This is not a paid endorsement…

…although if Microsoft wanted to sponsor this site, I would be willing to talk.

One of the banes of my existence has been trying to keep organized. I have used all sorts of technological solutions to try and keep up my calendar, including several Palm compatible devices, Franklin Planners, etc.

Likewise, I have experienced a long and strange trip in regards to office suites. As one who began his word processing days on Word Perfect 3.0 (yes, there really was such a beast), I was a fairly loyal Word Perfect customer for many years until I couldn’t avoid making the switch to MS-Word. Likewise, Excel and Powerpoint quickly became standards and one was pretty much locked into to using those programs if one wanted to have any compatibility with the rest of the world. MS-Office was a must have suite of programs, but there were many things lacking in those programs, even through the upgrades to MS-Office 2003.

Then, I started hearing about Office 2007 and the radical changes that were being made to that suite. I didn’t really want to upgrade — it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but Paul Thurrott at WinSupersite continued to suggest that this was a radically different experience that totally changed the way one worked with Office. So, after a little testing, I purchased a copy of Office 2007 Professional.

I primarily purchased the suite for the updates to Word and Powerpoint, and have to say that the ribbon interface is a significant improvement in productivity. Whereas I used to use Word grudgingly, I find it a much more pleasant experience, for access to most of the settings that I regularly used has been made much more intuitive. Powerpoint is still a solid presentation program, but editing presentations is (I think) likewise a bit easier and more intuitive.

I really didn’t think I was going to use Outlook, however. After all, I had pretty much made the change to Open Source programs such as Thunderbird, and was in the process of moving to web based e-mail entirely (Gmail). As I mentioned earlier, I had settled on a web based calendering solution, and was leaning toward a couple of web based todo lists. What did I need a client like Outlook for?

Then I purchased a Blackberry. I was attempting to move from dual devices (PDA and Cell phone) to a single device (smartphone) and the Blackberry Pearl fit the bill. However, the calender would only sync to Outlook, and since Airset (my online calendar provider) could likewise sync to Outlook, I decided to give in another shot.

I quickly found that calendar and todo functionality of Outlook was greatly improved from old editions. Much thought had been given to workflow and the program seemed much more integrated than what I had experienced in the past. Very quickly, I found myself depending on the calendar and todo list in a big way.

However, I really didn’t plan on using the e-mail function. After all, Outlook had been a huge security hole at the high point of the virus scares. It was during those days that I made the switch to non Outlook based e-mail, first to Eudora and then to Thunderbird. And, if I were to believe the pundits, desktop based e-mail clients were dead, replaced by web applications.

Last week, for a variety of reasons, I decided to try out the e-mail client. What I found was a robust program that was very secure, outfitted with good junk mail filtering, and most importantly, fully integrated into the rest of the program. The Office team had added things like being able to drag e-mails to the calendar to setup an appointment. The text of the message would be stored in the notes field, and one could more easily integrate one’s schedule with one’s e-mail. It’s been great in keeping me more organized, and has the beauty of being able to fully sync to the Blackberry.

SO, I write all of this to suggest that you might want to seriously look at upgrading to Office 2007. The program doesn’t require Vista (in spite of what some folks think) and works great with Windows XP. Certainly, there are non MS alternatives, especially Open Office which is free. However, with this edition of Office, I finally feel like I just might be getting some functionality worth paying for.


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