Five Reasons You Don't Need Microsoft Office 2010

Numerous alternatives will do the trick without taking a bite out of your business budget.

Have you looked at the new Microsoft Office 2010 yet? How many of its few, new features does your company really need? And are these features worth the investment? Here are five reasons your company doesn't need to purchase Office 2010.

1. No More Upgrades

You can access the Microsoft Web site right now and purchase one of three versions of Office 2010. Office Professional is $499, Home & Business is $279.95, and Home & Student is $149.95. However, if you are looking for an upgrade price, forget it. Microsoft has decided not to offer upgrade pricing anymore.

After searching thoroughly for information about upgrades, I finally found the answer on a Microsoft FAQ page, and it plainly states that in order to "simplify" things, they are no longer providing version upgrades. You can still find better list prices from various independent vendors if you search the Internet. For companies that have access to academic pricing, vendors such as JourneyEd provide better discounts than Microsoft. Nonprofits can find steep discounts through Tech Soup.

Next to Windows Millennium, Vista, the Office 2007 Ribbon, and the Kin bombshell, this is the worst marketing decision Microsoft has ever made. If these other four major blunders have not already soured you on Microsoft, this new upgrade policy will surely make you sick. Maybe this is a good time to dump the software king and start looking for other options.

2. Free Alternative Programs

Speaking of other options, there are always alternatives, such as OpenOffice from OpenOffice.org, a Microsoft Office semi-clone that's free to download for anyone who wants it. There are some areas that could use improvement, and a feature by feature comparison shows some differences in the visuals such as graphics, animations, and special effects. But Microsoft has never been strong on graphic capabilities either, so you won't miss much by switching to OpenOffice.

Other alternative programs include IBM's Lotus Symphony, Google Docs, and Zoho--all free--and ThinkFree, which has both a free and a fee-based version. All of these programs offer similar features and functionality to Microsoft Office; some are actually better, some are just okay. However, since they are free, it won't cost anything but your time to download and review them as possible replacements to Office 2010.

3. Few New Features, Nothing Impressive

Microsoft redesigned the big, round Office button. They added an Ignore button in Outlook that deletes selected messages and all messages currently in your Inbox, plus all future messages related to that message thread--or you can just tag the unwanted messages as junk mail. They also added a new button called Screenshot that lets you take screen shots from within the program--or you can press Alt-Tab to exit out and use the Alt-Print Screen button on your keyboard.

You can save Word docs to SharePoint--or just copy and paste them in. You can add miniature line charts to individual cells in Excel--or just shrink the normal charts and place them on the screen anywhere you want them. And OneNote now has color coding. For graphics, the new photo-editing tools provide some simple artistic effects that you can add to images in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint--similar to Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, and Corel Paint's stock effects, but nowhere near as versatile or powerful.

Other new features include paste preview, so you can preview the page before you paste items into your document--or you could just go ahead and paste the items in, then select undo if you don't like how it looks. In Word, there's a new drag-and-drop navigation pane, but it only works if you use the Word Styles to define headers and subheads and so forth. And you can now create videos or convert presentations to videos in PowerPoint--this one feature might be useful if MS has also upgraded the graphic size limitations.

There are a few other minor features. However, I still don't think these are anything to get excited about, and they're certainly not worth the new 'non-upgradable' price tag.

4. The Ribbon Changed, but It's Still a Bomb

The Ribbon toolbar has been added to all the other Office Suite programs, including Outlook and OneNote. Well, that's just great. I hated it in Office 2007 and I still hate it. After using it for weeks and cursing it daily, I finally purchased a program from AddIn Tools that, when installed, redesigns the Ribbon bar menus back to the old Office 2003 menus. Then I created two identical spreadsheets and performed the same tasks on each, one with the Ribbon bar menus and one with the old 2003 menus. The Ribbon bar spreadsheet took almost twice as long to complete. However, since one trial test isn't really fair, I created four more spreadsheets and half a dozen Word documents, all with the same results.

The only real change worth mentioning on the Ribbon bar is its capability to customize the menus. If I am forced to use this program as a result of some job I take on, the first thing I will do is customize the entire Ribbon to resemble, as closely as possible, the 2003 drop-down menus, which were more efficient in my tests.

5. Simultaneous Editing

Last, Microsoft and several reviews I have read all tout this new capability to perform simultaneous editing, which is nothing more than a shared document feature. If you leave a document open on one computer, then try to open it on another shared on a network, you get the "file in use" message with options to read only, create a copy, or notify when available. With Office 2010, you can edit the original or allow multiple users to edit the same document simultaneously. The 2010 status bar informs you of the other users on board and the changes they are making. You can also synchronize documents on your hard drive with the originals on a server.

This not a cool function. It actually creates a lot more confusion than it's worth, especially if you have ever used Adobe Acrobat to perform these same tasks. Every time I have ever used sharing and collaboration in Acrobat, it has resulted in chaos with one user changing what another just wrote or edited causing conflict between all participants because the original is no longer available unless someone had the foresight to make a backup copy. And the option to synchronize documents is no big deal either. Almost every program out there will synchronize files among devices, including your servers.

Bottom Line

So, the bottom line is this: forget Microsoft Office 2010. It's not worth the money, the few updated features, the prolonged learning curves, the decreased efficiency, or the headaches.

Try one of the free alternatives or give Corel's WordPerfect Suite a second look. On the Corel Web site, the professional, full version of Office X5 costs $399.99, $100 less than Office 2010, and the upgrade version is only $259.99.

Besides that, Microsoft has always been lousy with graphic options and programs; that is, they are slow, memory intensive, and crash your computer if you use too many or attempt to use high resolution images. Corel and Adobe have always been superior to Microsoft in the graphics arena. Hey, we can dream that Adobe will create an office suite to complement its Creative Suite.

This story, "Five Reasons You Don't Need Microsoft Office 2010" was originally published by PCWorld.

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