Starting today, people who are part of the Office 2010 Technical Beta and Office 2010 Technical Preview programs start getting access to our first public bits for Publisher 2010. This is good news for you as a reader of this blog, whether or not you are getting the bits, because it means we can start talking about the work we’ve done and the big improvements you will see in Pub 2010.

Today, I’ll give a quick overview of what is really a pretty major release. I’m sure it will prompt as many questions as it answers. Let us know in the comments what you think and help us decide what details to fill in next.

So what’s in Publisher 2010?The new look for Publisher 2010 

Some of the things we are really excited about are:

-        The Office ribbon (Did you notice it above?)

-        Lots of enhancements to the core document workspace

-        Some great picture enhancements

-        Cool new typography features

-        An integrated Print and Print Preview experience

I’ll introduce each of these areas in this post, and I expect that we’ll get into more details on these and other areas with new stuff to share in coming weeks.

The Office ribbon

One of the questions we have been asked a ton since the release of Office 2007 was when Publisher would get the ribbon that some of the Office apps introduced that release. Now we are able to say that we totally agree with all of you who have been telling us that the ribbon is a natural for Pub. Not only are we now able to deliver core experience consistency with other Office apps, but we can give you live previews of formatting changes, visual galleries of effects, contextual controls for your selected objects and a rethought organization of the commands that accumulate over many versions of ribbons and toolbars.

Renovating the core workspace

Overhauling the Publisher experience goes much farther than just the ribbon. We took it also as an opportunity to modernize the interactions of objects on pages. You will see a new page navigation experience (showing page previews like PowerPoint, and page spreads in a Publisher-specific twist) and you won’t see a lot of on-page helper UI until you need it. Now outlines on objects only appear on hover or when an object is selected. Page margin guides can appear as you drag the edge of an object near them and disappear when they would just be a distraction. Aligning objects with each other is made easier by automatic alignment guides that appear only when relevant. Worth special mention are the improvements made to picture manipulation and text formatting.

Document-friendly picture manipulation

The guiding principles in our pictures area were to make working with pictures more direct and more document-friendly. The improvements are very visible with picture insertion, with picture pan and crop and with pictures on shapes. It is hard to explain all of this without a bunch of visuals, so we’ll get an expanded post on picture enhancements up here soon.

Typography

Shapes, pictures and text are the basic building blocks of the materials we all create in Publisher. So in addition to making it easier to align shapes on a page and to insert and manipulate pictures, we also gave text some love this version. The techy umbrella for these features is that they all relate to taking advantage of cool features in modern (“OpenType”) fonts. If you start with a font like Calibri, Cambria, Candara or Corbel, you’ll see that text just looks subtly better than in previous versions because common letter pairs are replaced with standard ligatures, the letter shapes drawn by the type designer for the specific case of the letter combination. See, for example, the automatic replacement of f, f and i with ffi in the second ‘Office’ here:No ligature vs ligature in text

Some of the other new text features are off by default but lend themselves well to exploration with the new galleries and live preview. Stylistic sets with the new font, Gabriola, give effects like the one I showed in the first picture in this post.

Print

Print and Print Preview have joined forces. With Publisher 2010, there is no more separate Print Preview command. (I guess we always had mixed feelings about Print Preview, since it seems like Pub was one of the last Office apps to add it, back in 2002.) Instead, you now get all the richness of Print Preview as part of the Print experience. This means that when you change the way your document is set up to print (such as the way postcards are laid out on sheets of paper) you get a big, rich preview of your result. We’ve even added a feature to simulate holding your two-sided document up to the light to see the front and back at the same time, as they will print.

Beta Administrivia

This is a beta. All the usual disclaimers apply. There will definitely be things that change between the beta and release. So don’t take anything that you see here or in any beta as the final word. Do take it all, however, as an indication of the direction we are headed in and let us know what you think.

No, I can’t get you on this beta. All of our slots for this beta are allocated. Unless something changes Office-wide to open up a bunch of new slots, you either have an invitation to the beta coming soon to you in email or you will have to wait until the next beta to get your hands on the bits. When we have information we can share on access to the next beta, we’ll post it on this blog.

More to come

I hope you’ve found something interesting to watch for in the coming release of Publisher. We’ll have more details on all of these things as the beta progresses. If you are on the beta, give the product a try and give us feedback. We’ll also be conducting a conversation here that’s open to everyone.

Jeff Bell, for all of us on the Publisher team

About the contributor:  Jeff Bell is the Group Program Manager for the Publisher & Text Services team in Office.