I have to say – beta testing Office 2003 was PAINFUL!

I’ve put of installing Office 12 / Office 2207 until beta 2, but I took the plunge this week since I’m in the middle of backing up my drives from the old job and configuring hardware for the new job.

Since doing this maintenance includes a necessary about of “wait time” I figured I’d “go totally BETA”.

So, I installed Beta EVERYTHING on my daily business machine. ALL of the Office 2007 Beta 2 stuff. Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint,Communicator, Access, InfoPath, OneNote, Groove, Publisher, Project, Visio, Interconnect, SharePoint Designer (FrontPage), Messenger Live, Desktop Search, Live Meeting Add-Ins, and Windows Media Player 11

WHEW !!!

I’ve spent the last few days beating up on Outlook and Word. 2007.

First, unlike Office 2003 Beta, the install was FLAWLESS and painless.

I installed on an old Toshiba Tecra 8200 1ghz machine. This is the box that I do email and writing on every day. I do this because I like to keep my demo machine free of the massive VPN / Security stuff that is required to access our corporate intranet. It also makes for a good test as I’m running office on a less-that-cutting-edge laptop.

The first thing is that performance is notably better than expected (for beta software). It appears to be about the same speed as Outlook 2003 which means that when the post-beta optimization and optimized builds arrive it may even be faster.

When I first glanced at Office 12 I thought – “man the interface is different, it’s gonna take time to adjust”. Now getting comfortable in a new IDE is fun to me, taking time to do it in my email and other business tools is not my favorite thing. Email, Reports, etc are not my favorite part of work.

In practice, however, I’m finding the new UI for all the Office 2007 tools to be more intuitive than one would guess. It “LOOKS” different, but works much the same.

Another thing that really impressed me is the sheer number of cool little productivity enhancing features. None really noteworthy individually, but the sum of these make for a better user experience and are a testament to the impact of the customer feedback loop.

I also really dig the To-Do-Baron the right side. It’s “my day at a glance” that I don’t need to switch my Outlook view to see.

It will take a while to comment on all the Office 2007 Beta products – but if Outlook 2007 is a reflection of the rest – things look very promising.

Stay tuned for more comments as I put Office 12 through its paces.