Office 2007 Beta 2 TR - first impressions

I downloaded and installed the Technical Refresh of Office 2007 Beta 2 on Thursday and, after a couple of days of working with the update (especially Outlook and Word), my experience has been very positive. The speed and stability of all of the core apps is significantly improved and a number of issues that have been an enormous bother (like the disappearing text cursor in Outlook) have apparently been resolved.

outlook_2K7_send.jpg
I downloaded and installed the Technical Refresh of Office 2007 Beta 2 on Thursday and, after a couple of days of working with the update (especially Outlook and Word), my experience has been very positive. The speed and stability of all of the core apps is significantly improved and a number of issues that have been an enormous bother (like the disappearing text cursor in Outlook) have apparently been resolved.

I am very happy with the new Silver theme. The Luna (blue) theme was a bit pale for my tastes and Silver offers better contrast and readability on my displays. The Ribbon collapse and expand feature I (and many others) have written about is well-implemented and should address the concerns of those who prefer not to have their screen real estate diminished by an always-on Ribbon.

The Send and Accounts controls in Outlook's mail message window have been moved down to the address area (see screenshot). I wasn't sure I liked this decision at first but it's growing on me as I use it more.

If you've installed Internet Explorer 7, you'll be prompted to decide whether you wish to keep your RSS subscription data synchronized between the two programs - the first time this has been available to Windows XP users. It works very nicely. I added a couple of RSS feeds to Outlook and they are also accessible in IE7.

As has been well-documented, Microsoft has pulled the Save as PDF and Save as XPS feature from Office due to its legal fracas with Adobe. Three plug-ins are available to add those features back into Office (separate installer for each format and a combined installer if you need/want both). They work just fine. When they were released, the timing seemed curious as Beta 2 TR had not yet been installed but now that all of the pieces are available, it appears to have been a smart decision to allay any concerns about the features' removal by releasing the add-ins first. 

Inevitably, there are those experiencing installation and first-run issues and Patrick Schmid, who has been a tireless contributor to the beta test community, has begun assembling a list of issues and resolutions on his blog. 

All in all, I'd say this is the first release I can recommend to those who want to get an idea of what the next generation of Microsoft Office has to offer but prefer not to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous beta testing. This release feels solid and substantial enough to trust for everyday work. 

Update: Microsoft has updated their Known Issues ReadMe page with additional information about 2007 Microsoft Office System (yes, they capitalized the "s") Beta 2 TR.