With the spotlight on Windows 7, you’d almost forget that there’s another product category Microsoft is rather successful in: office suites. Microsoft Office 2007 was a massive change from previous versions, delivering a completely new interface that was genuinely easier to use. Office 2007 will soon be seeing its second service pack (with OpenDocument Format support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), while the next version of of Office, dubbed Office 2010, will arrive pretty soon as well.
Let’s start with the second service pack for Microsoft Office 2007. It will arrive on April 28, and will pack a number of changes that will make a lot of people very happy. The biggest feature is support for the OpenDocument Format, across the board. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can now all edit, save, and create documents in version 1.1 of the OpenDocument Format (.odt/.ods/.odp). In addition, SP2 will include full support for PDF files, meaning you no longer have to download a separate plug-in. All I can say is: finally. Was that so hard, Microsoft?
The next version of Office was codenamed Office 14, but will debut next year as Office 2010. Microsoft has stated that it plans to release a technology preview of this new version in the third quarter of 2009. One of the big additions to Office 2010 are the browser-based Office Web Apps, which will be made to work in not only Internet Explorer, but also Firefox and Safari (which presumably means Chrome as well, WebKit and all).
However, the most important change between Office 2007 and Office 2010 is that the latter will come in both 32bit and 64bit versions. Up until now, Office has only been available as 16bit (Office 4.3 was the last 16bit version) or 32bit, meaning that on 64bit Vista installations, Office ran in 32bit compatibility mode. Starting with Office 2010, you can install a 64bit version as well. Let’s just hope that they will ship on the same disc, and you won’t have to check the box to see what version you are buying (also known as Vista Version Syndrome).