IT intelligence: Software

Robin Fisk lifts the lid on the latest versions of Windows Vista and Office

Microsoft will shortly launch new versions of its highly successful software packages Windows Vista and Office 2007.

But do not expect a rush to upgrade – a study by the research firm Forrester of large organisations in Europe found that more than half have no plan to upgrade to Vista. IT managers are rightly cautious about being at the 'bleeding edge'.

So what's new in Windows Vista? The new Aero interface has received a lot of coverage, but your PC will need powerful graphics capabilities to use this. Computers with lower specifications can revert to a classic look that is very similar to Windows XP. Users will notice changes and, I hope, improvements in the facilities for searching for documents and other files on your computer.

A lot has also changed behind the scenes to provide a more secure and stable operating system.

The new version of Office is a bold move. It has an entirely new look; Microsoft has replaced the menus, toolbars and task panes with something called a ribbon. The ribbon appears along the top of the screen and organises functionality into groups to improve usability. It also hides stuff you can't use.

The new user interface represents a significant change. How quickly people who are used to the traditional File, Edit, View menus will adapt to the new look remains to be seen.

Another significant change in Office 2007 will be the ability to save files in an XML format defined by a standard known as Microsoft Office Open XML. This opens up many interesting possibilities for exchanging data with other applications and systems.

An open file format should mean that, in decades to come, you can still open documents created years ago. How many documents have you lost because of outdated file formats?

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