Office 2010 is released to manufacturing

After much speculation (including some from myself), Microsoft has announced that Office 2010 has been released to manufacturing. I’ve been using the community technology preview, beta, and release candidate versions of the product since last summer and I have to say that there are quite a few features that have become productivity enhancements for me – and that it’s pretty unusual for a mature product to include this sort of innovation.

I’m not going to run through all the features in this post (I did talk about a few of them in an earlier post and I hope to expand on that when I get time) but I thought I’d call out a few pointers that might be useful for organisations looking at deploying the new Office products, based on the presentation by Reed Shaffner, Senior Product Manager for Microsoft Office, at the UK TechDays Office 2010 event on 13 April 2010.

First up, is the fact that, aside from a slightly larger memory footprint, the specifications to run Office 2010 are unchanged from 2007.  That means that the same Windows Vista-class PCs that can run Windows 7, will also cope well with Office 2010 – although there are other reasons to look at updating PCs as the age of the device is a factor in overall TCO, at least according to Gartner.

All volume licensing editions of Office 2010 require activation – that means that enterprises need to be looking at deploying a key management service (KMS) in order to avoid abuse of multiple activation keys (MAKs).

Office 2010 has a new 64-bit product edition – although, unless the ability to access large amounts of memory is important, Microsoft recommends running 32-bit (even on 64-bit versions of Windows) due to incompatibilities with plugins.  And, talking of incompatibilities, Office 2010 is designed for tighter integration with App-V such that, if App-V v4.6 is used to deploy Office applications, many of the previous application virtualisation issues are fixed (e.g. the hooks to open files in SharePoint, send to the OneNote print driver, send to mail, etc.) by uses proxies to activate them when Office applications are running virtualised.

Office 2010 has a number of security features – recognising that, as the operating system is better protected, malware attacks have moved up the stack to the application layers, concentrating on weaknesses in file formats and document parsing.  For example, if the Office file validation checks fail, a warning is displayed and the user has to go into Office back stage and explicitly select to ignore warnings and edit anyway.  More commonly, documents that have originated elsewhere may open in Protected View and give the user the option to enable editing.  In addition, applications such as PowerPoint remove any content that they do not understand (i.e. which is potentially harmful) from the document structure.

When preparing a document for sharing, in addition to the option to inspect a document for hidden properties, there is a new accessibility checker that can ensure a document complies with various accessibility standards – including the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) v2.0.  This accessibility checker educates the user on how and why to fix a document – and is enforceable via group policy.

Document compatibility is another concern and, whilst third party tools are available from partners such as Converter Technology, there are Microsoft tools that can help too:

Finally, just as with Office 2007, Microsoft plans to produce an Office Productivity Hub – in both standalone HTML and SharePoint 2010 format – to provide self-help content for end users (effectively a help portal for office) along with an interactive command reference guide (for help with getting to know the fluid/ribbon user interface) and an enterprise learning framework (to helps organisations develop a training and communication plan for employees during deployment of Office).  All of these are expected to become available over the next few weeks.

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