by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks
Many small businesses began using the Google Docs suite in 2007 and 2008 to create at least some of their standard documents because the programs were light, intuitive, enabled instant collaboration and were hosted in the cloud. But over time, users began to note certain flaws: access to the service, particularly for spreadsheets, can be interrupted, sometimes leaving users stranded for hours. Also, though Open Office and Microsoft document file types are supported, all document formatting is not retained, which means time consuming re-formatting. Not to mention that much of the functionality taken for granted in client office suites is noticeably absent in Google Docs. Want to track changes in a collaborative document? No can do. Want to make a pivot table? Sorry.
Microsoft Office 2010 is an effort to combine the best features of its traditional office suite (upgraded of course) and the collaborative ability of web apps like Google Docs. But there are some differences in how the collaboration tools work compared to Google Docs. Here is a list of some of the most interesting, new features and tools of Office 2010 and how they might effect productivity:
• Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents can be uploaded to the cloud via a web browser for collaboration and web viewing
• PowerPoint retains much of its functionality in the web version, minus the light video editing capabilities added to the desktop version for 2010
• Excel Spreadsheets look and feel the same in the browser and multiple people can edit at once on the web, provided you give them access
• Word documents look and feel the same in the browser as on the desktop and multiple people can edit at once, though only through the desktop environment
How will this effect productivity: For PowerPoint and Excel documents, easier sharing through the web and collaboration is a huge boost and will eliminate a lot of version confusion. However, creating some of the complex tables and graphs in Excel, like pivot tables, isn’t possible through the web version — but there is considerable more functionality than Google Docs spreadsheets. If the Office 2010 web apps can prove consistently reliable to users, it will be a big boost to productivity, compared to current desktop or web solutions.
Word is another story. If users can’t collaborate over the web, that means all parties need to have Office 2010 to collaborate at all on Word docs, which means a lot of collaboration won’t happen. Because a lot of small businesses collaborate frequently with many different parties, for many Google Docs still may be the best live document collaboration option.
• Emails are now grouped into whole conversation threads
o “Clean up” conversations by eliminating redundant parts of threads
• Improved Search
• Users now have the option to connect Outlook to social networking services like Facebook and Twitter to see status updates from friends, in the application
• View all threads and attachments, calendar entries and more from a given person in People Viewer.
• The ability to add more than one Microsoft Exchange Account
How will this effect productivity: Email is often sited as one of the biggest productivity drains for large and small businesses alike. Anything that gives even small benefits to productivity in email, is bound to have a measurable effect. These new changes add more contextual information and a more intuitive way of viewing and accessing email conversations, which are big improvements and might even make email more fun.
Graphics Editing in Documents:
Users can now:
• Do basic editing of photos and images in Word and PowerPoint
• Do basic editing of videos in PowerPoint.
How will this effect productivity: In my experience, small business employees not familiar with graphics editing will often strip down or leave out graphics because editing them is too time consuming. If they are now able to make graphics (or video) look good easily, I think they will add them to presentations and documents more readily. Documents won’t be completed faster, but they will be more interesting and colorful.
If collaboration and web apps are the biggest draws Office 2010, use the free web versions and then decide if want to purchase the whole suite. If you are already a happy customer of Office 2007, then it is probably well worth your while to switch to Office 2010 for the new Outlook alone.
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