ... also plans to widen access to Outlook as a unified messaging repository by enabling telephone access ... users will be able to send text messages to a participating user's cell phone number and receive replies back to their Outlook inboxes ... There are a few catches ... only Verizon Wireless will offer the SMS service ... sign up with Verizon individually and the additional fees Verizon will charge for the service were not disclosed ... Outlook will not store and index SMS message traffic ... shown at a recent reviewer's workshop, was the 'live' demonstration of an interactive voice response (IVR) system that lets users access their Outlook calendars by telephone ... able to postpone or cancel meetings and create an explanatory voice message that is routed to participants."

» Mary Jo: "Microsoft is releasing three new betas to coincide with the first day of its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) ... early reviews are pouring in ... attendees are slated to get the DVD versions of all three betas on Wednesday; TechNet and MSDN subscribers will be able to download the betas this week, and other testers will get access to the test builds some time thereafter."

» T David goes hmmm: "beta is now available for download, sort of. Servers are most definitely getting pounded ... The full suite is over 2GB, ouch."

» Vlad Mazek: "Oh god I hate PR weasels. What they fail to mention ... is that Beta, Microsoft for 'broken', is a miracle of software development when software actually works ... be stupid enough to test their hypothesis and destroy your system Microsoft will send you to a newsgroup where you will have to rely on kindness of strangers to get yourself back to normal ... perhaps it will work flawlessly the first time. Thats the risk ... The interface, interaction and behavior of 2007 is drastically different and in two simple words - kicks ..."

» Scuttlemonkey: "Word is the most changed. Styles are easier to invoke, but no easier to create or understand. A couple of the redeeming characteristics is the ability to save as PDF and XPS and an improved Track Changes. Bigger spreadsheets are available in Excel -- over 1 million rows and over 16,000 columns per worksheet -- and new and better visualization abilities."

» Jensen Harris is a fan: "The best way to experience the new user interface is simply to try it. No matter what you think of the screenshots you’ve seen or what I’ve written here, consider giving it a test drive for a few weeks. I hope you won’t want to go back to your current version of Office. Beta 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s proven a great platform for my day-to-day work over the last month. In fact, last weekend I upgraded my home computer."

» Linguae at Slashdot, asks "Who moved my cheese?": "But I like my menu bars and toolbars, thank you very much ... I don't like it when programs try to be 'smart' and hide features away from me. There must be an option to use the old menus and toolbars in Office 2007; if not, then I'm not buying it ... To me, the Windows 2000 interface was the perfect user interface; I still use Classic on my Windows XP partition, and even my KDE desktop on FreeBSD is reminiscent of Windows 2000 ... When XP and Office 2000 become obsolete, I would have long switched to FreeBSD and OS X with OpenOffice by then ... Why must they change the interface when the old one worked so well?"

Buffer overflow:

    Around the Net

    Around Computerworld

And finally... How to amuse yourself on the subway

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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