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Photo gallery: Microsoft Office 2007 beta 1

This beta refresh reveals the suite's dynamic interface, as well as handy new tools, such as PDF creation.
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This beta refresh of the next release of Microsoft Office reveals the suite's dynamic interface, as well as handy new tools, such as PDF creation.

Inside Microsoft Office 2007 beta 1
Back in September, our sneak peek at the Microsoft Office 12 beta revealed a radical rebuild of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Now renamed Microsoft Office 2007 beta 1, the refresh of this private test version of the next Office system offers a closer look at what to expect from Redmond's popular productivity package. Did ready-made thumbnail galleries and a new interface make our work easier? Keep reading for cheers and jeers from our initial beta tests.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Shiny new ribbon
Microsoft Office 2007's Ribbon sits atop the interface of the core apps, replacing the myriad drop-down menus of prior versions. The revamped Ribbon gets more-vivid colours and offers task-specific tabs that attempt to surface functions in response to your task at hand.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Smart tabs
Contextual Tabs within the Ribbon are intended to respond to your activities, although we wonder if the constant visual adjustments will instead confuse users. Shown here are the tabs within Word 2007 beta 1: Write, Insert, Page Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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No more file menu
Instead of the drop-down file menu, Office Button in the upper-left corner packages a set of common file management tools. Featured here are options for making finishing touches to a document, such as adding security-minded digital signatures, along with an inspection tool designed to scan your file for private data.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Easy access
The tiny icons within the Quick Access toolbar, above the Ribbon, let you jump to common commands, such as saving or printing a file. However, you could also let go of the mouse and use the Ctrl keyboard shortcuts for such functions.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Focus on fonts
We like that the apps within the next edition of Office will finally allow you to see what a selected font will look like on the page without immediately making the change. Clicking an arrow within the font area on the Ribbon took us to a familiar font formatting box.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Running commentary
The Review tab within the Ribbon makes document-management tasks easier to locate than in Office 2003. For instance, simple-to-find Comment and Reviewing tools have smoothed out the editing process.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Multilingual
Here's a hint of the language-translation and dictionary options coming to Office 2007. The Ribbon's Review tab clusters other Proofing options, such as the spelling checker and the thesaurus tool, which both appear unchanged. A Research option looks up selected text at Encarta, Factiva, HighBeam Research, and MSN Search.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Galleries show
Aiming to make sophisticated formatting easier, Microsoft created Style Galleries, including a slew of file templates for common documents, such as cover pages for reports within Word. You can see a Live Preview of a given file before altering its appearance.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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In style or out?
While we appreciate the ability to preview fonts before changing text, we'll reserve judgment about the usefulness of Style Galleries within Word 2007 beta 1. We find that similar font styles within the Office 2003 system get in the way when we try to make basic text changes.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Mini Toolbar
The floating Mini Toolbar wraps frequently accessed formatting commands into one ghostly little box. The toolbar is transparent until you move a cursor over it. For example, highlighting text within Word brings the Mini Toolbar into full view.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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ScreenTip
Roll your mouse over the Ribbon within Word, and a ScreenTip appears, providing details about features. Thankfully, Microsoft is killing the aggravating Clippy character with this update to the Office system. But the dynamic tools new to Office 2007 beta 1 can pop up more details than you really need. For instance, do you really need to see a definition of a caption surface within a ScreenTip when you're just adding text to an image?

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Taken into context
Within the PowerPoint 2007 beta, the Ribbon's Contextual Tabs let you pick from an assortment of Quick Styles to make colourful presentations..

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Excel or fall behind?
While we liked the look of the Excel 2007 beta 1, finding basic functions at first bewildered us. How do we delete a pair of rows? Selecting two rows and hitting the Delete key didn't do the trick. Should we look in the Sheet, Page Layout, or Formulas tab of the Ribbon? Answer, found in a minute via the Help menu: use the Sheet tab. We expect many users to feel frustrated initially by the steep learning curve demanded by Microsoft's ambitious upgrade.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Aiming to Excel
Within Excel 2007 beta 1, we were annoyed that we could no longer move a chart around the page by clicking anywhere on the graphic and dragging it. Instead, our weary hands had to hold down the left mouse key on a precise corner of the chart. And though the Quick Styles for shapes and WordArt made it fun to jazz up a chart, we couldn't readily find a way to return to a plain-Jane style or to autofit text on the chart.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Quick PDF creation
It was a snap to publish a single-page Excel 2007 beta 1 page as a PDF, taking us less than five seconds to do. Microsoft plans to shrink the size of Office 2007 files with developer-friendly, XML-based formats that tack an X onto the tail of each document extension. XLS files from Excel 2007 will become XLSX and so on, but this option was unavailable during our tests.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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A new Outlook
The beta 1 version of Outlook 12 didn't adopt the Ribbon that other Office apps are getting. However, this Outlook 2007 beta 1 refresh shows the e-mail composition window brandishing a tabbed ribbon of features.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Access
In Access 2007 beta, Microsoft aims to make creating a database from scratch as simple as picking one of its templates.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Access to Import
Without the familiar drop-down import command from Access 2003, it took us some 20 minutes to figure out how to import our DBF file. Once we learned how to import that data, Access 2007 beta 1 gave us the option of saving that process so that we could call it up later. The DBF table appeared within our Access file, once we clicked it from the collapsible left-hand Navigation Pane.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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Access data
Though we'll have to relearn the locations of many basic commands, we find that the Ribbon atop the Microsoft Access 2007 beta 1 interface organises the database app's myriad features better than the drop-down menus of the 2003 edition did. See more of the underlying changes to Microsoft's new tools within our preview of the Microsoft Office 12 beta.

Read our preview of Microsoft Office 12.0 pre-Beta 1.

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