Because Office 12 represents the first time we've ever introduced a new user interface for Office, it is understandably garnering a lot of attention.  Add to that the powerful new open XML file formats for Office 12 documents, and it's tempting to focus the discussion of Office 12 on just those areas.

However, without resorting to hyperbole, even if the user interface and document format weren't changing, Office 12 would still be among the most improved versions of Office ever.  There are so many improvements, from the new graphics engine, to rewritten charting and diagramming capabilities, to Document Parts in Word, to SharePoint integration, to incredible, substantial improvements everywhere in Excel.  And don't forget the totally redesigned Access.  And PDF/XPS support in all the products.  And that list goes on and on.

But the most-used component of the Office programs, Outlook, has a ton of new features in addition to being the single biggest consumer of the new Office 12 UI.  Three of the my favorite advances are the deep RSS integration, instant powerful search capabilities, and the new task/category integration (including the To-Do Bar.) You might prefer the deep Exchange 12 integration, the rewritten account manager, the redesigned Calendar and iCal support, or the new canvas for composing and reading messages that works like Word but doesn't launch a separate process.

I mention all this to call attention to a set of Outlook blogs that I think you'll find interesting.  Having "grown up" at Microsoft working on Outlook, I'll always have a soft spot for that product.  Each of these blogs contains some detailed insight into a different part of Outlook 12, and I encourage you to spend some time reading about what's possible in the new version directly from the people working on it.

Will's Outlook Blog: Will is the General Manager of Outlook and one of my most important mentors at Microsoft.  His blog covers overall improvements and the philosophy of Outlook 12.

Michael's Outlook Blog: Michael covers two main topics in depth in his blog--RSS integration and the new search capabilities of Outlook 12.

Melissa's Outlook Blog: Melissa has written in detail about Time and Task Management in Outlook 12, especially about the redesigned task and categories model and the To-Do Bar.

Ryan's Outlook Programmability Blog: Ryan covers a number of improvements to the programmability model of Outlook 12, and the ramifications of these changes to existing solutions.

And just a reminder that, once you're finished with these, you can find other Office blogs written by members of the product team by looking in the "Microsoft Office Blogs" category over in right column of this page.

Office 12 is so much more than "just the UI."