Outlook's new "Instant Search" feature no longer requires you to leave the main screen to search for information, and can search across multiple folders. There's an integrated To-Do Bar that outlines tasks, and color Categories allow you to personalize and categorize any type of information: e-mail, calendar items, contacts, or tasks, offering a visual way to distinguish items from one another.
Outlook can share a calendar with anyone within or outside of your organization by publishing Internet calendars. If you want, you can flag an e-mail that you want to deal with later, and the program will add it to your list of tasks.
To help protect against e-mail that's "phishing" for data, Outlook offers an improved junk e-mail filter and features that disable links and warn you about threatening content within e-mail messages. Finally, the program can read and manage Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds and blogs, and allows you read the latest news and feeds from within Outlook.
There are relatively few new features in PowerPoint that can be considered must-haves. You can create relationship, workflow, or hierarchy diagrams from within PowerPoint 2007 and convert bulleted lists into diagrams. When used with Office SharePoint Server, PowerPoint can store individual slides in libraries that others may use in their presentations. You can now add digital signatures to PowerPoint presentations as well, to ensure the integrity of the files, or mark a presentation as "final" to prevent inadvertent changes.
Access's automatic data detection allows the program to recognize whether data is currency, a date, or other common data types. There are new field types such as attachments and multi-value fields that allow you to attach any document, image, or spreadsheet to any record. And with a multi-value field, you can select more than one value (for example, assign a task to more than one person) in each cell.
Office Access 2007 does a better job of showing how data will appear in a report as you work with it. This new WYSIWYG interface displays how a report will look without having to actually run it. New features also allow you to better track records and see who created, edited, and deleted records, as well as roll back data edits.
While it's subject to change, the latest beta of Office 2007 offers innovations that indicate that Microsoft is willing to change and evolve with the times. There are certainly aspects to like. But whether the changes will improve productivity in the long run is hard to determine. Certainly, in the short term, all users, including experienced ones, will have to take some time to learn the new interface.
This article was first published on WinPlanet.com.