Big 5/10 What’s New in the Office 2010 Big 3

I delivered a What’s New in Office 2010 workshop recently, and I would like to summarize here.  I set myself the task of naming the 5 biggest what’s new features in each of the major office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint).  What about OneNote?  Yes, with the advent of web apps it has finally grown up, but more on that below.  The ribbon interface introduced with Office 2007 has now been extended to all the programs, including Outlook, which is the major what’s new with that venerable program.  OneNote and Outlook aside, I have constrained my comments below to the big 3 Office programs:  Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Since the Office 2010 programs corporately have inherited a number of new features, mostly related to what Microsoft is calling “backstage view,” but which most users are calling “the file tab,” I will name the big 5 what’s new corporately first,followed by what’s new in the programs individually.  I guess that makes it the big 10, but who’s counting.

File Tab - Your Gateway to Backstage View1.  Backstage view is indeed well done (though I wish they would drop the silly show-biz name and just call it the file tab like everyone else in the world).  It incorporates several new features which have really been well considered and executed.  My choice, therefore, for number 1 what’s new feature–which is really a group of great features–is backstage view.  Backstage view includes a wonderful new Print dialog, with dynamic page preview; access to 50 recent documents and places, pinnable, if you will; document version control and recovery of even unsaved documents;  save to the web through your SkyDrive, and transparent editing and collaboration with the new web apps and desktop apps (!); and much more.  Well done Microsoft.

2.  Paste Preview.  I have shown this one off in a number of workshops, and it always gets an “Ahhh” response.  So simple, yet so effective.  The idea is that you now have a live preview of what you are about to paste into your document, and the full range of paste possibilities (and it can be full indeed in Excel) are displayed.

3.  Web apps.  While still handicapped by a fairly limited feature set, the web apps will revolutionize collaboration and portability of Office projects because they are so easy to use and because they work so well with the SkyDrive that comes along with them.  Microsoft gives away 25GB of storage (single document size limit 50MB–which is a problem with PowerPoints that have video) with each account.

4.  Customizable Ribbon.  I’m not sure how many average users will take advantage of the new ability to customize the ribbon, but for “power users” (does anyone still use that term with its Nietzschean overtones?) it is very welcome.  You can now produce your own tabs, your own groups, populate them with any command sets you wish, even re-arrange the default tab sets to suite your needs.

5.  Photo Editing Tools.  The photo editing tools that were very rudimentary in Office 2007 have been significantly enhanced in 2010 and applied to the full range of Office products.  To find the new tools, select a photo or picture you have inserted in an Office document and click the Format tab on the Picture Tools tab, a context sensitive tab that will pop up at the top of the ribbon.  The new tools include simple methods to soften or sharpen pictures, adjust brightness and contrast, control color temperature, great new cropping features, like crop-to-shape, a set of Artistic Effect filters similar to those built-in to Photoshop, and the show stopper, a background removal tool.  Have fun with these.

Ok.  That’s the top 5 new features that all the apps share.  Now for the top 5 what’s new individual features.


1.  Formatting with Styles and the Navigation Pane.  Formatting with styles is not new, of course, but the navigation pane, which gets organized by the styles you use, is.  And its great.  Finally Word has the same navigation/organization features that have made bookmarks/thumbnails in PDF documents so popular.  The navigation pane is also the best way to search your document now and visually inspect the search hits, or replace all simultaneously.  Turn on the navigation pane on the View tab.

2.  Formatting with Themes.  Access the newly enhanced Office Themes on the Page Layout tab.  Simply hover over a theme to see its effect on your document in live preview.  Note also that you can globally modify theme colors, fonts or effects with the controls next to the Themes gallery.  If you have used styles to format your document initially, the strength of Themes really shines.

3.  Save to Web and Collaboration.  With a account a 25GB SkyDrive becomes available in order to save Word (or other Office documents) to the web.  When web folders are created, permissions to the folders and their documents can be shared, and email invitations to edit the documents can easily be sent.  If collaborators then open their web-based documents in their desktop versions of Word communication bubbles will pop-up indicating who is currently editing the document.  When changes are synced they are available to all collaborators.  Save to Web is found in the Save & Send area of Backstage View.

4.  Ligatures and New Word Art Effects.  While irrelevant to many users, typography in Word has undergone a revolution with the new Open Type format, which now allows for control of styles and particularly ligatures in certain fonts.  Access ligatures for specified fonts (like Gabriola) on the Font > Advanced dialog box.

The sample above is text from a Word document (though represented as a graphic here), and has been formatted with ligatures and WordArt styles.  It can still be edited as text, inspected by Word for spelling, grammar, etc. and otherwise maintains all the characteristics of text.

5.  Protected View.  Now, if you open a Word document:

  • downloaded from the Internet,
  • as an attachment to an Outlook message,
  • from an unsafe location, like your Temporary Internet Files folder,
  • one that has been defined by network policy as unsafe,
  • or when the file fails a validation test,

the document is opened in “protected view,” which means that it is opened in Read-only mode in a “sandbox” area of memory so that any potential exploits it may contain cannot invade your system.


Though not all that much has changed with Excel, there are several new features that are intriguing and useful.

1.  Sparklines.  Sparklines are mini-charts that reveal trends, alongside the actual data, in a small amount of space.  Create and format sparklines with any tabular data by using the Sparkline commands on the Insert tab.

2.  Slicers.  Slicers are visual controls that let you quickly filter data in a PivotTable in an interactive, intuitive way. If you insert a slicer, you can use buttons to quickly segment and filter the data to display just what you need. In addition, when you apply more than one filter to your PivotTable, you no longer have to open a list to see which filters are applied to the data. Instead, it is shown there on the screen in the slicer. You can make slicers match your workbook formatting.

3.  Paste with Live Preview.  I know I mentioned this one above, but its utility in Excel is spectacular.  You can use it to preview various paste options, such as Keep Source Column Widths, No Borders, or Keep Source Formatting. The live preview enables you to visually determine how your pasted content will look before you actually paste it in the worksheet. When you move your pointer over Paste Options to preview results, you’ll see a menu containing items that change contextually to best fit the content you are reusing. ScreenTips provide additional information to help you make the right decision.

4.  Conditional Formatting Icons.  There are now a bunch of new icons for use with conditi0nal formatting to supplement the basic set from Excel 2007, and more new options for colored databars.

5.  New Search Filter.  The search filter box for tables, pivot tables and pivot charts now behaves something like a browser search box where search results begin to appear instantly as you type search terms and you can deselect the ones you do not want Excel to filter.


1.  Video, video and video.  You can now trim video right within PowerPoint, and add markers within video files that serve as triggers to video events.  It is now also possible to add graphics effects (shadows, reflections, glow, recolor, etc.) to video frames.  The really big news is that it is now simple to add YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu and other video service videos directly into PowerPoint.  An Internet connection is required for them to play back.  You can even use an autoplay video as the background to a slide, and place multiple videos on top of it.

2.  Sections.  You can organize large slide decks to be more manageable and easier to navigate by using sections. Additionally, you can collaborate with others to create a presentation by labeling and grouping your slides into sections. For example, each colleague can be responsible for preparing slides for a separate section.You can name, print, and apply effects to an entire section.

3.  New Transitions and Animations.  There are some terrific new transitions and animations included in PowerPoint.  The transitions take full advantage of modern graphics cards by adding 3D effects.  The Transitions and Animations tabs have been separated, at last, and there is a fabulous new “Animation Painter” tool like the format painter that makes it easy to add the same animations to a number of slide objects.

4.  Save As Video.  It is now possible to save your presentation as a WMV video, which will include your narrations and timings, if you have made them.  While not as good as saving with Camtasia this is a free alternative solution for saving your actual presentation to the web.

5.  New Create Handouts Feature.  On the Save & Send command in backstage view there is a new command called “Create Handouts.”  A variety of preformatted choices can be chosen, including slide thumbnails with accompanying speaker’s notes.  The document is exported to Word, from where it can be further edited and customized as desired.

There is lots more new with PowerPoint, but these are my favorites.  The new Office is improved greatly, and the web apps and web storage/sync make it irresistible.