Universal ribbonThe ribbon interface is now a part of every single Office application. First released in Office 2007 in some of its applications, the ribbon interface was an artistic leap, and as we all know, only moments after the ribbon was born, its first "art critic" came along. The critics have trashed the ribbon interface, but serious Office users have embraced it happily. The fact is, the ribbon works: It's futuristic in design, has a polished feel, can be collapsed and tucked out of the way when necessary, and -- now -- it can be customized.
Customizable ribbonMany users never tweaked their toolbars in previous Office editions, while others tweaked it extensively. With a customizable ribbon, users can regroup various tools and tabs, and administrators can create and distribute customized ribbons to users for a tailored approach or a more simplistic one as desired.
Backstage viewLove it or hate it, this new approach for all the behind-the-scenes document work is a necessary addition. By clicking the new File button (which replaces the Office 2007 orb), you have access to all your normal Save, Save As, Open, and Close operations. In addition, you can see and customize the document properties, manage versions, check for compatibility issues, and scrub the document of hidden metadata for sharing purposes.
Paste previewIncluded in all suites is a new live preview paste feature that lets you hover your mouse over an option and see what your clipboard item will look like. From the Home ribbon, just click the Paste drop-down menu and hover over your options.
Office Web AppsOffice 2010 now includes a set of Web-based applications -- online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote -- that work through Windows Live and/or with SharePoint. (Check out the InfoWorld Test Center's review of Office Web Apps.) Outlook Web App (a new name but not a new feature) continues to be offered through Exchange 2010.
Protected viewWhen you open documents, workbooks, presentations, and Outlook attachments that have downloaded from the Internet or fail validation in some way, they open as read-only in the new protected view. This means the application runs in a "sandbox" mode to protect you from malicious code unless you enable editing for the document -- similar to how Excel has handled macro code for several versions.
More themesThemes can now be used across Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to ensure a consistent look for your various documents. Microsoft has also upped the number of built-in themes from 20 in Office 2007 to 40 in Office 2010.