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Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled the newest iteration of its Office 2010 productivity suite, including new versions of Project and Visio, the company's project management and business diagramming applications.
With a number of new enhancements and new links to other Office products, Wednesday's launches of both Visio 2010 and Project 2010 at a media event in New York are important to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) strategy and to the products' longtime users. The company acquired both products through outside acquisitions -- Visio in 2000 and Project in 1985 -- and their sheer longevity underlines their importance.
One key change that those users will be noticing in both Project and Visio is on the surface. Three years ago, when Microsoft released Office 2007, thus introducing the so-called "fluent" user interface, which includes the "ribbon" tool bar, only the core Office applications received the UI updates. With the launch of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, however, other Office apps including, Outlook and the Office Web Apps along with Visio 2010 and Project 2010, gain UI consistency with the core Office apps through the addition of fluent and the ribbon.
New to Project 2010 is a new timeline view that Microsoft says provides the ability to have a sequential overview of project schedules. Additionally, Project 2010 offers new Web-based project editing features. Visio, meanwhile, boasts enhancements to simplify and automate more of the diagramming process. It also offers the ability to share diagrams online with real-time updates or create mash-ups using Web Part connections, Visio Services API or SharePoint Server.
Speaking of SharePoint, another key selling point of both Project and Visio: Each application has close ties with SharePoint 2010, as do most other Office 2010 apps.
For one thing, the new version of Project Server 2010 requires SharePoint 2010 to run, although the Project Server is not always necessary to use Project 2010.
"Project Server [provides] a multitier server application for managing project schedules and resource data, reporting time and status, and analyzing an organization's projects, including project portfolio management ... the previous version of Project Server required only Windows SharePoint Services, a free add-on for Windows Server," according to a recent report on SharePoint 2010 by analyst firm Directions on Microsoft.
In addition, project plans can be published to SharePoint 2010 task lists.
Meanwhile, Visio 2010 users can use SharePoint 2010 for checking charts in and out, for versioning, and for workflow, according to statements on Microsoft's TechNet Web site. Additionally, Visio's process repository is built on SharePoint 2010. Users can also view processes in a browser without having the entire application installed on the client.
In addition, both Visio 2010 and Project 2010 gain "Backstage" -- a viewer that replaces the file menu in Office 2010 core-apps and provides quick access to commonly used commands and features.
Such closer links to other Office products had been highlighted in the run-up to Project 2010's beta testlast year. At the time, Seth Patton, senior director of product management and marketing for Project, called Project 2010 "the most significant release of Microsoft Project in over a decade."
Like Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 both became available for purchase by business customers on Wednesday in 14 languages, according to Microsoft officials. Project 2010 is available in Professional, Standard and Server editions; Visio 2010 comes in Standard, Professional and Premium versions.