The Computer Blog

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The New Word - Previewing Word 2007

I am writing this using the Microsoft Office 2007 trial version of Word. The first thing I noticed was the new layout which is tab rather than menu oriented. On first glance, I like it! It seems to put most of the highly used functions up front where you can find them.

Microsoft is now allowing a 60 day trial of all the various versions of the new Office, so I chose to take a look at the Standard version. It comes with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and plethora of Office Tools, including Microsoft Picture Editor, Clip Organizer, Snapshot Viewer, and others. It also installed a set of Small Business Tools which include a Business Planner, Direct Mail Manager, and Customer and Financial Managers. I’m going to limit my comments during this trial period to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Since many of you know I’m primarily a Mac person, you may be wondering if there’s a new version of Office available for the Mac. The answer is “no”. I am running this on my Mac but under Windows XP using Boot Camp. Later, I may get my wife to let me try this software out on her iMac using Windows XP and Parallels. I would not expect the behavior of the software to be any different using virtualization, but you never know.

One of the things I noticed about the new Word interface right away was the automatic word count along the right hand lower border of the application window. As a writer, I find that very handy. Right-clicking on it produced a dialog entitled “Customize Status Bar”. This dialog let me add or subtract features to the status bar at the bottom of the application window. Left clicking on the Word Count item brought up a dialog containing more information about the word count, i.e., page counts, word count, character count, lines, etc.

The second thing I noticed about the new version of Word was that automatic spell checking seemed to be turned off. That made me want to look for a spell checker, which I finally found in the Review tab. In this case, I had to perform an extra step (go to the Review tab and call it up) to find, use, and change settings on the Spell Checker than I would have had to do in a menu driven version of Word. I suspect that the new interface will prove to hold a lot of those kinds of trade-offs when it comes to users getting used to it. Still, I think the new interface is much better. This is the only Windows version of Word I like as much as I do Office 2004 on the Mac. There’s no doubt that it’s because this version of Windows Word is more Mac-like. What else at this point would one expect?

One funky thing I discovered when saving the document is that the old “Save As” command was nowhere to be found. I saved the initial version of this write-up in Microsoft’s new XML format to see how much trouble it would give my Mac and older versions of Windows’ Office. Then, I wanted to save it out as a standard Microsoft Word Document (.doc) format. I finally found it by going into the “Customize Quick Access Toolbar Options” (hidden behind a little tab arrow pointing downward while sitting in the top left corner of the window), selecting “All Commands” in the “Customize” section of its dialog, and then adding the “Save As” command to the Toolbar, a tiny one in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

I’ll be playing with this new copy of Office 2007 as various tasks I need to do in
Office pop up. Come on back to stay in touch with my impressions of it.

Author’s Note: After completing this article, I took a look at whether I could find an easy way to open a .docx file on a Mac. I found a utility on the Net called “Docx Converter”. The utility is web based, i.e., meaning you select the file you want converted from a web page and it displays the converted document in your browser. It works great, but I don’t know I want to open a .docx file so badly I want to allow a website I know nothing about access to it. There is also a .docx converter widget that lets you do the conversion on your own system, but I couldn’t get it to work and have uninstalled it.

I also tried opening the file in Open Office 2.0 Beta using the Microsoft Word 2003 XML filter, but it hung the application.

I did find a way to open the file and retrieve the text using tools almost every Mac owner owns. Start by changing the .docx extension on the file to .zip and double-click on it. Stuff It Expander will expand the file into a folder with the same name as the document. Inside the folder you will find another folder entitled "word". Open that and drag the "document.xml" file onto your desktop. Open Text Edit and open the file. You can now strip out all the code and get the text, albeit unformatted, and copy and paste it into the word processor you're using.

To test Office 2007's straihgt .doc format, I also took a version of this article saved out of Office 2007 in .doc format and opened it using Office 2004 for Mac. It did open without problems though it took the application noticeably longer to convert it than other .doc documents I have saved, including those made by Open Office.

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